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Resume: Producing television, not sandwiches, is Wilfredo Manzano’s area of expertise. “I’m still working two jobs to get this thing going,” says the Puerto Rico native of his just-debuted food truck, Latin Farmer.  After moving to, and growing up in, New Jersey in 1992, annual visits home eventually informed the sensibility of Manzano’s comestible inventions: healthier adaptations of traditional Latin preparations, made with local whole foods.

Business Plan: “We’re taking high-end Spanish food to the streets,” says Manzano. “My lovely vision of the whole thing is to let people try Latin cuisine in places that don’t have it. Well aware that conceiving “luscious treats” and transforming them into scaleable, profitable dishes are two distinct tasks, Manzano brought on chef Ryan Fulford to turn his ideas into plates. “Ryan has the experience running a kitchen and the creativity to take ideas and do the hard part—turn them into menu items.”

In addition to introducing the uninitiated to new tastes, Manzano aims to recapture the community already intimately familiar with his flavors, by partnering with the nonprofit Food Trust to bring the truck to their weekly Thursday farmers market at Norris Square in North Philadelphia. “We say, buy local ingredients for your family and give them better, healthier foods,” says Manzano, who is planning on offering kitchen demonstrations with take-home recipes offering lighter variations on well-loved foods.

Edible Outcome: “This is as healthy as it can be,” says Manzano, who laughingly acknowledges that Latin cuisine “doesn’t necessarily go that route all the time.”  Starting with the best ingredients--local whenever possible--Fulford has realized an enticing menu..  The choripan, in particular, has been a strong seller from day one. Spicy chorizo, sugarcane-stewed onions, queso de pape Caribbean cheese, pineapple-cilantro mustard and banana ketchup are layered on pan de agua, a simple roll made in many Latin countries. “Our homemade banana ketchup is a take on a condiment that was very popular during the Vietnam war—a sweet ketchup,” says Manzano.  Other choices, like the hummus with baked plantain chips, are more seasonal—avocado-lime has already made way for a sofrito version highlighting the onion, garlic and tomatoes cooked in olive oil that forms the aromatic basis of hundreds of dishes.

Pros Know: Freshly made, non-alcoholic cucumber mojitos are on hand to wash down a collard wrap of Malta-braised skirt steak, chayote-apple slaw, queso fresco and heirloom tomato chimichurri; vegetarians should check out the vegan version made with garlic mofongo (mashed plantains). “We’ll always have one unique drink,” says Manzano.  

Get It: Wed. and Fri. from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Love Park, 1500 Arch St.; Norris Square, 2141 N. Howard St.

FELICIA D'AMBROSIO is a Philadelphia-based food writer. Her work also appears in City Paper, GRID, Metro, and Keystone Edge. Send feedback here.

PHOTOS of Wilfredo Manzano and the Latin Farmer Food Truck by MICHAEL PERSICO

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