Photo by Maria Otto
Photo by Maria Otto

In the last year, UBCO has been graced with the presence of food trucks, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Although they have just become more common in Canada, food trucks are nothing new. ‘Although the modern food truck craze started in 2008 in Los Angeles, the idea of selling food out of a moving vehicle started more than 100 years ago’, according to Shoes for Crews. Seeing the many different trucks parked outside the Library on campus, and the variety they offer, I decided to take an inside look into what makes the food trucks thrive.

Surf Slide California Tacos

My first stop was Surf Side California Tacos, I ordered my usual fish tacos. They come with a lime, fresh fish, green cabbage, and an awesome sauce (a very generous portion.) The tacos are for the spicy-intolerant, and for $10 you can mix and match with any of their different varieties (shrimp, crab cake, mahi mahi, pulled beef, fish, or chicken).

These tacos are exactly the type that satisfies your taco craving, and don’t end up leaving you hungry. The owners Ian and Heidi were happy to chat with me, and their inspiration for the food truck came to them when they lived in San Diego. “Food Truck Culture is something we always talked about and wanted to be a part of. We eventually saved enough money and the food truck was born. Finally we could bring the flavours we found down south on our travels to Kelowna and the entire Okanagan Valley!” Fish tacos are their most popular dish, and the crab cake tacos are one of their staffs favorite. Ian and Heidi hire from UBCO, and will be on campus every Thursday serving up their delicious food until it gets too cold, then will return in the spring.

CrAsian Food Truck

My next stop was the CrAsian Food Truck, owned by Courtney and Meiko Koga, an incredible sister duo. After working in corporate restaurants for 9 years, Courtney wanted the freedom to have fun and be creative with food. Their food truck menu and concept took a lot of work and brainstorming- they wanted to offer foods that people were familiar with, but present them in a way that the Okanagan hadn’t seen before. It was then that the CrAsian Food Truck was born, serving traditional North American street food with Asian flavours and flair- a hybrid of everyone’s favourite foods. In May of 2014, Courtney quit a full time management position in a restaurant to open up the food truck; her sister Meiko also let go of an administration job, put her Europe travel plans on hold, and helped Courtney open and operate the truck.

“It was a blessing in disguise!” said Courtney, and based off how amazing the food is, we can definitely agree.

The truck came out of the fabricator’s shop prior to our first booked event, and what would be out opening day (July 18th, which was also a UBCO alumni event). “Now, coming up to the end of our second season, it feels like yesterday we were pulling up to campus for our very first day of the CrAsian Food Truck! It’s a rewarding business. I like making people happy, food makes people happy, being able to serve fun food to make people happy is a win win!” Ms. Koga explained.

When I stopped by the food truck, Derek Gratz, Associate Director on campus, took a minute to speak with me about the food truck. “I’ve eaten at the truck before. My favorite item off the menu is the fish tacos. They’re fantastic tacos, and the food truck business is a great idea. It’s great for trucks in the community as a collective thing, it’s also awesome for the entrepreneurs, good for the community, and amazing for UBCO” Mr. Gratz said. I willingly tried one of the famous fish tacos from the CrAsian Food Truck, and I was impressed. There was an abundance of fresh purple cabbage, shredded carrots, fried fish, and the added chow mien noodles gave the tacos a nice crunch. The slightly spicy sauce gave the tacos a kick, and overall it was fresh and well balanced. It gets my seal of approval!

Chick Chick Boom

The third stop of my food-truck crawl was Chick Chick Boom, owned and operated by Mr. Mat Ballie. When asked how he got started in the food truck business and how his menu was inspired, he answered, “I had been wanting to start up a food truck business for a long time. I came to Canada from Australia 5 years ago, and came straight to Kelowna. Rotisserie chicken is really popular in Australia, so I wanted to start up a rotisserie chicken truck here in Canada.” He started up his food truck in May of 2015 and hasn’t looked back. Being vegetarianly-impaired, I wasn’t able to try his chicken myself, so I got the low-down from a fellow student. “This is my first time trying a food truck on campus. The gravy is really good, the chicken is moist- two thumbs up! I’ll definitely be back”. The most popular menu item for customers is the chicken poutine, which is $11- Mr. Ballie says it’s a quick and easy snack to eat on the go. At the moment, he is working the truck by himself, and would definitely consider hiring UBCO students. You can find him on campus on Fridays, and he is enthusiastic about being present on campus all winter long, serving up his fresh rotisserie chicken!

TNT Dynamite Foods

I was able to chat with Tim from TNT Dynamite Foods, who was more than happy to share how he got started in the food truck industry. For years, Tim had been cooking for large groups of people at his church and in his family, and had been told he needs to sell his food because it was so good. He decided to do just that, and he’s been growing strong for three and a half years. Their slogan is ‘gourmet foods that explode with flavour’, and the ‘TNT’ stands for "Tim and Tracy" (Tim’s wife), who have been married for 31 years, and work the truck as a team.

“It took a little while and we had to play with the menu at first. We almost had two menus going at the same time- for example, steak, chicken burgers, teriyaki beef, chicken curry- but we realized what people wanted was burgers and fries. Overall, everyone could go for a good hamburger or chicken burger; the most important thing is the quality, because people want a high quality burger that’s quick, so we serve up what you can’t get at fast food chain, for a better price than restaurants,” said Tim.

Their hamburgers are only $10, TNT also doesn’t cut any corners- they use their own back bacon, hamburgers, and grind their own meat. Tim uses fresh ingredients, makes the house pineapple mango sauce, uses smoked provolone cheese for their sandwiches, and their poutine contains a high quality five cheese mixture. Their fries are a hit, because they don’t cook anything in the oil but potatoes and use homemade seasoning. Their most popular menu item is the breakfast sandwich- they sell over 100 sandwiches at the farmers market on Sundays. Tim recalls a customer coming up to him and saying that he had to have his breakfast sandwich because he had heard so much about it!

When asked what he likes best about running a food truck, Tim responded “I like working with the public. I work as a bus driver for the city, and I wanted to get away from driving. This is a different field, and cooking for the public is what I love. I love to feed people and have them enjoy the food. It’s all about variety in the menu for the students and the customers, and I love seeing people be full and happy”. TNT Dynamite has hired UBCO students in the past, and would hire students no problem if their schedules do not conflict with the truck hours (they’re on campus Mondays and Wednesdays 11-3). The truck is going to change their schedule come December, but until then will be on campus 2-3 days a week. The truck also caters all of the sporting events on campus, and you can also find them on Sexsmith road on Thursdays and Fridays from 11:00-1:30!

So there you have it: my definitive food truck review, as a self-proclaimed semi-professional foodie. I have to say there is an abundance of passionate, innovative entrepreneurs who genuinely love to serve food and make people happy. Make a food truck your lunchtime stop sometime to support local businesses and give back to the community!