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Local family ‘pays it forward,’ finds success after a tough year

Owner, Joe Cubangbang, put the finishing touches on a custom platter in the Kazuyo Japanese gourmet food truck parked on Auto Center Drive in Valencia on Thursday, 123120. Dan Watson/The Signal
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When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the restaurant industry in March, Santa Clarita residents Angelica and Joe Cubangbang worried about the future, but found success after taking matters into their own hands.

After restaurants were forced to close for indoor dining, Joe decided to take his knowledge as a sushi chef and open a new restaurant, one on wheels that would be able to drive around the Santa Clarita Valley and bring people a new twist on traditional sushi.

Customers place their orders at the Kazuyo Japanese gourmet food truck parked on Auto Center Drive in Valencia on Thursday, 123120. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We named it Kazyuo Sushi,” said Angelica. “In Japanese, the word kazuyo is a girl’s name, but in the Philippines, the word means together and sharing. We thought that would be a perfect name for it.”

Shortly after the food truck was up and operational, Joe had the idea to start a “pay it forward” campaign, which would allow him to give back to the community and to those who may need extra help during this time.

Angelica started social media pages for the food truck, and asked anyone who needed a little help to contact her, so she and Joe could provide a family with a free food platter.

Customer, Mouy Notari of Valencia picks up her order from the Kazuyo Japanese gourmet food truck parked on Auto Center Drive in Valencia on Thursday, 123120. Dan Watson/The Signal

“When we started the food truck, we had so much support from neighbors and friends, we wanted to do something in return. That’s when my husband had the idea to give away a free platter. We fell on hard times this year, just like many other people did. So we wanted to do what we could to ease the pain.”

Angelica and Joe give one family a sushi platter each week, but with an overwhelming number of families in need, the couple try to provide a platter to as many families as possible as often as they can.

In addition to serving the usual sashimi and sushi rolls, Joe wanted to add a twist to the traditional menu, saying he realized people who order from a food truck are usually on the go, and don’t necessarily want to sit and eat.

That’s when he had the idea to make a traditional sushi roll, but roll it around a stick, dip it in tempura batter and deep fry it, making a sushi version of a corn dog. “It’s something you can eat while walking around,” Angelica said.

She said the deep-fried rolls have been a popular item at the food truck, and are named after well-known places in the SCV.

“We have three of them, and they’re named after popular places here … the ‘Magic Mountain Stick,’ the ‘Central Park Stick’ and the ‘Santa Clarita Stick,’” Angelica said.

Chef, Art Prangchet fills and order in the Kazuyo Japanese gourmet food truck parked on Auto Center Drive in Valencia on Thursday, 123120. Dan Watson/The Signal

She said it wasn’t long after the food truck opened they gained a lot of success. Within the first few days, Angelica said, they had lines of about 50 people waiting. And with a scarce staff, it was difficult to keep up with the demand.

Angelica and Joe are planning to open a second food truck within the next month. She added not only will the second food truck ease the demand, it will also allow the business to operate seven days a week, instead of the usual Wednesday through Sunday.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Angelica said. “We all have to try and see positivity in every situation.”

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