Until last year, it’s safe to say that most Rhode Islanders had never heard of poké, the beloved Hawaiian platter made with rice and raw fish. Then came best friends Rebecca Brady and Tiffany Ting, along with their plucky little food truck, Hometown Poké. Brady grew up in Pawtucket and Ting in California, and they met while toiling for the same large company. They bonded over a love of food and travel, and they quit their stuffy corporate jobs to open Hometown Poké at the end of last summer. One year later, they’re planning to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant at 185 Camp Street. We caught up with them to talk about their winding road to Providence.
How did you first meet?
T: We met at a work orientation.
R: We did consulting. We hated it. So we bonded at first because we were young and enthusiastic, and we thought, “We’re going to change the world.” Then we both quit, and we traveled a ton together. That’s actually how our friendship started.
T: We decided that we wanted to travel to Paris and Italy. We didn’t know each other that well, because we didn’t live in the same city. But we thought, “We’re either gonna love each other or hate each other after this.”
How did you decide to go into business together?
R: For a long time, we talked about starting our own business. It was almost like an escape.
T: We talked about it for years.
R: Every idea we had was related to food. We really love eating.
T: I’ve always fantasized about going to culinary school. It wasn’t as practical, because I knew my parents would never approve of it.
R: In 2016, we traveled to Australia and New Zealand together. They had this big Asian market in Melbourne. It was amazing. I think, for us, food really is a connector. There were all these people, from all over the city, from different backgrounds, enjoying this Asian cuisine. And we thought, “We would love to do something like this.”
Why did you decide to serve poké?
T: Poké is from Hawaii, and it’s moved its way eastward, so poké was already pretty popular in California. For me, it’s flavors I grew up with – there’s sesame oil, there’s soy sauce, there’s sriracha. My family immigrated from Taiwan, so I grew up eating a lot of fish, specifically salmon. And poké is also a healthy, fresh, easy food to make.
R: Growing up in Rhode Island, it wasn’t always super easy to find healthy food that was fast. I think Rhode Island has changed so much. There are so many young people, and the city is changing, and there’s a [desire] for things to do. We knew pretty much right away that we wanted to do it here.
So if you didn’t go to culinary school, how did you learn to make it?
R: Months of just trying it.
T: A lot of research and developement .
R: Months of making friends and family eat poké.
How did you decide on a food truck?
R: We could self-finance it. We didn’t have to take out any loans to do it. And because nobody had done poké here before, we didn’t know what the reception would be. Education was a big component, because [people] had never heard of poké.
T: We try to describe it in a way that makes sense. Usually we just say, “Try it.” And once people try it, they understand.