Food trucks have plenty of fans in big cities, where vendors sell everything from tacos, to thai food, to cupcakes. One local man is hoping the trend of mobile-food-service will gain traction in Illinois’ capital city. Rachel Otwell has that story:
Derrick Woolbright says he’s long been interested in growing, cooking, and eating good food. So where does a truck fit into all of that?
A trip to the west coast inspired him to make his passion for the culinary world more than a hobby.
WOOLBRIGHT: “Went out to California, and found food trucks, so I came back and it was always an idea that was in the back of my mind. And then … after moving to Springfield I just saw that there was an absence of food trucks here.”
So Woolbright, who grew up in Centralia in southern Illinois, decided to create his own.
His friends and family have helped him. His company is called Chomp, complete with mascot Chompy. The brand’s logo and mascot, a sort of bobble-head figure with massive teeth, appear on colorful vinyl that covers the truck.
Woolbright has a background in doing work with his hands, he works at Drake-Scruggs Equipment in Springfield, a company that fabricates trucks. Woolbright says he’s been able to work on and leave his truck there, where it is safe. Still, creating a restaurant on wheels presents some unique obstacles and requires ingenuity like figuring out how to install a fryer into what used to be a garment truck transporting clothes.
WOOLBRIGHT: “You can name just about any kind of tool and it’s been used on this build. There’s wood framing in the walls, wood framing on the ceiling to help hold up the air conditioner, there’s a lot of sheet metal work. There’s even aluminum wrapping that has happened around the door-jam and the window-jam. So it’s kind of been an all-hands on deck kind of project.”
The work is far from easy, but Woolbright says this new venture is his shot at steering away from a career spent inside a cubicle.
WOOLBRIGHT: “I think this food truck is kind of my way of embracing that. And at least giving it a go, something that I love and something that I’m passionate about. You know, and it’s not just the food it’s the entire project, I’m proud of the brand and everything that’s been created thus far.”
Along the way Woolbright worked with the health department and the fire department to make sure he’s following the rules. Jessica Thoron with the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, says food trucks have to adhere to regulations that are similar to those of regular restaurants.
Though, she says there are couple things that make food trucks different:
THORON: “First off they’re probably going to have some off-site storage, they can’t necessarily store everything they need in the truck. So we’re going to be inspecting the truck but also where they’re storing any of their extra equipment or food. Secondly, they’re probably going to have fresh water and waste-water tanks instead of actual plumbing to city water and city sewer, so that’s something else we have to consider.”
So far, Woolbright’s taken the truck to one event which he says was a success regardless of a generator that stopped working just hours before the food was due to be served. Woolbright uses local ingredients to help flavor his menu which he says will largely consist of hot sandwiches:
WOOLBRIGHT: “We had a sweet potato fries, and we had a chicken sandwich and a BLT sandwich. The chicken we had had a basil pesto, and a cilantro pesto, and it went really well. We’re really looking forward to getting the truck fixed and back in working order so we can get back out there and to the next event.”
Woolbright says he’s using social media to get the word out about his truck. He’ll let people know where it will be through Twitter and Facebook. He wants to eventually provide Springfield with a place to get late-night meals as well as breakfast on the weekend, with a constantly changing menu. And he says he’s already thinking about the next truck to come He says gourmet tacos sound pretty good.