By Tim Mandese, “Eating Wyoming” columnist, Cowboy State Daily
What do you get when you cross hard work, perseverance and fresh cooked goodness? A recipe for success.
“On The Hook Fish and Chips” ticks all the boxes for a Wyoming and culinary story worth sinking your teeth into.
Company founders Hunter Anderson and Ocean Andrew started making their business plan when they were juniors at the University of Wyoming. Ocean’s father is the captain of the Bering Sea fishing vessel The Northern Leader, operating out of Alaska’s Dutch Harbor.
Ocean suggested to Hunter that they make his family’s dream of opening a seafood restaurant come true. Hunter was hesitant at first, thinking it wouldn’t work, but his best friend eventually won him over. In May 2016 the two started down the path that would lead them to running 11 food trucks operating in 10 states.
The two budding entrepreneurs would work on their fish and chips recipe after class (the two admitted the work often required skipping homework). They went through more than 50 variations of a recipe before finally settling on the one that would be their crown jewel.
Since starting their business, Hunter and Ocean have traveled to England and costal American cities looking for ways to improve their product, but they proudly say they still like their recipe the best.
But they keep looking.
“We like this one [recipe] but I still think we can get a lot better,” Hunter said.
On the Hook’s wild, line-caught Alaskan cod is unbelievable for two young guys in the least populated state in the U.S.! The batter is light and crispy. The fish is flaky and tender. You can really taste the freshness in each bite. On The Hook employees batter dip and fry each filet on the truck.
The menu is simplified for speed of service, forgoing some side dishes like English mushy peas or corn bread. The focus is simply on fish and chips and accompanying dipping sauces, including Sriracha mayo, tartar sauce and malt vinegar.
At their fastest, Hunter and Ocean’s trucks can produce three orders per minute. It’s a good thing too, because the lines can be long to get an order. Just look at these brave souls lined up in the snow.
Operating 11 trucks isn’t without its challenges. The company carries over 200 business licenses in the states where they operate and they have an entire department dedicated to scheduling trucks and setting up locations to park. Sometimes, they can’t park a truck where they would like.
“When you are finding a new town, sometimes it’s taken like 10 locations before finding one that says, ‘Yeah you can park here.’” says Hunter.
In the company’s first year, Hunter and Ocean worked about 100 hours a week, a number that has since dropped to about 80 hours.
“We worked, we scrubbed our own trucks. We were on our hands and knees scrubbing floors.” Hunter said. “Through hard work, you can run through every brick wall that comes your way.”
Currently On The Hook Fish and Chips employs 65 people. Each truck’s crew averages between three and four people and averages nearly 1,000 miles a week on the road. The trucks can be found in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana and Missouri.
“It’s really wonderful to take someone that may not have had the chances or opportunities going to school or through the workforce, employing them and seeing them work up to what you would call a corporate position.” Hunter said.
There are plans in the works for a brick and mortar location, but Anderson was cautious not to give out too much information, just saying that he and Ocean love Wyoming.
The trucks travel widely in their 10-state territory, stopping at different cities daily. If you’ve missed them in your town or nearby, follow them on Facebook for updates on their locations. They do take requests to visit your town seriously, so ask them!
“I think it’s a good thing so go to a lot of towns, and especially small towns and give them something that they have never had before.” says Hunter.
If you love fish and chips, you’ll end up like I am, on the hook!