Vancouver reaching capacity for food trucks

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

To say that food trucks have found a welcome home in Vancouver would be an understatement.

The food truck program began two years ago thanks to the initiative of Vancouver Cllr. Heather Deal, who pushed for the program’s city-endorsed creation. Two years ago, the program was led by 12 trucks – today, 123 trucks are speckled throughout the city.

Though the program’s long-term plan calls for 130 trucks and the enthusiasm from Vancouver residents is in no danger of waning, could the program’s meteoric growth hurt some of the very people it’s supposed to be helping?

On the heels of Coma Food Truck’s much-mourned departure from the streets of Vancouver on March 8, many food truck devotees and businesses alike are wondering: could this be too much of a good thing?

The city currently gives 103 mobile licenses and only 20 permanent licenses. Jay Cho, the owner of Coma Food Truck, had applied for a permanent license. Despite his truck’s rave reviews from customers and prominent social media presence, he was given a mobile license yet again, meaning he’d have to change locations intermittently throughout the day.

Cho blamed city bureaucrats for the decision which ultimately led to his truck’s close.

The judging process for food trucks is based on a number of things, including cleanliness, food safety and reviews, among other things. Could trucks such as Cho’s be mired in an already-flawed bureacratic process that is hurting some food truck businesses?

Another concern surrounding the burgeoning food truck scene is that the trucks will begin to face too much competition with one another, making business more difficult.

The program is still so young, so it’s inevitable that at some point or another, slight defects in the system will show themselves. However, for the sake of promising businesses such as Coma Food Truck, it would be in the city’s best interest to take another look at the program and address issues now before they develop into larger ones.

Coma Food Truck closing down shop

March 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Coma Food Truck, image courtesy of Sherman's Food Adventures

Popular food truck shutting business

Coma Food Truck, one of Vancouver’s best-loved food carts, is closing down shop following disappointing news about their business license. The truck, which had applied for a permanent business license in the city, was given a mobile license yet again.

As mentioned in my last post, the City of Vancouver commissions judges to determine who will sell their goods on the streets. Speaking on his business’ Facebook site, Jay Cho, the owner of Coma Food Truck, said he is left with mixed feeling about the judges’ decision.

“[The city tries] their best to choose the right street vendors by selecting judge members to go through this process but I don’t understand is who are they to judge?” he said.

Coma Food Truck’s signature cuisine

Since it’s 2011 debut on the streets, Coma Food Truck was an instant success with food cart aficionados. Its unique fusion of Korean meets Mexican meets American cuisine featured Korean-style burritos, Asian-inspired tacos and sweet potato noodles topped with a fried egg.

The truck’s last day on the streets will be March 10. Cho plans to study in New York City then move to Korea, his home country, and hopes to open up shop again in 2014.

Judges narrow down their picks for new food carts in Vancouver

February 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

Juanita Ng's snapshot of one of the applicant's edible entries.

Vancouver foodies are anxiously awaiting news about which food carts made the cut after a lengthy (and delicious) application process to sell their culinary offerings in Vancouver.

The tasting, which took place at Vancouver Community College Feb. 24, featured 59 applicants. The team of 15 judges then narrowed their picks to a short-list of 25 vendors. The names of the 12 successful applicants who will be out on the streets later this year will be released sometime in March.

Some judges, such as Vancouver Sun food editor Juanita Ng, excitedly updated their Twitter following with updates and snapshots of the delectable samplings they judged.

[View the story “Fighting for the streets” on Storify]

Ng noted that almost all the carts held standards for environmental friendliness, local ingredient sourcing and high-quality products, accepting these high standards as the norm “rather than the exception.”

As the food cart movement continues to grow and finds a welcome home in Vancouver, residents are being encouraged to voice what they’d like to see more of in the food cart scene in the City of Vancouver’s ideas forum.

If you’d like to see the 25 hopefuls at work, check out Global BC’s video which takes a look at what was going on in both the front and back of the house last Friday.

A Q&A with Ryan Slater of The Juice Truck

February 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is part two of my feature on The Juice Truck – today, Ryan Slater, one of the co-owners, is giving us a peek into the background of the truck and what life is like as a food cart operator in the city. Hope you enjoy it, and thank you to Ryan!

Image courtesy of goodeat.ca

I noticed your trip together in the Himalayas served as the spark of inspiration for The Juice Truck’s birth – where else did you travel after this trip and what did you learn on these travels?

We spent a whole year traveling together beginning in Nepal. We can’t even pinpoint why we chose Nepal to start our trip, but it become a destination that sparked our interest in juice.  With inspiration in hand we continued on to India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Ryan continued on traveling to South Africa for World Cup and then on to Europe.

Our travels taught us that our passion lies in wanderlust. Thoughts of travel keep us inspired for the future and a recipe for expanding our business. It taught us that there are ideas to be discovered at every bus stop and connections with locals and travelers alike can leave you inspired.

Why did you elect to bring your juice offerings to the city in the form of a truck as opposed to a shop?

We felt that with the booming food truck business coming out of cities such as New York, LA and Portland and with Vancouver’s culinary scene, the food truck movement here was going to blossom into a successful industry. It was easier to enter the market place in terms of capital costs and finding a suitable location.   We felt that brand recognition was more attainable through the unique medium of a food truck, and that it would cross over to future juice bars as we expand our business.

What makes the food truck culture in Vancouver special? Do you find you attract a particular type of customer?

The street food movement in Vancouver is an updated, fresh and innovated food culture. Food truck owners in particular operate as a community by working together and growing together. Our interactions as owners with customers is what truly sets us apart. Most food truck owners are on site cooking and socializing with customers.  The direct connection that is created through this relationship is unique.

The food truck movement in Vancouver is also the first of its kind in Canada.  It is now becoming rooted in our culinary scene and has been acknowledged around the world. Part of what also makes it special is the support we receive from the city of Vancouver’s municipality. The city encourages food truck participation in events and ensures that food trucks are serving quality products that emphasize local, organic and sustainable foods.

The type of customers that venture to food trucks are an open minded, adventurous crowd. Food trucks are creating exciting food that is pushing the notion of what street food is, so someone with an open mind, foodies especially, are attracted to these options. They are definitely in tune with social media as it has become the major form of communication for vendors to customers.

Are there any drawbacks to operating a food truck?

The drawbacks to operating a food truck include the lack of washroom facilities, limited hours of operation based on operational and logistical issues, cars parked in our spot, mechanical issues that stop you from operating, and of course the quintessential Vancouver rain!

The Juice Truck: a lean, mean, pink machine

February 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

The truck in its natural habitat: Abbott & Water Street. Image courtesy of Luxual.ca

When I started a PR stint in Gastown this past summer, the first thing I noticed during a sun-soaked lunchtime stroll was The Juice Truck.

Surrounded by the cobblestone streets, heritage buildings and lush emerald trees of Gastown’s historic Water Street, the sight of the watermelon pink and green truck immediately triggered the thought “pink elephant in the room.” It’s hard not to be drawn to a big pink elephant so to speak, so sure enough, I found myself crossing Water Street to the truck’s station on the corner of Abbott Street.

There was a biker waiting for his The Strawberry Coconut smoothie, so while he and The Juice Truck guys chatted amongst themselves (I got the distinct impression he was a regular), I took some time to peruse the menu and discretely peek inside the truck itself.

Their liquid offerings. Image courtesy of coffeefoodies.com

To start with, the menu is a foodie’s dream. After being burnt out on Booster Juice and Jugo Juice smoothies (and I’m being kind in calling them smoothies since what they really are is big whack of sugar in the form of sorbet or fro yo), it was so refreshing to see real food. Using ingredients like coconut meat, raw maca, avocado and cacao nibs, The Juice Truck boys obviously care about giving their customers whole, high-quality foods.

As I craned my neck slightly to peer inside, I finally caught a glimpse of Ryan and Zach in their small, tidy space. The two creators of The Juice Truck were laughing away with the gent on the bike, and as he left, they turned to me with open smiles.

The creators of The Juice Truck, Zach and Ryan. Image courtesy of coffeefoodies.com.

After ordering The Almost Chocolate (I could do a whole post about that one smoothie so let me just sum it up in one word: heavenly), we spoke briefly about where I worked and about Twitter.

The spark of inspiration for The Juice Truck began for Ryan and Zach during a trip through the Himalayas. The local Nepalese people relied much more heavily on a huge variety of fruit than us Westerners, and inspired by the quality of the fruit and the energy the locals gained from living off of it, the boys decided to bring some of that natural goodness to their fellow Canucks.

A snapshot from Ryan and Zach's travels, when they first became inspired to bring high-quality fruit concoctions to their own country. Image courtesy of thejuicetruck.ca

As I left sipping my drink, I immediately knew I’d be making quite a few visits in the near future. As evidenced in the regular before me and the queue that had been forming behind me as I had ordered my drink, the personal connections Ryan and Zach make with their customers are genuine ones. Not only do they care for their customers by providing them with food that truly feeds them, but they make the personal connections that so many retailers forget to make these days.

Though I’ve since been transplanted to South Vancouver while in J-school and don’t have the time to frequent my old haunt like I used to, a quick Twitter check assures me that The Juice Truck’s ongoing success is continuing to steadily grow. From being included in last week’s Tasting Plates Vancouver to the upcoming Yelp’s Night at the Museum, Ryan and Zach are at the forefront of the food cart scene in Vancouver.

Their numbers are climbing!

The guys’ Twitter page, which is quickly climbing in followers to the 2K mark, is constantly being updated with the business’ upcoming events and replies to thankful customers. Even in cyberspace, Ryan and Zach are delivering that customer service they are quickly becoming known for.

A Feast on Feet

January 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

Hello world! Welcome to Gourmandises on Wheels.

There was once a time when street food was limited to $2 hot dogs, hot pretzels, and ice cream cones. Over the past few years, the street food scene has undergone a huge revolution, and some of the best examples of this revolution can be found right here in the beautiful city of Vancouver.

Over the next few months, I’m going to take you on a little trip through our city’s street food cream of the crop. From liquid concoctions at the Juice Truck to the spicy scents of Roaming Dragon, Vancouver is humming with food trucks offering delicious meals for those on the go.

Keep your eyes peeled (and your stomach empty) for new posts – hope you find a few new places to visit!

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