TASTE SENSATION

Matt Wood gets all hot, sweaty and Masterchef-like with an Iveco Daily food van. Burnt sausages are a strong pos­si­bil­ity …

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THE HIPSTER foodie world of lentil tofu and kale burg­ers, bio­dy­namic salad wraps and chia smooth­ies seems very far re­moved from the gritty chips, chicken salt and gravy world of truck­ing and trans­port.

Speak­ing of which, what part of the chicken is chicken salt made out of, any­way?!

But even the pur­vey­ors of tasty morsels need re­li­able com­mer­cial wheels to get them from A to B with their kitchens on their backs.

So I thought I’d take a closer look at the bur­geon­ing food truck trend and spend some time with a Mel­bourne-based food truck.

I was hop­ing that there may even be some snack-re­lated ac­tion along the way.

And I didn’t have to grow a hipster beard or ride a vin­tage push­bike to qual­ify for the gig ei­ther.

CHEVAPI KINGS

Dean Jet­tic owns and op­er­ates Chevapi Kings Street Grill, a food truck busi­ness based on the back of a strik­ing matte black Iveco Daily 45C170 cab-chas­sis.

Dean has been in the food biz for a cou­ple of years now and is only get­ting busier as the street food trend con­tin­ues to grow.

Just in case you’re not cool and hipster like me, you may not know that a chevapi is ac­tu­ally a small spicy skin­less sausage that has its roots in Ser­bian and Mace­do­nian cul­ture. And, just qui­etly, they’re de­li­cious.

Dean’s chevapi jour­ney started a few years back when he started ex­per­i­ment­ing with a tra­di­tional fam­ily recipe.

Tra­di­tion­ally, the chevapi has a lot of gar­lic and spice, which, ac­cord­ing to Dean, was bit hard on the di­ges­tive sys­tem.

“You could end up with a bit of heart­burn af­ter a while,” he says.

Af­ter find­ing a bal­ance that suited the Aussie palate, Dean started man­u­fac­tur­ing his own recipe and dis­tribut­ing it through su­per­mar­kets. But, af­ter a while, Dean says it be­came clear there wasn’t a great deal of re­turn.

“There wasn’t a lot of money in low-vol­ume or­ders once you took into ac­count the trans­port costs,” he says.

So Dean de­cided to hook up a kitchen trailer be­hind his car and hire him­self out for party cater­ing.

“The trailer was a pain,” Dean says. “It was heavy and awk­ward to get into places.”

Af­ter a cou­ple of years or so, he de­cided to go the whole hog and in­vest in a proper food van.

CAR LICENCE KITCHEN

Dean called upon Mel­bournebased food van body builder A&B Food Truck Out­fit­ters to build the sub­stan­tial kitchen.

The chas­sis of choice was the Iveco Daily cab-chas­sis. Dean says the 8-speed auto and the Daily’s elec­tronic sta­bil­ity pro­gram made it an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion.

“It’s just easy to drive and easy to park where I need it to be,” he says.

The fact that it can still be driven on a car licence is also a bonus. It’s just like driv­ing a car.”

I de­cided to tag along with Dean one busy Satur­day re­cently, though as much as I’d like to tell you that it was all in the name of pro­fes­sional cu­rios­ity, I did have an ul­te­rior mo­tive … I love chevapi.

On the road to a sub­ur­ban soc­cer game, it be­comes clear why Dean is so en­am­ored with the lit­tle Daily. It copes well with that big shed on the back and it keeps up with traf­fic with­out much fuss.

Once we reach the Fawkner soc­cer field it’s even pretty easy to ma­noeu­vre into place.

FIND­ING THE SIZZLE

The kitchen is set up in a mat­ter of min­utes and then it’s time to start cook­ing. I also get a quick les­son in food hy­giene and it turns out I’m not al­lowed to help my­self.

This makes it hard when you’re stand­ing at the grill with your mouth wa­ter­ing. How­ever, I showed in­cred­i­ble willpower and kept the skin­less snags rolling and siz­zling.

There’s also a bit of a trend for us­ing old vin­tage trucks as the ba­sis for a food truck or cof­fee van as a point of dif­fer­ence. Per­son­ally, I’m a big fan of this, but I’m not sure in­ner-city ur­ban­ites would share my pas­sion for an espresso ma­chine mounted on the back of a 6V53 GM-pow­ered Dodge. In Dean’s case, how­ever, ease, re­li­a­bil­ity and flex­i­bil­ity were big points to con­sider.

“We’ve even done func­tions as far afield as Shep­par­ton,” Dean says.

I have to ad­mit that would be a long trip from Mel­bourne in a funky old Mor­ris Com­mer­cial. Dean also has a day job in prop­erty man­age­ment so he’s more in­ter­ested in a ve­hi­cle that comes to life ev­ery time he flicks the key. And, even when fully laden, the Daily sits on the speed limit, mak­ing re­gional jobs a re­al­is­tic propo­si­tion.

THERE’S EVEN BEER

Dean and his crew put up with me blun­der­ing around in their kitchen for a bit, deal­ing good-na­turedly with my an­noy­ing ques­tions about gas bot­tles,

“It’s just easy to drive and easy to park where I need it to be”

“The mas­sive ex­trac­tor fan above the grill did a good job of clear­ing the air inside”

ex­haust fans and mar­veling at the fact that they also have beer.

It was also an op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve the strangely hu­man char­ac­ter­is­tic of need­ing to click tongs to­gether ev­ery time they’re picked up. At first I thought I was the only one to do it.

But I no­ticed that ev­ery time some­one in the van picked up the tongs, the first thing they did was click twice them like they were mak­ing sure they worked. Some­one will write a ground­break­ing PhD the­sis on this one day. I’m sure of it.

As the rav­en­ous hordes de­scended, the race was on to keep cheva­pis, buns and salad com­ing. The con­stant de­mand for chips also kept the Iveco’s deep fry­ers bub­bling away.

It’s a fran­tic work­place and hot work, though the mas­sive ex­trac­tor fan above the grill did a good job of clear­ing the air inside.

I de­cided to bail be­fore I got tripped over … or I did some­thing stupid in­volv­ing tongs.

As I ex­ited stage left, I had to take the op­por­tu­nity to sam­ple the goods on the way out. And sure enough the spicy chevapi in a bun with salad cer­tainly hit the spot.

I burped my way home smil­ing con­tent­edly, safe in the knowl­edge that I live in a world where chevapi ex­ists.

The Daily may not be ev­ery­one’s cup of tea as a light truck. But the torque con­verter auto and the Daily’s user friendly lay­out does make it an ap­peal­ing op­tion for those more niche roles where ease and com­fort are a big pri­or­ity. It’s a spicy al­ter­na­tive to a chicken and chips op­tion.

Pho­tos by An­drew Brit­ten

The cab-chas­sis Daily makes for a food truck with a dif­fer­ence

“It just kinda … you know … fell off the grill … three-sec­ond rule and all that”

The … er … tongs work …

The Daily’s 8-speed Hi-Matic torque con­verter auto makes around town driv­ing a cinch

The food van body from A&B Food Van Out­fit­ters makes the Daily a self-con­tained kitchen on wheels

These things are yummy!

Okay, so I like chevapi…

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