WELD — Weld native Garnet Keim has done a lot of different things in his 39 years. He’s performed with his band The Blakes at music festivals, such as Lolapalooza. He’s traveled around the globe to places in Asia and South America. He dabbled in graphic design, got married, moved from coast to coast and had two sons.

Now, in his newest adventure, Keim will be cruising down rural Franklin County routes dishing out authentic Mexican food from his first culinary business venture, a food truck called El Toro.

While a food truck may seem to be a big step from his rock ‘n’ roll roots, Keim and his wife and business partner, Anne Holloway, said opening a food truck just makes sense, based on their passion for food and a need in the area.

“It just hit me one day that I’d like to have a food truck,” Keim said. “There is no Mexican food here. I like Mexican food. It just makes a lot of sense.”

After a year of extensively working on the truck, the couple, who live in Weld, where they are raising their two sons, will roll out El Toro this weekend for its inaugural event on Saturday at the Silo Workshop in Mount Vernon.

The event is the first of many that the truck will be making in the upcoming months. The couple also has arranged for El Toro to serve up its authentic Mexican menu at several festivals and community events in Wilton, Farmington, Kingfield and Phillips through the end of the summer.

And that’s just what the pair has planned now. Holloway said they are in negotiations with Gifford’s Ice Cream in Farmington to have the truck parked at the ice cream stand’s back lot for lunch hours Wednesday through Friday.

But they also want to leave some of the truck’s whereabouts to be determined.

“I don’t want to be totally booked up on events. I want to be able to do some guerrilla style (truck placements). That’s the fun of being in a food truck,” Holloway said. “You’re mobile. You can go to where your customer base is. If something doesn’t work, you can move on.”

INSPIRED BY TRAVEL

The couple moved back to Keim’s hometown, Weld, four years ago after traveling internationally and living in Seattle, where Holloway is originally from. They live on 140 acres of family land, where they are raising their two sons, Jude, 3, and Aero, 8 months.

Keim, who graduated from Mt. Blue High School in 1995, left Maine for the West Coast after two years at the University of Maine at Farmington. He started The Blakes with his brother, Snow, moved to Los Angeles, then back to Seattle, toured extensively, traveled abroad, and along the way developed a love for food and cooking.

“I think that learning about food and learning how to cook is about experiential learning and traveling. If you don’t travel, you’re not exposed to new flavors,” Keim said. “The more you taste, the better your palate gets.”

Over the last seven years, Keim has tried to spend a month in Mexican towns and cities, as well as Costa Rica and Belize. In his travels, Keim picked up recipes and cooking skills from locals he met, which have helped him form the El Toro menu.

His time in Seattle piqued his interest in food trucks, which he said are on almost every corner in the northwestern city. The desire to open a food truck came about seven or eight years ago, but with the band and touring keeping him busy, he just didn’t have time.

“Logistics just didn’t work out. You can’t do that when you’re in a band. So when I came out here, I was thinking about it again. Coming back here, I was just shocked that there was no Mexican food, or the food truck culture period. They’re on every corner in Seattle,” Keim said.

Now back in Maine, living a more relaxed — or as relaxed as Keim will allow — lifestyle, the opportunity to pursue the food truck and turn his personal passion for food into a professional endeavor seemed ripe.

FUELED BY ORGANIC MAINE

Holloway said they were able to pursue an eclectic business such as a food truck because of the flexibility that living in rural Maine requires of its residents.

“When you live out here, you need to create,” she said. “You need to create jobs. You need to create your own businesses. And the beauty of it is you can take whatever you’re passionate about. You really can kind of create it. It’s an open slate out here. When you’re living so far from the community out here, we need to build our own fun. For us it’s businesses and creativity. (El Toro) is born out of that, really.”

The food truck was a Craigslist find Keim bought three years ago. Since then, specifically within the last year, he has put his “blood, sweat and tears” into overhauling the rundown truck, making it fully equipped and vibrant. He designed the logo that appears on the truck’s exterior, using his background in graphic design. He also taught himself how to paint a commercial-size truck, something he realized was far more difficult than he’d thought it would be.

While Keim was taking on the muscle role of the project, Holloway, who runs the business end of El Toro, got to work figuring out everything that needed to be done to get the food truck rolling as a business.

“It’s such a huge push to get something like this literally on the road, because you need to go through all the hoops of any restaurant. We’re opening a restaurant, it just happens to be one wheels,” Holloway said.

And the fact that it’s a restaurant on wheels doesn’t mean they are taking any shortcuts when it comes to the food. Everything head chef Keim will serve up is made from scratch, including the marinades and salsas — recipes that he found in his travels to Mexico.

They also are buying locally whenever they can, including driving two hours and back to Portland to pick up Maine grain tortillas from Tortilleria Pachanga.

“We’re going the extra mile for the best quality food we can get our hands on,” Holloway said.

El Toro’s menu also features locally sourced beef from Cold Spring Ranch in New Portland, mushrooms from Mousam Valley Mushroom in Sanford, and tomatoes from Backyard Farms in Madison.

Keim is unveiling the truck with a staple menu of tacos, burritos, quesadillas and burrito bowls. The couple hasn’t ruled out expanding the menu later or offering specials such as fish taco Friday once they get underway.

“It’s so new we don’t know what to expect yet. So we’re rolling it out there and we’ll see what happens,” Holloway said.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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