‘We bet on each other’: Longtime friendship drives launch of local food trailer
Ex-La Jollan Steve Sykes and Aaron Ruzinsky start up Medium, which offers dishes such as Korean spice-rubbed smoked brisket.
For former La Jolla resident Steve Sykes and longtime friend Aaron Ruzinsky, their blend of backgrounds and a kitchen on wheels is a recipe for success.
The two — best friends since first grade — have turned the ignition on Medium, a food trailer that combines Ruzinsky’s culinary skills with Sykes’ business acumen.
“It’s just a good way for us to have full control over the creativity and the concept,” said Ruzinsky, a Crown Point resident who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. “We’ll let demand take us in any direction over the next few years.”
The concept for Medium comes from Ruzinsky’s extensive global travels. Throughout his journeys, “food was the medium that I enjoyed the most to get to know the places [where] I was and the people around that,” he said. “Food is [now] our medium. That’s what we use to … connect.”
Sykes said one of the things that sets Medium apart from other food trucks and trailers “is that we do a lot of interesting fun fusions. It’s a really creative menu. We hope to bring that to our private dining events: we want to understand what the event is all about, understand what the preferences of the hosts are and really build the menu to custom-fit those needs.”
Thus, Medium is available to cater private events and partner with local businesses to provide food.
Medium’s signature dish exemplifies its concept: a sushi rice bowl with kimchi slaw and Korean spice-rubbed smoked brisket.
“I’m from Texas, and I’m also from a Jewish background,” Ruzinsky said. “So brisket is something I’ve always been around.”
In culinary school, half his cohort was Korean, he added, which augmented his knowledge of Asian flavors.
The rice bowl contains Ruzinsky’s house-made kimchi-turned-coleslaw, “which mellows it out a little bit but it’s got a lot of that Korean spice,” he said. “Then I brine a whole brisket and I … smoke it Texas-style in a Korean rub for 24 hours. And we [use] our own barbecue sauce from the liquid that we get while making the kimchi.”
“What I love about that dish is … it’s like a really great example of what we’re wanting to do with the concept, which is connecting people from all different backgrounds,” Sykes said.
And a mobile kitchen means Medium will travel “as far as the trailer lets us go,” Ruzinsky said.
Sykes, who has a business background and has worked in management and consulting, handles all administration and back-office support for Medium while maintaining another job in technology. Ruzinsky works the culinary trailer full time.
“It’s been really fun because I can see [Ruzinsky’s] creative side and execution side come to fruition,” Sykes said.
The duo, who grew up in Houston, reconnected when Ruzinsky moved to San Diego from San Francisco during the COVID-19 pandemic to be with his now-fianceé Janna Raphelson, a friend of Sykes’ wife, Alex.
As the pandemic made working in others’ kitchens difficult for Ruzinsky, and as “[Sykes] has always had an entrepreneurial mind,” the idea for a food trailer seemed the perfect recipe for the two friends to meld their skills, Ruzinsky said.
“Why don’t we bet on each other?” Ruzinsky thought at the time.
Medium is “a natural evolution of [our] lifelong friendship,” Sykes said.
Though he moved to Dallas on May 31, “one of the fun things about the business we’re building is it’s another way Aaron and I can continue our friendship chapter and it gives me a fantastic reason to come back,” Sykes said. “We loved living in La Jolla.”
“La Jolla is an amazing place,” Ruzinsky said. “We really love to … be a part of the group that feeds that community.”
“I’m just excited to see what else we can get up to,” Sykes said.
For more information, visit medium-foods.com. ◆
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