le food truck

Driving a food truck, as it turns out, is a lot like taking your family on vacation.

“The last thing you want to do is get out to your destination and realize that you’ve forgotten something really important,” Tony Hedger says as he double-checks the items being packed.

For example, the day’s menu includes an Asian salad, which requires a soy vinaigrette that’s been loaded into one of the many secured storage cabinets lining the truck’s interior. Without being able to make the salad, potential sales would be reduced by about one-third.

It’s a critical lesson in cooking and in business, and today, it really is a lesson. Hedger is a culinary instructor at L’Ecole Culinaire, a career college in Ladue. He also volunteered to coordinate the inauguration of Le Food Truck, a teaching tool designed to give students experience in a rapidly growing niche market in food service.

In addition to the Asian salad, the menu includes seared salmon, Yukon Gold hash and citrus salad; pulled pork with hand-cut chips; and a turkey burger with curried pickle relish. The price is $5 for any meal, plus $1 for a soda and $1 for a brownie, if desired.

“I figured we’d be doing some kind of burger, but salmon is probably the last thing on the planet I thought we’d be cooking on this thing,” says Andy Sims, a student approaching graduation.

“I think that because it’s a food truck, they’re looking for something a little more gourmet,” says Kirkland Pollard, another student.

Le Food Truck’s location varies each day.

“We have to be invited,” says John Womick, dean of culinary studies at L’Ecole. “We don’t want to be seen as competition for the existing food service at a given location, and we don’t want to be seen as competition for other food trucks. I booked some of the first dates through Facebook and via email.”

L’Ecole already operates the Presentation Room, a restaurant incorporated into its classroom building.

“This is just a logical next step in our curriculum,” Womick says. “When we first talked about doing a food truck, the chef-instructors really wanted to do it and the students were very eager for it.”

Womick and his staff tracked down in Florida an old Chevy truck with 180,000 miles on it that had formerly been, among other things, a hot dog truck. It was lined with stainless steel prep tables but needed a major overhaul.

In February, complete with a propane-fueled generator, running water — and, perhaps most important, a health-department inspection sticker from St. Louis County — Le Food Truck was deemed roadworthy. Menu items were tested at L’Ecole, and Womick drew on his days in catering sales to find venues where the truck could park. Meanwhile, he looked into the regulatory approvals needed to get licensed to sell in the city of St. Louis.
Find the entire article by Joe Bonwich at stltoday.com <here>