Chrissy Durcak, barista and owner of the food truck Dispatch Coffee.
How long have you been a barista?
Technically 10 years. Seven of those years were at coffee-focused shops.
Who’s your favorite customer and why?
It is difficult to have regulars when you are always moving, but sometimes we are situated in one place for a number of days, and the repeats are wonderful. I’ll often find that people that I’ve served at other cafés will follow the truck’s route. That is always really nice to see.
Which roaster do you prefer and what’s your favorite origin?
Too many to choose… We’re really fortunate to have amazing quality-focused roasters in North America: Phil and Sebastian, Heart, Kittel here in Montreal, Anchored Coffee in Dartmouth, and Parlour in Brooklyn. They are all also stellar human beings. In terms of origin, I’m a fan of Panamanians, Ethiopians, Guatemalans… Columbians have blown me away, I don’t know. Everything that’s good in a given season. I do lean towards sweet and rich versus bright and crisp.
A coffee that change your life?
Phil and Seb’s honey-processed Panamanian from last year, Anchored Coffee’s very first roast of Ethiopian Koke: strawberries and cereal milk. It was amazing.
Soy milk : yes or no?
Whatever… Personally, I drink my coffee black. I try not to impose my personal tastes on people, which is I think what hospitality is all about.
At home, how do you make your coffee?
I honestly don’t have much time or inclination to make coffee at home; I like the ritual of drinking espresso out, and visiting the numerous cafés in the neighborhood! But when I do, I use a beautiful old ceramic Melitta + pot (that I picked up at a garage sale years ago, before I knew how to use it), a Chemex and a press-pot. So I guess – drip coffee. Depends on how I’m feeling or what beans I have kicking around!
Which music group defines Dispatch Coffee?
Maybe Beach Boys (specifically Pet Sounds) or Weezer (Pinkerton): both albums/songwriters are serious people with darkish lyrics, but their melodies are catchy, approachable, airy and fun. I’d like to think that I take coffee seriously, but it’s really about making something delicious and making people happy.
Which song puts you in a inspired/creative mood when you work?
Anything from Bill Callahan or Fleetwood Mac.
Why the concept of the food truck?
It kind of circumstantially happened. Last year, I was ready for a big change, personal growth and a challenge. I was planning to open a café. At the same time, two of my chef friends had just returned from a bike trip in Asia. They were inspired by the street food there, and launched a covert delivery service out of their home kitchen. They had a wildly popular Facebook page called Coq Asian, from which they would take orders and bike deliver bahn-mi sandwiches. They asked me if I wanted to do a cold « vietnamese coffee » for the menu. The coffee I had access to was much less bitter than that in Vietnam, and throwing condensed milk in it was sacrilegious. So, I started playing with an « inspired » recipe of chickoree-infused cold brew, and a slightly sweetened milk. We threw these in Mason jars with a couple of ice cubes to order, and biked them around town.
After a while, people inquired about the name behind the coffee service, and I came up with « Dispatch Coffee. » I thought it was appropriate enough for the door-to-door service. I then got very excited about the brand identity and aesthetic of postal-things… I initially thought I would streamline the delivery service, outfit and brand a nice bike, but then it got me thinking of « dispatching » an espresso machine on a bike, then a trailer… and then I just bought a truck. So I guess the concept of a coffee truck started with my summer with Coq Asian, noticing a serious demand for a food-service experience outside of a restaurant, a stripped-down, delicious experience, prepared with passion and care. To me, this is legitimate street food (or street coffee!).
Another standout about the truck itself, is the vintage feel yet comtemporary, the color palettes and the superb graphic design. What’s the story behind it?
When designing the truck, I wanted to make sure that it was simple, but inviting. I wanted a microcosmic café on wheels. Having an intimate exchange with my customers is important to me, and part what makes an independent café special. The staircase out the back was designed to invite people into the truck, to be temporarily removed from the bustle of the outside. I tried to veer away from the standard window-out-the-side service that you often see on a food truck.
As for the aesthetic, I am a fan of simplicity and stripping things down to their basic function. I hate clutter, I find it oppressive. So being in a tight space, I wanted to keep it neat. It’s still a work-in-progress, but I outfitted the inside with my father all throughout last summer. It is a labour of love. One reason I bought this truck was that its frame is aluminum and resistant to corrosion. We ended up keeping the aluminum exposed on the walls as I find it quite stunning. Other than that – we threw in the wood bar and counters for some warmth. We also threw a bar on the side of the truck so that people could hang out and sip on their coffees.
As for the graphic design and our branding, my brother Mike Durcak and I sat down during the Coq Asian period and worked on the brand identity. He built my website and logo. We were inspired by everything postal and « mobile » in reference to the Dispatch theme. My good friend and extremely-talented graphic artist and architect David Dworkind has stepped in recently, to help us with our continued branding and future plans (our cold-brew bottle, and much of the truck’s exterior design!)….
Where is your favorite hangout in Montreal?
Mostly my apartment or the homes of close friends. But these are some places I frequent on a casual basis: Café Sardine, Arts Café, Casa, Nouveau Palais….
Beer or Laphroaig
Do you have a funny or memorable anecdotes to share?
One of my favourite barista experiences was making Toby Maguire coffee four days in a row. He’s a strict vegan and chewed me out when I didn’t rinse my cow-milk pitcher enough before filling it with soy milk.
If you were an action hero, who would you be, and who would you fight and why?
Batman against crime and corruption. Pretty classic evil in Montreal as well as Gotham city ;)
What are your favorite 80’s movies?
Airplane, Labyrinth, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Goonies.
So, if we did a movie on your story, who would play you?
Bill Murray. But I’m sure Meryl Streep could pull it off.
Last question: is there something surprising we should know about you?
Um… that I am working on a documentary about wild mushrooms? Videography and documentary film are two of my other passions.
Café French Toast ne reçoit aucune compensation monétaire ou caféinée en échange d’un article, ni n’est influencé à prendre position positivement ou négativement.