When your kitchen is roughly 120 square feet of floor space, you don’t have the luxury of stocking up on a multitude of supplies and equipment like you would in a traditional commercial kitchen. This means a food truck chef is forever discerning of every item that makes it on the truck; every single kitchen tool on your truck must be accounted for and assessed for its overall usefulness, down to the last stainless steel tong and griddle scraper, like these highly popular ones from Vollrath.
It all starts with a menu
Due to space limitations, food truck operators should first consider the food. Your menu will dictate the tools you’ll need to execute the dishes. Interested in dishing up fried favorites like sweet potato fries? Or maybe you’re ready to serve the finest Cuban sandwich around a la Jon Favreu’s “El Jefe” character in “Chef”. When crafting your menu, consider the prep time involved and how easy it is to execute on the truck with limited resources. Some trucks offer a variety of items while others focus on 5 or less seasonal favorites.
Whatever you decide to specialize in, remember to keep it simple to execute. And be sure to equip your mobile kitchen with the fryers, Panini grills, and other equipment you’ll need to create outstanding dishes in record time.
The food is where it all started for Verde, a local food truck favorite who just opened their first brick-and-mortar 8 months ago. “We wanted to bring good Mexican food to Colorado,” says Verde chef and owner John Michael Sethney, originally from Arizona. “We have a scratch kitchen and try to make everything in-house including our salsa, guac, corn tortillas and meats. Our meats are all slow-braised 12-14 hours overnight.” The low and slow approach works for Verde, who can serve up to 100 entrees in an hour during a rush.
Since the winter of 2010, Verde has operated its food truck around the expansive Northern Colorado region. From servicing large events like the Summer Concert Series in Denver to catered events like weddings, parties and neighborhood events, Verde still maintains a regular day-to-day lunch service around the Boulder, CO area; at Tundra Restaurant Supply we’re lucky enough to be located near one of their regular stops.
Proper execution is paramount
So you know what you want to cook, but what tools do you need? Here’s a quick checklist supplies and equipment you’ll want for your truck:
- Cooking tools (we like the quality and durability of these tools from Vollrath) – spatulas, chef knife, spoons, tongs
- Prep bowls
- Food storage products – think foil, saran wrap, plastic bags
- Food-safe handling gloves
- Dishes and utensils – try compostable products for a eco-friendly alternative
- Cleaning products – trash bags, degreasing products, dish soap, etc.
And big ticket items like equipment? Stick to the essentials.
Verde’s menu consists of traditional Mexican favorites like burritos, tacos and quesadillas which are easy to execute with a good griddle and steam table. “We have an oven, but we rarely use it because it can get pretty hot in the truck,” says Sethney. “Since we slow-braise our meats, our steam table pans are great for keeping meats warm and ready to serve.” Next to quality, speed is crucial when it comes to food trucks. Lines can build up quickly, and customers expect their food quickly and just as tasty as the first time they ordered it.
Once you perfect your menu, you’ll find a standout dish or two that’s really your call to fame. In Verde’s case, it’s their signature California burrito. Made with carne asada, home style potatoes, cheese and guacamole, the California burrito is one of their most popular dishes. As your food truck grows in popularity, having a signature menu item will help differentiate yourself from other local operations.
Above all, operating a food truck takes passion. Working in small, hot kitchens require discipline—and the job certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. Just remember to love what you do, and do what you love.
If you’re in the Boulder area, be sure to visit Verde at their restaurant located at 3070 28th St (Unit B), or check them out on Facebook and Twitter (@VerdeFoodTruck) to find out where the truck is. Interested in their catering options? Check out their website for more catering details »