The San Diego County Fair – formerly the Del Mar Fair, presented a certain level of anticipation and grotesque thoughts of diving elbow-deep into a world of fried artichoke hearts, bacon-wrapped turkey legs and deep-fried Kool-Aid. I was processing delusional thoughts of having a churning sensation in my belly while singing “That’s the way I like it” along with KC and The Sunshine Band performing on the big stage. Wondering, in KC’s words, if that’s really the way I like it!
This beautiful June weather, Friday evening trip to the fair, we happened upon a Happy Hour that was serving $5 Jose Cuervo Gold margaritas. “Can you make that a double?” After a couple of those bad boys, I couldn’t bring myself to an experimentation with the gastric juices that were in need of a calming. I thought, maybe the turkey leg would be about as calm as I could get. While scanning the horizon amongst the variety of culinary fast-food purveyors, displaying the mastery and prowess using the deep-fat fryers; I noticed a concessionaire offering a variety of chicken, sausage and coleslaw. Telling my close friend and acclaimed “CritDick”, “I’m going for this!” Pointing to the extremely huge vendor set-up provided by Ken and Sandy Kasinak’s Golden West Concessions. A San Diego based “State Fair-only provider.
Speaking with Sandy, I learned that, among other “rental” businesses they personally operate; they provide concessionaire services at six State fairs annually, grossing approximately half a million dollars of revenue each year. The San Diego Fair runs for 24 days…now extrpulating that, means this couple grosses approximately one-million annually. Being at their 70’s, this couple has been doing this for 30 years. Sandy said she was tired and ready to stay it home. She was very open with me and interested in telling her story. I again felt fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from successful F&B business owners. I explained to her that I was a culinary student and was relieved to have eaten at her establishment, that was extremely busy, with a fast-moving, long line of hungry guests. She explained that her operation consisted of, and I know I’m not capturing it all, two 40-foot trailers, four smaller (approximately 25-foot trailers) and a 5th wheel that they travel to each of the State’s fair locations. Add in the 25-or-so employees and their vagabond (carnie) style living arrangements…that’s a friggin huge operation. This particular operation also included a sink kitchen with plumbing (to the fairground sewer system and an additional concession stand somewhere else on the fairground that was serving up some smaller quicker items. Jeez…no wonder this lady was tired!
Today’s wood-grilled plating included a plain (minimally spiced) 1/2 chicken, an 8-inch swath of smoked sausage covered with saute’d bell peppers and onions, perfectly cooked french fries and a mildly-mayonnaised coleslaw. The condiment station included pre-wrapped utensils, dispenser housed napkins and pumping stations full of ketchup, mustard, Tapatio and BBQ sauce. We put all the sauces in the provided little white cups on the side of our plates. THIS, was a welcomed change to the “shit-for-food’ normally anticipated and envisioned when attending the fair. All of it was good…in fact, I would give it a “very good” rating, since the chicken and sausage were perfectly cooked, not dried out and it serviced a patron desiring just some normal food, that wouldn’t leave a ring around the toilet in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I think Ken and Sandy also have offerings of deep-fried questionables along other corners of their operation. They seem to know how to turn a buck! All of this combined with a friendly and attentive staff pushing food out through the service opening. Also don’t forget about the cashier that actually got my sub-standard, dry and off-the-cuff humor about discounting for military seniors.
I’m going to give Ken and Sandy’s Golden West Concessions 4 tickets to a cruise outta there for their operation, hospitality and service.