But only a few years ago, Mach had a decidedly different aspiration: he was going to join the NYPD.
However, as he lingered on the waiting list for the Police Academy, Mach saw an opportunity one day while searching for a commercial refrigerator for his sister on Craigslist, happening upon an ad for a dirt-cheap food stand in Coney Island.
Although his cooking chops didn’t extend much beyond a voracious palette and cooking with his family, Mach decided to contact the seller.
“We met up and he gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he said. “So I took it.”
Mach, who has familial roots in China and Vietnam and has always loved tacos, decided to combine the unlikely cuisines, utilizing Southeast Asian recipes he grew up eating and incorporating them into a taco.
“I wanted to jump around, work with some of the dishes I grew up eating,” he said. “I took that flavor and put it in a taco. I wanted to show Coney Island something they’d never seen before.”
Recipe inspiration didn’t end up being Mach’s principal hurdle, but rather the location of Coney Shack, right next to the DMV.
“It was kind of a tough location, because generally when people leave the DMV they just want to go home,” he said. “But the people who gave me a shot were the construction workers, the NYPD, healthcare and DMV workers. And soon the locals actually gave it a shot and really liked up.”
He chalks up much of his rapid success to the popularity of his crunch fish tacos.
“That really put me on the map,” he said. “In this little area, that’s a bit unknown.”
As of a few months ago, Coney Shack is literally all over the map, moving into a mobile truck that has been serving up tacos to hungry denizens across the city. Foodies can track where the truck will next end up via Twitter at twitter.com/coneyshack.
With the recent Vendy Awards win and a five-star rating on Yelp, Mach says a bricks-and-mortar store might be in the cards one day, although not anytime soon.
“That’s generally the direction we want to go,” he said.