Indiana workers share about life in food truck kitchens
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Food truck season is coming to a close, so if you want to grab your favorite bite from Lafayette’s mobile restaurant scene, you better move fast.
It’s a testament to how brutal the Indiana winters can be that these trucks don’t stay open over the winter, because they’ll trek all over the county and work in sweltering temperatures to provide tasty, innovative treats.
Jose Alfonso Lopez, who owns L Kora food truck, said even recent temperatures in December have been pushing the envelope on what is tolerable inside the poorly insulated vehicles. Even though he works in a tiny kitchen, he said, it can still get frosty.
“It can get really cold,” Lopez said. “I’m wearing so much clothing right now.”
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L Kora, which specializes in tacos, will serve its last meal on December 22, and the Emergency Munchie Truck, Lafayette’s only vegetarian food truck, will end service for the season on December 19.
“We don’t serve through the winter, not only because we’d freeze our butts off but because the water heater on the truck is on demand and we’d have issues with water lines freezing,” said EMT owner Amber Davis.
Dealing with extreme and volatile temperatures is only one of the many challenges of operating a food truck.
Lopez said he used to work three or four jobs in restaurants around Lafayette but now he just does the food truck. The tiny kitchen size means he has to really pick and choose the implements and equipment available to him.
“It’s difficult because you can’t have everything you want in here,” Lopez said.
Davis added she thinks the most difficult part of food truck life is creating a menu that’s the right size, one that won’t overwhelm the kitchen and can sustain a fast turnaround time on tickets.
“Our first year I wanted to offer all these things but you’re working in such a limited space you just can’t,” Davis said.
She overcame this by offering crowd pleasers, like the mac nugget poppers, bite sized and deep-fried mac and cheese jalapeno poppers.
For Mitchell’s Mexican Grill food truck, menu size and kitchen size weren’t an issue. Owner Patti Dunbar said the Mitchell’s food truck kitchen is larger than the kitchen in her restaurant, and the food truck offers dozens of menu items. For her, the challenge is outfitting the truck in an economical and efficient way. Already, she said, they’ve added a second generator so they can run more equipment.
“The other Lafayette food trucks call us the food truck on steroids,” she said.
None of the food truck owners and operators claim that owning a mobile restaurant was a lifelong dream. It seemed like a good idea at the time (most started up four or five years ago) and it’s a gamble that’s paid off.
“We have a restaurant in Delphi and we wanted to branch out and build clientele in surrounding towns,” Dunbar said. “Our goal is to open brick and mortar locations in those places. . It’s worked wonderfully.”
Dunbar added that she is currently eyeing Lafayette for the restaurant’s next stationary location.
Davis said she got into food trucking to offer better, more accessible vegetarian options.
“People have this preconceived notion that vegetarian food is boring,” she said. “But we try to marry comfort food with healthy food and have something for everyone.”
But Davis still doesn’t know exactly why she went down this route, although she’s glad that five years ago inspiration struck.
“I have no idea why I started this,” she said. “I had never even worked in a restaurant before I had the idea.”
Source: (Lafayette) Journal and Courier
Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com