Chef Welbi Genao wasn’t planning to open a food truck. But one day in April 2020 – while newly out of work from his restaurant job due to lockdown – he noticed that one of his Providence neighbors was converting an old construction vehicle into a mobile kitchen.
“It felt like a sign to see someone building a food truck right outside of my house,” Genao says. “I started thinking, ‘wow, maybe this could be a good thing for me.’ So I got to work brainstorming ideas and eventually made a deal.”
By that October, Genao’s food truck, Trap Box PVD, was on the road serving Latin American-inspired burgers, sandwiches, and fries. He regularly parks it at various locations, including outside of Long Live Beerworks on Sprague Street and at Carousel Village in Roger Williams Park for Food Truck Friday.
Genao named the mobile eatery after his nickname, Trap, which goes back to his time DJing hip-hop around the city. The food is influenced by his family’s roots in the Dominican Republic and his upbringing in South Providence.
Much of the menu draws on customer favorites from Genao’s now-closed Blend Cafe, including his take on a Cuban sandwich and a chimi burger – a popular Dominican street food. There’s also the Papa Chiche, a fried chicken sandwich with hot honey; the NY Chopped Cheese, with ground beef and cheddar on a torpedo roll; and fries topped with birria, cotija cheese, and aioli.
“I kind of got inspired by the movie Chef, where the chef goes from fine dining to a food truck,” Genao says.
Genao first developed his passion for cooking during a personally challenging time. In 2011, he was arrested for possession with intent to deliver marijuana and went to minimum security prison for several months, he shares. To fill his days there, he read voraciously about food and restaurants. At that time, his mother, Francisca, who died due to complications from ALS in 2017, encouraged him to improve his life by becoming a chef.
“She told me in Spanish, my son, please, I don’t want you to sell drugs no more,” Genao says. “There’s now a picture of her in my truck, because she was my inspiration. I wouldn’t be a cook if it wasn’t for her, or all of the time that I had in jail to learn.”
Immediately after he was released, Genao enrolled in the culinary training program at the Genesis Center, which offers job skills training and adult education. From there, he landed a prestigious internship at Al Forno. “I really learned a lot,” he recalls, engaging in a higher level of cooking there.
That experience led him to several other positions in the industry. In addition to his previous role as chef-owner of Blend Cafe, he has also cooked at Blackie’s, Gregg’s, Salted Slate, and Not Your Average Joe’s.
“Food gave me a reason to change my life around,” Genao says. “I don’t know what I’d be doing without it.”
Follow @trapboxpvd on Facebook and Instagram to find out where the truck will be posting up this summer.
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