Food Carts are an important part of local Portland culture, where high-brow food is preferred eaten with friends outdoors on a picnic table. Community is a key ingredient in Portland’s diverse and exciting food scene, and it’s the very thing that drives Matta food cart owner, Richard Le. Matta really is both a food cart, as well as a lifestyle brand that transcends the parking lot it lives in.
Bringing People Together
A SAN JOSE transplant, Richard’s Vietnamese food cart is more than just his work, it’s the medium he uses to being people together. Trained in the home kitchens of his Mother and Auntie, Richard brings a Viet Kieu (the term for foreign-born Vietnamese person) approach to his menu, bringing together the complex flavors of home-style Vietnamese cooking with the American food he grew up with. “Each dish has a connection to a memory,” Richard likes to say.
Quality gear that lasts a lifetime
Richard tends to arrive early in the day to start cooking prep. He uses a heavy-duty apron from a Portland maker, Orox, made from waxed canvas with embossed leather. His knife is a gift from his wife Sophia, a Japanese knife that has many jobs, from butchering to carving. His tools are important, he believes in investing in quality, which is also why he was drawn to Tsuchiya. He uses his Randoseru for his daily life, using it to carry his iPad, water bottle, ideas notebook, and maybe a knife or two as he bounces from meetings, to home, to Matta.
A love of Japan
Japan has always been a key influence in Richard’s life, and he tries to visit Japan as often as possible. Growing up, his Father, a native speaker who spent 16 years in Japan, helped foster that interest in Japanese culture through anime, Japanese food, and language. When he first saw Tsuchiya’s Randoseru he recognized the silhouette from anime, and loved the idea of mixing this pop culture style reference with his utilitarian-meets-streetwear style.
The Future is Evolving
Today Matta is a food cart, but tomorrow - who knows how it can evolve? Richard has always maintained that his business is fluid and ready to grow and evolve into new things in this organic way. Richard was recently invited to Tokyo to represent Portland in a food and culture Pop-Up event, bringing the best of Portland to Tokyo. It’s exciting to see where Richard and his Randoseru will go!