While studying abroad in 2011, Brennan Foxman found a new world of Southeast Asian food culture.
He realized most of the food was made in a special type of frying pan: the wok.
He recalled the flames coming off the pan, the smell of fresh ingredients from the street and the quick pace in which the food was served, Foxman said.
“I just fell totally in love with the idea because they were making food that was like really fast,” Foxman said. “But the quality was way higher because everything has to do with the wok.”
Foxman and his fianceé, Samantha Young, run seven Wokworks food trucks around Philadelphia, which sell Asian street food. The duo said their most popular location is between Tioga and Broad streets on Temple’s Health Sciences Campus.
They bring a healthier approach to fast food with a “build-your-own” style, and their secret weapon: the wok.
The wok’s thick metal fries up vegetables quickly and doesn’t require a lot of oil, according to Epicurious, a website for food consumers.
Young manages Wokworks’ social media and marketing, while Foxman handles the financial and strategic business plans.
“We have complementary skills,” Foxman said. “She brings to the table a whole element of marketing expertise and digital expertise that I really don’t have.”
Foxman and Young met in their middle school band, where he played drums and she played the trumpet. Young had a crush on him, but the two didn’t reconnect until her sophomore year at Villanova University when Foxman was a senior at Tulane University. The two have been together ever since.
“Where he has a very good long-term perspective, I feel like I can see the little steps sometimes that we need to take to get somewhere,” Young said. “It’s about tying it into the greater mission of what he’s trying to do and what we’re trying to do.”
The business started as a restaurant in Rittenhouse off of 20th and Market streets in November 2013, where Foxman noticed the most popular food cart displayed bouquets of flowers.
“I asked [the owner] one time, ‘What’s the secret sauce that is driving all these people back?’ And he said ‘Flowers,’” Foxman said.
Foxman then decided to test it out l and put bouquets of flowers, like chrysanthemums and lilies, in soy sauce containers outside the trucks. Within a few weeks, his trucks made more money than the restaurant, he said.
Stacey Steinmetz, who has worked at the Health Sciences Campus Wokworks location for four years, said that the flowers attract business for the truck.
“They walk by and realize that [we] don’t sell flowers, [we] sell food. But because it looks really nice, they want to get something,” she said.
William Clooney, a 2017 nursing alumnus, has eaten at Wokworks since its beginning. His favorite is the “drunken noodles,” a spicy chili garlic shrimp and chicken noodle dish.
“Wokworks reminds me of my home at Temple. I come back because of the fast service,” Clooney said.
Sebrina Allen, a respiratory therapist, found out about Wokworks from her coworkers at Temple University Hospital.
“I can’t wait to get to work so I can get it,” Allen said. “I like it because everything’s fresh. The vegetables are fresh, the protein is fresh,and the sauces, too.”
Foxman is working to grow his seven Wokworks trucks to ten trucks.
“We are building the vision together, but I make sure that I’m always in line with his long-term vision,” Young said.