As the sun pours onto downtown Cleveland, its rays intensify off the mirrored facade of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, giving residents a taste of the summer to come. Office workers grudgingly watch from their windows as the spring day blooms before them. Were they outside they could smell the breeze blowing cool off the lake, mingling with the savory smells coming from a lime-green truck parked on East Ninth and St. Clair. The truck is the base of operation for Umami Moto, one of the six food trucks operating in the Cleveland area. Its color makes it easy to spot from a distance, something that draws many of those workers, according to Umami Moto owners and operators Jae Stulock and Sandy Madachik. “I saw you guys from my office window and had to come check it out” is one of the most uttered phrases among customers. As the lunchtime queue began to form, a security guard from a nearby office building emerges to inform Stulock and the crew that they were parked illegally and would have to move. Stulock folded down his awnings as onlookers inquired where they would go. “Across the street,” he told them with confidence. Stulock has become more than familiar with handling adversity in the food truck business — especially when it comes to the truck itself. “Everything breaks,” Stulock said. “I have a list of things to work on, so if I have a minute I try and check things off” — things like oil leaks, battery problems, lighting issues and other necessary repairs. “One morning we went out to start the truck and you could literally hear the starter break,” Stulock said. “I had to change out the starter, but we were only about 15 minutes late for our lunch service.” Despite this, the cook and former construction worker wouldn’t have it any other way. Prior to his work with the food truck, Stulock worked at a restaurant in Twinsburg. “I hated working in a restaurant for two reasons,” he said. “ First, I never got to see outside, and secondly, I never got to see the customers enjoying what I made.” Echoing these sentiments was Umami Moto’s chef, Tim Schmitz. “The only time you ever hear from customers in a restaurant is when a server comes into the kitchen to give you a complaint,” Schmitz said. The name, Umami, is the word for the fifth basic taste (after sweet, salty, sour and bitter) and means “pleasant savory taste “ in Japanese. While the truck does not serve strictly Asian food all the time, it is their culinary niche. Pad Thai is one of Stulock’s favorite dishes, and he’s been using the same recipe for years. “It was one of those classic things where people would say, ‘Wow, Jae, you should sell this,’” Stulock said. “So when I had the chance to open a food truck it was kind of a no-brainer.” Everything on the truck is housemade, or more specifically, truck-made. The Umami crew is in the process of setting up a non-mobile kitchen to accommodate preparation work and to give them more storage space. Currently all the food is stored in the trucks refrigeration compartments. Not having a brick-and-mortar home has caused some logistical problems. “Only one of our food providers will deliver to the truck,” Stulock said. “So we have to drive all over creation to get supplies.” Further adding to the plight is the fact that many of their ingredients can only be purchased at Asian specialty stores. When they find something they need they often buy up the store’s entire supply only to run out in a few days, according to Stulock. Stulock says the biggest hurdle they face is pervading views of food trucks’ sanitary practices (or lack thereof). Food trucks face the same stipulations and requirements as any restaurant, require the same licenses and deal with the same inspectors. “We’re fighting that ‘roach coach’ stigma,” Stulock said. “We adhere to the same cleanliness standards as a restaurant, if not more so because we’re fighting that stigma. “Because it’s such a small confined kitchen it has to stay clean,” he went on. “There’s no two ways about it. We don’t have the room to hide a little bit of this or that.” As the noonday sun declines from its zenith, the Umami crew begins to pack up and head home. Their service is over for today and they need to begin preparing for tomorrows challenges.