Kristin Casper

Kristin Casper, Queen of Schnitzel.

Class of 2008 | Psychology

Kristin Casper A.B.‘08 may very well be the Queen of Schnitzel. After all, she partners with the King, Greg Burke, informs the public of his whereabouts, and even helped decorate his carriage. With her background in advertising and social media savvy, Casper has helped expand the Schnitzel Kingdom and bring the bounty of their Schnitzel food truck to their subjects across Chicagoland.

When she graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Psychology, Casper was thinking about entering clinical psychology.

“I really wanted to own my own business,” said Casper. “My grandpa owned Oppenheimer Meats, but I didn’t see myself in the food industry.”

Perhaps Casper should have known she would end up in the food industry. Not only does have ancestral ties to it, but she wrote her application essay to UChicago about baking. Now baking is her family business.

She might have ended up in her grandfather’s field, but she didn’t start there. While deciding whether or not to pursue psychology, she found herself becoming more and more enmeshed in marketing. Casper became the Director of Marketing at Cascino Vaughn Law Offices and then an Account Executive at Abelson-Taylor.

“I met Greg Burke tailgating at a Bears game,” said Casper. “He would take a schnitzel and fry it on Turano bread. People kept saying, ‘why don’t you start a food truck?’”

So they did. Casper brought her background in advertising and social media expertise, tweeting the location of their truck as they travelled across Chicago. As partner, she also considers how they will grow, what type of markets they should look into, and how to do so on a budget. Casper’s realized her dream of working for herself, and she’s discovered that being a partner is a full time investment.

“I am always thinking about our business,” said Casper, “I never turn it off, not even in the shower.”

Right now, the Schnitzel King (and Queen) are gearing up for Oktoberfest. Food trucks are a recent phenomenon in Chicago, and thanks to twenty year old law they can only serve pre-prepared food, so planning for an event takes a lot of work. Casper and the other truck owners all long for a day when they can cook on the go, but for now they must stick to stocking pre-packaged meals.

“This is a huge new business,” said Casper. “You can give people jobs and you’re giving the city jobs. The ordinances need to get on the same page.”

Consequently, there aren’t very many food trucks in Chicago. The city only has around 60, while other metropolises like LA and New York boast thousands of food trucks. A few Chicago aldermen are working with the budding association of food truck owners to change the laws.  A branch of the Institute for Justice--a national organization of lawyers fighting for the rights of entrepreneurs and small businesses--has also been pitching in. For more information, visit My Streets My Eats.

Despite these challenges, the Schnitzel King has found a lot of support for their food, especially in the UChicago community.

“The first day, we launched at UChicago,” said Casper. “The support was amazing. We have pictures of the food truck in front of the gargoyles. I couldn’t believe how many students loved it!”

Casper credits the University with instilling in her the hard work ethic that’s allowed her to make the truck so successful.

“I learned to keep going and to take criticism,” said Casper. “If you have a dream, you have to not give up. Starting a business isn’t easy. U of C really gives the drive to push yourself to the limits.”

The schnitzel truck allows Casper to return to campus, this time wielding a variety of food options and the novelty of eating from a portable restaurant. Still, Casper thinks the main draw to the truck is one of community.

“The big thing is the social media aspect,” said Casper. Through Twitter and Facebook, Casper has built a community of fans. People keep on the look out for Tweets of the truck’s latest location, faithfully following it and showing up when they can. It’s being a part of something, a community, the Schnitzel Kingdom, that ties them to the truck even more than the delicious food and bright blue paint job.   

By Jessen O'Brien, Senior New Media Editor, Class of 2012

Photo by Monika Lagaard, Class of 2012

Tagged: uniquely chicago, profiles