It seems that food trucks have exploded onto the South African culinary scene in the last few years. We meet two of the entrepreneurs who have turned their loves of food and people into mobile restaurants to delight the hungry, wherever those people may be.
Festival food can be tasty
When a deep love for smoked meats, an obsession with BBQ shows on the Food Network and the avid attendance of festivals came together, the Snorting Boar Smoker food truck was born. Well, the idea at least. It would take another six months of research, experimentation, testing and building a beast of a smoker before owners and couple Nic Grigg and Bronwyn Atkinson were happy going public with their baby.
“We were shocked by how tasteless and expensive food at events were, made and sold without any passion. For example, a stale roll, a sad piece of wilted lettuce, an overcooked beef patty and an oversized slice of tomato used to constitute good festival food. We decided we could do better than that,” says Atkinson.
“We decided to step up to that plate and launched in March 2015.”
She is clear about one thing, though: it hasn’t always been the easiest experience.
“People, festivals, food – how difficult can it be? Well, it turned out to be a lot more difficult than expected, which was a steep learning curve for us.
“The first hurdle you run into is the ‘red tape’ cluster that is our local governing bodies and laws, such as traders licenses, COA (which is your certificate of acceptability to work with food), gas certification, health and safety compliancy certification, et cetera.
“Then there is dealing with event and festival organisers, of which a few are shady characters who are just out to make a quick buck and not interested in the traders at all. It’s pretty much a trial and error game to find out which organisers can be trusted and which not, which festivals should be avoided and which ones to attend. A huge tool in this process of elimination is networking with other food truck owners. Some of the nicest people we have come across are food truck owners.”
Despite all these challenges, Atkinson still maintains it is absolutely worth it.
“We have something unique, we supply a unique style of street food. What keeps us thriving is seeing a customer’s face light up after taking one bite of our smoked pulled pork roll or having tasted our home-made sauces and getting all excited. Having a customer come back three or four times a day because they enjoyed it that much, when we have followers that literally follower us from event to event just to buy our food. That’s what keeps us going.”
With this food truck coming up to its fourth birthday, what’s the future looking like for the Snorting Boar Smoker?
“We have a plan to grow our brand into a household name. We offer a lot more than just street food. Watch this space.”
You can find them at The Hoods in Johannesburg on #foodtruckfridays, as well as around Johannesburg at markets and festivals.
Turning heads with his braaicycle
The food truck trend has really gained momentum on the South African culinary scene in the last few years, but one food truck entrepreneur from Cape Town was doing it way before it became cool. In fact, Wendell Petersen didn’t even start with a food truck initially, but with a food bicycle.
“There always used to be rotis in our fridge and I used to fill those up with anything that was available. That’s how the initial concept for Hustle Dog started,” says Petersen.
So he set about building his own food bicycle. But this wasn’t just any old bicycle: it had a grill, a sound system and a tv monitor on it. And with this BMX-on-steroids, he started cruising the streets of Kuilsriver in Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs and selling his now well-known Hustle Dogs.
“I’ve always enjoyed chatting to people on the streets and getting to know them. This is something I picked up as a kid when I used to sell things at stalls all over Cape Town. I mean, I used to sell anything and everything and that’s where I got my nickname The Hustler from.”
A born-and-bred entrepreneur, four years ago Petersen invested in a 1979 Toyota van and custom built his first food truck, which he is still using today. It’s clear that this is an individual that’s focused and goal driven. He is committed to being a socially conscious business owner and finding innovative ways to give back. Like doing date nights for homeless couples?
“Yes, that’s one of the things I’m very passionate about. These are the people I get to know while operating my food truck, these people are part of the fabric of our community too.”
Besides operating a successful food business for the better part of the last decade and having his finger in multiple other pies at all times, he somehow still finds time to go around to schools and do motivational speaking, hoping that his story of tenacity, determination and hard work might inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Visionaries are not just people who change the whole world with new ideas. Sometimes, to be a visionary, you just need to change your community. And what better way than with good food from a pimped-out van?