Chef Val Meyer is my kind of chef. He came up through the ranks, has been cooking since he was 9, and does he know his stuff.
When he talks about French cuisine, he does it with a NOLA’s Ninth Ward accent, but he is just as comfortable talking about tamales, muffulettas and Italian cannolis, the three things that are on his menu at his Ocean Springs food truck.
I’ve seen a lot of food trucks in the past few months, but this is one of the coolest I have encountered. Some are slick and tricked out, with every modern gadget. Custom-made food trucks start at $50k and skyrocket after that.
Chef Val, and this is another good indication of the type of very cool, creative man he is, bought an old mule-drawn cotton wagon in north Mississippi. He added sides and roof, AC, painted it bright red, with appropriate signage, added a meat slicer, the basics the health department requires, an oven, and a whole lot of personality.
What did he end up with? I am not trying to be cute, but, really, jump in your car, drive down Government Street and when you see the bright red wagon on the south side of the street, stop and see for yourself. Is that not the coolest food truck/wagon you have ever seen?
I hope you know by now that I do not hype, and I do not exaggerate, but Chef Val is capable of some very serious magic. When I stopped by the other day, he spent 20 minutes showing me in great detail how he makes his muffulettas.
Yes, it is that detailed a process. First and foremost, he uses the best quality ingredients he can find, and that means driving 87 miles to NOLA where he buys Genoa salami, mortadella, Chisesis ham (which Chef Val describes as “top of the chain.”)
He makes his own olive salad, and infuses his own olive oil with roasted garlic, and, if that is not enough, he uses John Gendusa bread, also from NOLA, and, as you might guess, Chef Val describes it as, “top of the chain.” (You got to love it!). Best muffuletta I have ever had. No kidding.
What about the tamales? I wish I had the space to tell you in as much detail as I would like how they are made, and how good they are, but I don’t. I do have to tell you that I have traveled the Mississippi Delta and written about the tamale scene there, but Chef Val’s tamales are simply the best I have ever had.
He uses the best ingredients, simmers them using a French technique called cartouche, which helps hold in the flavors. They are so good and so flavorful you will not need hot sauce, and he does not serve them with crackers. Don’t ever ask. They are perfect as they are.
Wait, wait, what about the cannoli? I hate to tell you, but my doc threatened me with banishment if I touched anything sweet ever again. I was sorely tempted, they looked divine, but I did not try them. Sorry. Will you try them and let me know how they are?
Like I said, Chef Val is my kind of chef. Made-from-scratch food, a true personality, so when you stop by, have enough time to chat a bit. You are going to love this place, and with cooler weather on the way, my bet is that you are going to see people all over Ocean Springs, walking around eating tamales and muffulettas. I cannot overcome the temptation — they are top of the chain.
Charro’s Hot Tamales, NOLA Muffulettas and Cannolis
Where: 1316 Government St., Ocean Springs
Hours: Hours vary, but open daily for lunch and supper