Food Trucks Maker

Want a food truck? Here's where to get it made

He has such delicious mobile meal-makers under his belt as the city-famous Caplanky's deli truck and Smoke's Poutinerie's delightful roving vehicle. And he says more--a lot more--are on their way.

This is, of course, fantastic news for Toronto. Food that comes from a truck is inexplicably more appealing than its sedentary equal, in the same way that food on a stick is just impossible to resist. We need no further proof than the hordes of people who swarmed the Food Truck Eats events at the Distillery this summer.

Terry Sauve caught onto the trend early, and after years of working in a factory, decided to start Kitchen on Wheels Canada six years ago.

"I went from working 40 hours a week and hating it," Terry says, "to working 80 hours a week and loving it."

But despite his 80-hour week, Terry still has trouble keeping up with demand. "I'd say I'm about 12 trucks behind right now," he tells me. "Probably about half of my sales now come from Toronto."

Terry stays hushed about what, specifically, is in store for Toronto and surrounding area, but says we can soon expect to see sushi, pizza, fish 'n' chips, and Chinese food, as well as one truck in particular about which he remains particularly stealth.

"This one fella came to me with an idea that was totally off the wall," Terry says. "I couldn't really believe it at first, but he had everything in order and it all planned out. It could really change the industry, but I promised him--I signed to say I wouldn't say anything until it was all ready."

By this point in the conversation I'm completely enthralled with the idea of this mystery mealtime vehicle, but I decide to probe the details of what goes into make a food truck.

"Once we get the truck," Terry says, we have to strip it down to the bare frame. Then, starting from the bottom, we start with a solid floor base that complies with health regulations--a very smooth, cleanable surface."

There are actually four regulatory bodies with which each food truck must comply; the health department, the fire department (NFPA), standards and safety (TSSA), and electrical safety (ESA). That is to say, you probably can't strap a Kenmore to your Dodge and start selling burgers on the street.

"The TSSA implemented a new rule this year that there can't be any fire hazards in behind the wall," Terry continues. "So we have to install new fire-retardant walls and other fire proofing."

From there, the truck roof needs reinforcing to support the exhaust system and accommodate for the fire hood. Plus gas and electrical construction and amendment. Then, finally, the interior.

Terry tells me he's worked on all sorts of vehicles, from one with a complete dishwashing system to another with a full, eight-foot walk-in cooler. While the most tricked-out of trucks can cost up to $120,000, the average total cost, according to Terry, is about $30,000 to $40,000, which strikes me as surprisingly inexpensive.

"I think a lot of people get tired for working for someone else," Terry says when I ask him where his customers come from. "And, for other people, they don't want the overhead that can come with opening a restaurant." (Think mobile-only Gorilla Cheese.) Terry also believes TV shows such as Eat St. have a lot to do with the growing food truck popularity. Whatever the reason, Terry's shop has seen as many orders in the past two years as it had combined from the previous four. From which, of course, we can conclude that Toronto is in store for some new delicious meals on wheels.

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