Deciding not to attend culinary school and rather to learn by first-hand experience, the college graduate traveled around the U.S. including Michigan, Oregon and Arizona. At the latter two, he studied techniques from other chefs that he employs in his restaurant today.
After returning to Louisville and marrying local metal sculpture artist Dana Androit, Sowder spent eight years at renowned chef Edward Lee’s 610 Magnolia, where he served as chef de cuisine. In January, 2012, he opened his first venture, the name which his 5-year-old son Ezra helped originate by calling his dad a “Taco Punk” during a wrestling match.
Don’t think Taco Punk is your average fast food joint. Sowder purchases most of his meats and vegetables from local vendors and makes everything from scratch daily using cooking techniques normally seen in fine-dining establishments. Orders are specially prepared while patrons wait ensuring individual tastes are considered. Throw in an allergy- and vegetarian-conscious menu with no additives or preservatives and people really can see how the restaurant differs from other traditionally speedy eateries.
“What you end up getting is a really balanced flavor and a very high-quality product that’s ultimately very customizable to people’s taste,” Sowder said. “We’re giving the consumer a lot of power in choosing what they want.”
And then there’s the green aspect of Sowder’s business that sets it apart. Each month, Taco Punk composts more than 3,000 pounds of waste. All the service ware — napkins, plates and cups — are biodegradable. In addition, employees recycle almost everything else used in food preparation, an act that saves close to a thousand pounds of trash from being added to landfills every month.
“We have a very aggressive waste program,” he said. “Consumers are really responsive to that. It’s a very attractive thing now for people to have really, really good food, but food that makes you feel good too.”