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