Chef Larry Abney Fusing flavors of the world

Chef Larry Abney and Red Truck. | Durgaya Palmieri

Curry, cumin and masala are only some of the flavors that Chef Larry Abney uses when he prepares his Indian, Middle Eastern and ethnic-inspired fusion cuisine.

The French-trained Abney worked as a chef at Wolfdale’s Cuisine Unique in Tahoe City when he first moved to Tahoe almost 23 years ago. A passion for rock climbing took him to Las Vegas for a hiatus and then to Aspen for a few years.

Coming back to Tahoe, Abney co-founded the successful and popular Dragonfly Restaurant with Billy McCullough in downtown Truckee. It was during his time there that he spent many years preparing Asian fusion cuisine. Abney wanted to do something that wasn’t being done in the Tahoe area when he started to think about a food truck. He loved the flavors of Indian food and no one else was doing it at the time and Red Truck was born.

“The foundation is Indian, but it’s not Indian. There are no boundaries. I make everything from harrissa braised beef to bành mí,” says Abney. He opened Red Truck Café located at the Truckee Tahoe Airport a few years after starting the food truck.

It was after a trip to Italy he found himself drawn to Middle Eastern food. He came across an Israeli cookbook and loved the recipes. He started improvising and creating with the flavors and dishes.

“I’ve been cooking a lot of Middle Eastern food,” says Abney, who finds inspiration in cookbooks and is a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi who Abney says “makes amazing vegetarian food.”

A recent trip to New Orleans had Abney back in the kitchen making jambalaya samosas.

“Breads inspire me. I was a baker in Aspen,” he says. He makes his own naan.

Each week you’ll find Abney at the Tuesday farmers’ market in Truckee from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Truckee River Regional Park.

“It’s about simple food and good ingredients that taste like it did 100 years ago. I’ve definitely been into that,” he says. He sources his produce, lamb, pork and chicken locally, including through Tahoe Food Hub.

From Middle Eastern falafels to hot dogs in homemade naan bread to Mexican fusion and Greek gyros, Abney has culled a cult following. Red Truck Café is busy from morning until closing time at 3 p.m. The breakfast menu includes quiches, gluten-free breakfast bowls and breakfast burritos. The lunch menu includes a wide variety of healthy salads, sandwiches, bowls and daily specials. Samosas are always on the menu. A meal isn’t complete without trying Chef Larry’s fabulous warm, gooey, chocolate-chip cookies.

Out of the kitchen, Abney is an easygoing soul. Once he gets behind the line, he is focused, on point with the tasks at hand. Abney is sought after for weddings, rehearsal dinners, parties and special events where he rolls up in Red Truck and serves guests from there.

“We show up to an event with a set menu and feed people for two hours. We are completely self contained,” he says.

He caters 70-plus events a year in the truck. He attributes much of his success to his “awesome staff,” most of whom have been working with him for five to seven years. Red Truck is a regular at Truckee Thursdays throughout the summer.

There is no slowing down for Abney, who hopes to create and offer family-style dinners on the lawn this summer. He’s happy with the amount of time he works and the amount of time he can play here in the mountains. It is apparent when you taste his food, Abney is passionate about what he prepares. |