Going whole hog-literally

Adjunct faculty Andrew Smith is co-owner of Affiné, a Fort Wayne food truck that switches up its menu daily, from in-house cured meat sandwiches to tacos and bahn mi, a Vietnamese sandwich

Adjunct faculty cures meats for local food truck

On the side of the Affiné food truck, parked at One Summit Square in downtown Fort Wayne, is the outline of a pig. It is divided into six portions of meat. Clockwise from the shoulder: coppa, speck, bacon, culatello, lomo, and lonzino.

Affiné, to reiterate, serves food from a truck, but the meat is never frozen. Instead, Affiné cures each portion of the pig: Lonzino takes three to four months to cure. Culatello clocks in at 13 months, which means, though the food truck opened in the summer of 2012, the first sandwiches made with culatello weren’t served until October 2013.

“It’s unheard of curing culatello in most places. You debone the largest portion of the leg muscle, and wrap it in the stomach of a pig. It gets salted, like a boneless prosciutto,” says Andrew Smith, co-owner of Affiné.

So if there’s a pig to buy, Smith purchases its entire middle section or the entire animal. He cures his own meats, rinses it, rolls and ties it, slow roasts it over five or six hours, slices it thinly.

Smith is also an adjunct faculty member at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast, where he teaches about fish and seafood and meat cutting. Every teacher brings something different and special to his or her class and, because of Smith’s experiences with Affiné combined with previous job experiences and his education, he keeps things now, says Jeff Bunting, Hospitality Administration program chair.

“I thought we needed someone who would bring in the newer concepts and the new trends,” Bunting says. “He’s got more of a current, innovative mindset, and he keeps everything fresh. He’s a really good teacher.”

Smith graduated from Fort Wayne’s Concordia High School and moved to Providence, R.I., to study culinary arts and nutrition at Johnson & Wales University. Before he could graduate, he needed a culinary internship, and he spent three months at Emeril’s in New Orleans—but not before spending six weeks at Joseph Decuis.

The Roanoke, Ind., restaurant invited him back after his internship, and Smith worked there from 2007 to 2012, when he came up with the idea for a food truck one evening while he was in the kitchen, butchering hogs.

His friend and coworker, Dan Campbell, a hospitality administration alumnus of Ivy Tech Northeast, was getting ready to leave his position at the restaurant because his wife was pregnant; he figured out that given the gas he needed to drive from Fort Wayne to Roanoke, and the cost of childcare, he’d only be bringing home $50 a week.

Mid hog-butcher, Smith asked himself, “What about a food truck?”

“So I washed my hands, went to a computer, went on Ebay. How much does a food truck cost? I found one on Ebay for $19,900, opening bid,” Smith says.

He texted Campbell to get his thoughts on the idea and, five days later, traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., to look at the truck, which had been used to sell pita and falafel. Smith bought it, painted it, and wrapped it with the Affiné information. Everything else is exactly the same, Smith says, except that he removed the freezer; not only was it broken, but Affiné doesn’t work in frozen food.

“We went from zero to business in six weeks,” says Smith, who owns Affiné with Campbell. “I think I could probably pull it off again, but we got really lucky.”

Smith has worked at Ivy Tech Northeast for about four years. When Bunting had a position open, he knew that Smith’s experience at Joseph Decuis would make him an ideal teacher for hospitality administration students.

“I think it’s fun,” Smith says. “I really like being around students and teaching them and showing them little nuances.”

It’s that attention to detail that’s so obvious in Affiné and its in-house cured meats. “Affiné” is a French word Campbell and Smith tweaked to fit their needs: A cheese that has been properly aged is said to have good or perfect “affiné,” Smith says.

For Smith, it’s the pork served on his food truck that is properly aged, or cured. Perfect affiné.

Smith teaches Ivy Tech Northeast students how to make a variety of sausages from scratch.