Friday, June 1, 2012

Rolling with the hunches

The food truck movement has struck Sydney and, until Tuesday night, I didn't quite 'get it'.

Sure - there was a new version of meals on wheels. But Harry had been doing this for years with his Cafe de Wheels. And there were chefs from big name restaurants involved. But experience and talent is no guarantee of success, as was seen over the last two weeks with the closure of both Montpellier House and Manly Pavilion.

I had a hunch that it was good, but I didn't really get to the soul of the idea. Until Tuesday, when I ate at Eat Art Truck. 

The pulled pork roll ($12) alone is enough to have me lining up for 45 mins or more. The beautifully seasoned meat, mustard cabbage and sweet brioche-style rolls are worth a $10 cab ride, or 15 minute detour, from wherever I am in the city. Because the late night offerings for food in the city range from thawed pies heated in microwaves, to meat chiselled off days-old bricks of meat rotating on skewers. And just because you want late night food, does not mean your choices should be limited.

But I hadn't seen it from the chef's perspective until I saw Stuart McGill address the assembled crowd (it was a media launch). McGill, who left his post as sous chef at Tetsuya's to work on the project, clearly articulated the team's vision. Eat Art Truck want to deliver restaurant quality food, at reasonable prices in a way that is accessible. The style of food is Japanese BBQ with a Korean twist. The menu includes Kinpira salad $8 (gobo root, carrot & edamame) and Annindofu $6 (almond milk jelly with seasonal fruits) which would normally only be accessible in the restaurants or maybe at food festivals like Taste of Sydney. They are also incorporating the 'Art' part of the moniker by having a range of artists showcase their work on the side of the truck for up to one month at a time - kicking off with Phib's street art.

The idea is simple and bold, as with most successful stories. But in reality it's a little more complicated. It's almost like inventing the wheel . . . or 4 wheels as the case may be. Despite the support of City of Sydney, cutting through red tape, legals and liabilities has hardly been like a hot knife through butter. But doing anything for the first time is literally like breaking through a metres thick ice flow.

And there is still fine tuning to be done. These chefs are accustomed to working with military precision, within a certain space, however small. And while the Electrolux ovens they have installed in each van are great - its not like having an industrial sized oven. And at this stage they haven't quite hit the sweet spot they're hoping for of being able to serve food within five minutes of ordering.

But they have a vision, and they're pursuing it. No matter what hurdles fate puts in their way, they're rolling with it. And this, I get.

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