Rose Johnson couldn’t stop daydreaming about sauces. As the scenery of different states filtered through the window of the car she was returning to the East Coast, her thoughts lingered on hummus and salsa. When she arrived home, the then part-time YMCA bicycle safety instructor created Apothocurious—a project combining Rose’s passion for food, bikes, and people that she cheekily dubbed a CSCA, for Community Supported Culinary Adventure. She sent out a PDF file to her San Francisco-based friends and family offering them a weekly delivery, on bicycle, of hummus, salsa, pesto, and salad. Ten people signed up and business took off; she hired an intern, served seventeen customers at once during a peak point, and eventually became so in demand she put the delivery service on hiatus to do private events and become a personal chef. Now that she has a foundation, Rose is once again ready to go mobile, only this time her wheels are HOT! The chef’s innovative Kickstarter project, Hot Bike, would raise the funds Rose needs to create a two-wheeled bike with a foldout kitchen in the back. Yep, it’s fully functional. Yep, she will cook corn tacos on it. And yep,there’s a salsa bar on the handlebars. Check out her Kickstarter page and show her some love! Your happy stomach will thank you.
BANGSTYLE: Tell me a bit more about Apothocurious. How did your deliveries work?
Rose: [We would deliver] all in one day or maybe over two days; it was usually Sunday and Monday. I worked for the YMCA bike program and catered that as part of CSCA. I brought containers of food with bread, which was the initial vehicle for the sauces. But with gluten being a concern of many consuming food … the corn tortilla is a wonderful vehicle, and it’s also gluten free.
BANGSTYLE: Where did you get the term CSCA?
Rose: CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. I like to spin off commonly known phrases and make them my own.
BANGSTYLE: What did you deliveries look like? Did you meet with each customer?
Rose: [Sometimes], I would make [the sauces] and trade a massage therapist for a massage, so I would be with them for an hour. In another circumstance, I had a customer who put a cooler on her stoop. I brought the food and ice and took the empty jars. I never saw her after our first meeting. But the wide spectrum is the best part of this—I love the dynamic opportunity for the relationship to take on a different shape with every single one.
BANGSTYLE: Where did you get your passion for cooking?
Rose: I keep having these flashbacks about all of these things around cooking I would do when I was a kid. I would mix mustard, ketchup, and whatever I would find and stir it around with a chopstick. I did a cooking show with my brother; we microwaved a hot dog bun, a cracker, and butter. Those are two kid moments of fun with food. [Later] I used to work at a grocery store. I was sent home with blemished food, and I’d be home with eggplant, lemon, and avocado and have to make something for dinner. It was safe–there was no loss because the food came home for free. There was no pressure to get it right.
BANGSTYLE: What were you doing full time?
Rose: I was a part time bicycle safety instructor and Apothocurious part time. I still do bike safety education, but I’m not doing the weekly delivery service right now. I stopped after the first year because I wanted to do a bit more groundwork and establish a kitchen and a team. And then by stopping, all these other things unfolded. I’m now a personal chef, and I have the opportunity to do taco stands [at events]. I’m right there at the party doing what I love.
BANGSTYLE: How did you get involved in these other aspects of your work?
Rose: To be honest, people said there was a need for it, and I stepped up to see if I could fulfill that need. Tacos and being a personal chef worked.
BANGSTLE: Why tacos?
Rose: Someone said, ‘Hey, come and make tacos for this event!’ At the same time, the corn tortilla is a beautiful vehicle [for sauces]. I can’t take full credit—it was a suggestion and it was very fitting. It’s kind of like going into a dressing room and trying on all different shirts and thinking, ‘I could wear this,’ versus ‘that’s right.’
BANGSTYLE: Why bikes?
Rose: I’ve been living off of my bike since I moved to the Bay Area. I’m probably at 75% completion for biking the West Coast—I’ve biked from Canada to Mexico with my bag fully loaded. I had a camping stove and carried my food the whole way. I’ve [also] transported myself around San Francisco so it makes so much sense to have [my business] be on set up. Apothocurious was about food, bikes, and people from the beginning. I wanted ways for it to combine—and this is it.
BANGSTYLE: What exactly does the Hot Bike entail?
Rose: The base is a Yuba Mundo—it’s a cargo bike with an extended rear carrying capacity. Unlike other cargo bikes, which have three to four wheels, this one has two. On the back we’ll weld storage units, and it will be water carrying and propane carrying. It will fold out and spread apart into a kitchen that arrives by bicycle, and it will have a stovetop—all I need is a stove, fire, and water. The other part will flip out, and there will be a salsa bar on the handlebars. Salsa is why I like to eat the taco—it’s an excuse to eat delicious sauces.
BANGSTYLE: Where will you make the tacos with the Hot Bike?
Rose: Any occasion, if the price is right—for the most part, parties and events, and I will host parties and events and community gatherings. That’s one of my favorite things to do.
BANGSTYLE: Will you reinstate the weekly deliveries?
Rose: If I find a kitchen that works well with me, I will do it. I will definitely do it if I have the capacity. I’m getting other private opportunities which are really fun too—I’m torn; I can’t do it all. I’ll have to hire a staff; I can’t do it alone. I can, but I don’t want to.
BANGSTYLE: What’s your favorite sauce?
Rose: The sour slam. It’s yogurt, green onions, cumin, and garlic. It’s delicious.
BANGSTYLE: What’s the coolest party you’ve catered for?
Rose: It’s coming up. On Saturday the 26th, my friends are in a David Bowie band and performing at Public Works. I’m not sure if I’m going to sell tacos or something more theme-appropriate, but I’m borrowing a three or four-wheel bike with a heating source and doing a trial run…but it has to fit through the door of the venue.
BANGSTYLE: Have you ever gotten into any biking accidents with San Francisco’s topography?
Rose: There’s some really tough hills for sure. I teach bike safety so I try to be as safe as possible, but I’ve definitely gotten off my bike and walked up some hills.
BANGSTYLE: What would Kickstarter support?
Rose: It would buy the bike and pay for the equipment. I have to hire a welder—Rock the Bike is going to do it; we’re going to design and build the structure that will carry everything, and we’re going to provide the heat source.
BANGSTYLE: What’s your favorite aspect of your job?
Rose: I’ve never been able to decide. I love bikes, I love food, and I love people … so eating food with people after riding bikes?