Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A Little More About Food Trucks & Our Market

Food trucks are one of the trendiest things on the foodie scene:
  • There is an Eat St. app that you can download for free off iTunes that links your current location to the nearest food truck so that you can, on a whim,  get your fix of gourmet comfort food. 
  • There is the wildly popular Food Network show of the same name, Eat St. which is actually a Canadian show that features trucks, their recipes, interviews with their chefs, that tells their stories and that shares their inspiration with its viewers. 
  • And food trucks are popping up all over the place, with Calgary and Edmonton hosting some of the hottest food truck scenes in Canada. 

Essentially gourmet kitchens on wheels, food trucks usually offer up comfort food, cooked fast and fresh on site, often using locally-sourced ingredients. And, from our old view of food trucks as hot dog, hamburger & fries stands and carnival fare, they have made us redefine our view of what a food truck can and should be. Bully Truck will be at our market this year, using food sourced from the local vendors who are at our market, making wonderful things like sumptuous food offerings like Mac & Cheese, Poutine with Sausage Gravy, Turkey Burgers, Fresh Vegetable Salad topped with Smoked Meat and Black Garlic Aeoli, and Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Yum!

I was driving around earlier this month, listening to CBC's interview of the Food Network's James Cunningham, producer of Eat St., a wildly successful show on the Food Network that tours around, filming and interviewing the chefs behind popular food trucks throughout North America. (To hear the interview, go to http://www.cbc.ca/albertaatnoon/ and scroll down to April 12, at the 16:30 minute mark). He was in Calgary, filming one of their food trucks there. Though it is a Canadian show, Eat St. does most of its filming States-side, partially due to the fact that there are far more trucks down south where the population is substantially more numerous and the climate allows for trucks to be open for far longer seasons than it does in Canada. However, we Canadians are a resilient bunch, and are coming out to support food tucks, hand over fist! So we have a definite presence on the North American truck scene map.

Wendy & Dean of Bully Food Truck
He made some really interesting points. He stressed that the chefs who rent or own and operate these trucks had to be a bit crazy and super passionate about food to run a food truck, as it is a lot of work. And he likened what is happening now, on the food truck scene, to what he called a Food Truck Revolution. Food trucks are a phenomenon that have absolutely exploded onto the street scene because of two serendipitous things occurring in North America a couple of years ago.

First, there was the down turn in the North American economy. Often, the people behind the gourmet food trucks are 5 star chefs. At this particular time, some were out of work (and, he added almost sheepishly, some were simply office workers who desperately wanted out from behind their desk to do what they love) but they still wanted to be gainfully employed in the culinary arts in which they were trained and were passionate. They were nervous to roll the dice and open up their own restaurant in the height of a recession. So these chefs rented or invested in trucks, hit the pavement and took their inspiration to the street to do what they loved.

There is a flip side to this point as well. With the downturn in the economy, especially in the United States, many people were no longer going to expensive 5 star restaurants. But they still had a passion and a desire to be eating gourmet food.  So these people began turning to more expensive, but gourmet, street food as a replacement for eating out in fine dining restaurants.

The second thing was the social media explosion that has occurred in our society with social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest being all the rage. These sites have the possibility to make things popular, to make things go "viral," and to get news out almost instantaneously. Food truck chefs can tweet out their information throughout the day. And their customers can retweet or "like" that info out once again to their friends, who "like" or tweet it to theirs, and so on. When it comes to food trucks, this can include menu items, their location for that day, and what is hot & popular on a given day. As a result, food trucks have their fanatical followers, and lineups at the trucks can be insane. James Cunningham likened it to a gourmet flash mob where there's an energy and an enthusiasm in the line up & the air is a-buzz with excited "What are you getting? What did you get? What's good here?" chatter.

The success and popularity of the food truck phenomenon has made another important thing happen. Cities, like Edmonton and Calgary, are recognizing what a great thing having a vibrant food truck scene is for the atmosphere and profitability of a city, and they are giving parking spots to the food trucks along with their licences in prime, downtown locations. 

The chefs in these trucks are beholden only to themselves and this creates a unique opportunity to blend influences from their upbringing and fuse them with their own unique style in preparing comfort foods. The gourmet result is a surprisingly delicious and inspiring fusion cuisine. A carte blanche, if you will, to do what they want & to bring their inspiration to the street.

Edmonton's food truck scene has taken off this year with some new trucks hitting the pavement and setting up on our streets. Our market will feature a few one of these newbies. 

Sailin' On started up with a few test runs prior to its grand opening this month (April, 2013) and has already developed a rabid, ravenous following.... just check out their twitter feed and scan through the comments (@sailinon780). People are raving about scrumptious offerings like their Vegan Reuben sandwich. Everything that Garrett and Mike make is vegan fare. Think Burritos with Green Hecka' Hot Chile Sauce, Seitan Reuban Sandwich, and Curry Chips. Mmmmm!

Mike and Garrett started off in the food truck direction years ago, with an annual event on the front stoop of their home in Garneau, where they made vegan corndogs for their friends and passers by. This event became quite popular, and so, after much preparation & research, they have taken the leap from making their immensely popular vegan corn dogs to expanding their menu and jumping into the Edmonton food truck scene this year, "bringing vegan street food to the masses."

On their website, they proclaim, "Gripping hard to their punk rock roots and DIY work ethic, they built a truck, tested and re-tested their menu through pop-up and special events, learned to look good in hairnets and rocked plenty of tight jams along the way." Check out their particular flavour, style and the creative take that they bring both to the food that they prepare and to the atmosphere of our market. You're sure to be surprised, delighted and satisfied...  

There aren't many opportunities in Edmonton to see multiple food trucks gathered together in one place. It is a really cool "must-try" experience. Our market, with its opening day Truck Rally, is one of those. Come out and see what all the fuss is about. And if those trucks are well supported and do well on that day, they will be back each week, making sumptuous food for us! Make Wednesday night Dinner-At-The-Market night for your family and friends. See you there!

Visit our website at http://www.swefm.ca
Like us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/swefm.ca

Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

1 comment:

  1. The other thing thats interesting is the East Village part of it. Food Truck Catering