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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Flippin Birds: Food truck that ‘gives a cluck’

Voice+Monet+and+her+son+Ori+inside+the+Flippin+Birds+truck
Aditi Nadkarni
Voice Monet and her son Ori inside the Flippin Birds truck

Perhaps you’ve wandered on Broadway Street late one night, tired and hungry and not entirely sober, and you’ve seen in the distance a beacon, a passing ship: the Flippin Birds Food Truck. 

Flippin Birds is one of the newest additions to Tulane’s crepuscular culinary landscape. The truck, which serves a variety of fried and chicken salad sandwiches with several sauces and sides, was founded last year as a worker cooperative. It arrived early in the fall semester after spending several months testing the waters outside downtown bars. According to the owner, Voice Monet, the warm response of Tulane students encouraged her to station the truck on Broadway, walking distance from The Boot and a number of fraternity and sorority houses. 

“We reached out to a sorority house on Broadway,” Monet said. “They were just sitting out on the porch, and we just walked up and introduced ourselves … I was like, ‘Hey, I own a food truck, I’m thinking about bringing it up here.’ And they were like ‘Hell yeah!’” 

Much like the little restaurant, Monet moves around a lot. Beginning as a hip-hop artist in her hometown of Los Angeles, she has bounced between the music, media and hospitality industries since moving to New Orleans 20 years ago. When I spoke with her, I noticed that she radiated elements of both places — the focus and fierceness required for life as an artist in LA and the groundedness and honesty that grows in the Crescent City.

She says her diverse experiences inform the service she provides through Flippin Birds. 

“I’ve always noticed gaps and areas of weakness in the hospitality space, specifically here in New Orleans,” Monet said. “We’re known as a culinary city, but we’re not necessarily known as the culinary customer service city. I wanted to bring my background in customer service and customer care to the food space.”

Aspects of care extend not only to customers, but to the workers — that is, future worker-owners — of the co-op. Currently, pay is $15 an hour plus tips, which stands in stark contrast to the minimum wage of tipped employees in Louisiana, only $2.13. Monet’s son and the original Flippin Birds employee, Ori Toure, who joined in our conversation, attested that minimum or almost-minimum wage is commonplace in other New Orleans restaurants. The worker-cooperative model, which essentially entails that the truck is — literally — a wealth-building vehicle in which all workers have some equity and decision-making power, also permits the collective negotiation of finances. 

Flippin Birds is also unique for its environmental consciousness and sustainable sourcing. The truck, save for running on gasoline, is as green as possible. Everything is digitized to avoid paper tickets, packaging is recyclable and all vegetable food waste is composted. There are vegan alternatives for most menu items and gluten free options will soon be offered. In addition, they are members of an international grassroots movement and network of activists, restaurants and other businesses called Slow Food, which believes in sourcing food as locally as possible. The impact these eco-friendly efforts have on monthly revenue may be larger than those they have on the environment at this point, but it is a price Monet is willing to pay to match the vibe of young customers.

The Flippin Birds fried chicken sandwich (Aditi Nadkarni)

She credits her experience in the music industry for showing her how young people often make the best audiences due to their lasting affinity for “the things that [they] rock with.” As for any new culinary establishment, the future is up in the air for Flippin Birds, but they envision a number of possibilities, including scaling up to offer mobile delivery service, building a fleet of trucks to station throughout the city or creating a franchise cooperative model that could be sold to another restaurant. 

After finishing up my conversation with Monet, I waited a couple hours before walking down Broadway to the truck, which had moored itself across the street from Delta Tau Delta. I ordered the classic: the fried chicken sandwich with a side of fries. The food wasn’t fast by any means: with just Monet and her son in the truck, it took nearly 10 minutes for my order to arrive, in which time a few guys from Delt drifted by and placed orders. But when I tasted it, I could tell that the sandwich hadn’t been lazily slapped together with day-old ingredients either: it was warm, and the lettuce was crisp.

There is probably a limit on how good sandwiches can be, and I would say that this one was well along that curve. But this isn’t intended as a lukewarm review; in fact, a good sandwich — not a fantastic, mind-expanding one, if such a thing is possible — is precisely what anyone would want on a night out. 

I was reminded of something Monet said earlier, which I take to be her food truck philosophy: “It’s more than just about making some food and handing it off to people. There’s a certain responsibility with feeding people, in my opinion, even if it’s quick service food.”

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