Growing Food Truck Movement Brings Gastronomic Flair to Regions During COVID

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With their sophisticated dining offerings, low overhead, and the ability to locate in different locations, the food truck business model flourished during the pandemic.

If you live in a small town with limited takeout options, you’ll likely hear through the bush telegraph when a food truck has been set up in town.

In Stratford, eastern Victoria, most afternoons on a vacant lot at the entrance to town you’ll find a gathering of utilities and traders regularly gathered waiting for their kebab ritual in the food truck Grill’em.

A fan base of gray nomads, young parents with strollers and rescue workers soon join the evolving social scene, sitting on modest stools under a canopy adorned with lights as the day turns to twilight.

In a city with limited dining and take-out options, locals have embraced the escape joy of Turkish take-out and the increasingly rare opportunity to meet on a spacewalk. open public.

“It was our dream,” says Selda Üstünoğlu Çetin, who left Turkey 10 years ago with her husband Taylan.

The Grill’em food truck in Stratford has become so popular that it’s now housed in a custom-built shed.(ABC Gippsland: Rachael Lucas)

“My husband always says he always puts his love in his kitchen, maybe that’s why it’s so tasty,” Ms. Çetin says of the food truck’s take-out menu of Turkish kebab wraps. , kofte, falafel, gozleme, Turkish delicacies and baklava made from scratch. .

“We work Wednesday through Saturday 12pm to 8pm, we start getting ready early and then finish cleaning late, so it’s a long day, but we love it,” says Ms. Çetin.

The couple had both worked in hospitality at five-star hotels in Turkey before moving to Alberton, Sale and eventually Stratford.

They ended up saving enough money by working in different jobs to buy their own food truck.

The flexibility of being able to attend festivals, markets, private functions, weddings and birthdays throughout the region has allowed the company to develop a loyal following.

But since the pandemic and the cancellation of so many events, the couple have tended to stay in Stratford.

The couple recently custom built a shed to house the truck, to provide waiting customers with shelter from rain, dust and sun, and added chairs and tables that can be used by customers during periods of non-containment.

“We are lucky to have this kind of business because we can stay open during the lockdown,” Ms. Çetin said.

The donut craze thrills Eastern Gippslanders

A man standing in a shop in front of donuts he made
Ewan Fotheringham’s donut business started out in a food truck.(ABC Gippsland: Rachael Lucas)

Big Bear Donuts owner Ewan Fotheringham switched from commercial fishing to donut making in October 2019 after changes in the commercial fishing industry left him with no sustainable income.

Inspired by his father’s love for donuts and his childhood visits in a jam donut van at Lake Weroona, Ewan started his donut business out of financial desperation on a shoestring, securing a bank loan to build a custom van with used equipment.

White chocolate and raspberry donuts illustrated in a display case
Big Bear’s gourmet donuts have become a cult following in the East Gippsland community.(ABC Gippsland: Rachael Lucas )

Initially selling his sophisticated donut creations at Apex Park in Lakes Entrance, Mr Fotheringham says his business has taken off due to its door-to-door delivery service during closings and its occasional donut runs to nearby towns.

“When everyone was stuck at their house they couldn’t come to our house so we went to their house,” he says of the popular home delivery service during the first lockdown in March 2020.

“As we got bigger and more popular we had to rearrange the van and create more capacity for ourselves and we found ourselves too big for the van and we bit the bullet this year and opened a display case.”

With most toppings made from scratch, including milk and white chocolate ganache, toffees, creams and cremes, the boutique donut creations fit the classic profile of “affordable luxury.”

As a glamorous addition to a morning tea, Mr Fotheringham notes that many nurses, elderly care staff and co-workers will treat themselves to his escape craft creations in times of stress.

Flexibility, convenience and community are the key to success

In just under two years, his “Big Bear” brand of donuts grew too big for the food truck and is now a brick and mortar store employing 10 people.

At an infamous donut run in Bairnsdale, donuts caused a traffic jam, as customers rushed to collect their bespoke sweet joy packs.

A crowd of people stand in front of the Big Bear donut store
The popular donut brand has now grown into a brick and mortar store in Lakes Entrance.(ABC Gippsland: Rachael Lucas)

Mr Fotheringham attributes the success of his business to loyal local support, from a community that has gone through fires, drought and pandemic in its two years in business.

In an effort to give back to the community, Mr. Fotheringham recently raised $ 1,140 for new tennis courts at Briagolong Tennis Club through the sale of his donuts.

“A lot of people came down [to Lakes Entrance] just to get donuts – from Bairnsdale, from Sale, from Rosedale, ”he says.

“We have a truck driver who stops in Drouin every week and is not allowed to go home without buying donuts for his wife, so it’s popular.

“I hope it’s good for the city and that it’s nice to give something back.”

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