After graduating from Washington University and practicing law for three years as a litigator, Eric Silverstein found himself at a crossroads. “I knew early on it wasn’t going to be what I wanted to do. So I started creating a business plan for a restaurant— a fast-casual restaurant with globally inspired tacos,” he says.
However, finding investors to buy into his idea wasn’t quite so easy. “I realized that a lot of the people who I was pitching my business plan to were like, ‘What do you know about the restaurant business?’ and ‘You’re not going to be successful’. So, I backtracked. I rewrote my business plan to open up a food truck I would lease… I think it was a more palatable investment.” People were much more willing to buy into a company for $4,000 a share, he found, instead of $12,000.
Silverstein considered Seattle and Denver for his venture, but settled on Austin for the weather and the ability to lease, rather than buy, a truck. It was 2009 and Austin’s food truck scene had barely taken off.
“My fiancée, my girlfriend at the time, had no idea what a food truck was,” remembers Silverstein. “I
was pitching her on a career that she didn’t even
understand. She thought I was a madman!”
The two picked up and relocated to Austin with $69,000 in capital. Silverstein drafted a business plan for a year while still working as a lawyer. “I would come home from work and work on this business plan from 7 to 11 pm,” he recalls. He also focused more intensely on studying food, a passion instilled in him while growing up in Japan, and again when his family relocated to Georgia, where he was introduced to the soulful comfort food of the American South.
“I treat food basically like I treat law or a class I studied in law school,” says Silverstein, who had no formal culinary training. “I think it’s important to study what you do for a living and, for me, it’s food. I go home, I read about it, I research, and I get inspired by other chefs and people in the food business, whether it’s on Instagram or Serious Eats or Food 52 or any other websites out there. And that’s the creative process in all of this— it’s learning, it’s being inspired, it’s test-driving the food and repeating the process until we come up with perfection on a plate.”
By July of 2010, he’d left his law career and two months later, The Peached Tortilla became a reality. It grew to two trucks and a successful catering business, but Silverstein always wanted to see through his original vision to open a brick and mortar.
“I hate to say it, but…part of it, to be honest, is to satisfy my ego in the sense that we went out four years ago to open a restaurant and now we’re going to go achieve this goal,” says Silverstein. “If restaurants weren’t about ego, everybody would own catering companies— they’d make more money!”
Read more food trailer to brick-and-mortar stories from this multi-part series:
Writing: Veronica Meewes – @wellfedlife
Photography: Jessie Neuendorff – @jessiekate9
Chris Perez – @citygrammag
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