Food trucks hit South Africa

Anyone who’s been lucky enough to visit New York or London in recent years may be familiar with one of the latest trends on the foodie scene, food trucks, or as Londoners prefer to call it, ‘street food’. The idea is simple: gourmet trucks, carts, vans or stalls pop up in often unexpected parts of the city to offer anyone and everyone a chance to taste their delectable, mouth-watering fair at a good price. And guess what, South Africa now has a Food Truck of its own. Hello Limoncello.
Of course there have always been food trucks of sorts. Way back in 1866, a cattle herder in the US of A realised it was difficult to cook proper meals during cattle drives, so he did what any sane, hungry man would do. He took an old army wagon, revamped it into a movable kitchen and invented the ‘chuck wagon’.  This ‘chuck wagon’ developed into the ‘mobile canteen’ of the 1950s.

Over the last few years New York has taken the good old food truck and turned it into a vehicle for chefs to explore their creativity and offer punters like you and I great food at a reasonable price.

Both the recession and technology can surely be praised for this wonder (and of course our ever-growing fascination with food). The combination of tightened belts (it’s cheaper to pick up a quick bite than to sit down in a restaurant) and Twitter’s kaboom has worked in tandem to take an age-old tradition into the mainstream yet again. The street food or food trucks that now park up around every corner in New York and London offer extraordinary food, from freshly-made churros dipped in chocolate to free range, slow-roasted, Asian-spiced, pork.

Twitter and Facebook have fuelled the Food Truck fire by allowing us to follow and find the truck of our choice, whether craving ice cream or tacos. In the US, The Food Network has their own Great Food Truck Race and Eat St features only food on the move across the States. If you’re heading to London, you might want to check out these street food stalls.

And there is good news for those of us living in South Africa. Cape Town Food Trucks has now launched and Limoncello is the first to sign up, offering authentic Italian food, cooked by third generation chef from Naples, Luca Castiglione. We caught up with the Cape Town Food Truck founders, Sam Kelly and Lee Doig to find out more.
Tell us how you started the business
Lee: After working as a director at ‘Let It Rain Films’ (shooting Survivor US) and friends on the series talking about their favourite food trucks, I became interested in the concept and did some research on the trend internationally. My brother-in-law owns Limoncello restaurant in Gardens, Cape Town and we thought it would be great to go into business so we chatted about trucks and looked for months for the right one. Eventually we found the gorgeous truck that is now the Limoncello food truck, the first food truck for Cape Town Food Trucks and that took a while to design and months to refurbish.

Tell us about the business structure, what you offer under the Cape Town Food Trucks banner
Sam: What happens is that the truck appears at different locations on different days (and as the Cape Town Food Trucks fleet increases in size, the various trucks rotate to keep interest going in the various kinds of food).  If you follow us on Twitter you will know when a Cape Town Food Trucks truck is in your area.

We are looking for gourmet food in uber cool trucks to serve Cape Tonians and our many visitors thus giving them access to fabulous food at hot spots around Cape Town. Truckers can either subscribe to our site to collaborate on the marketing, logistics, bookings, permissions etc. or they can buy or lease a fabricated truck from Cape Town Food Trucks. If people have existing restaurants, their food trucks act as fantastic moving billboards to get hype for their existing establishment. The food trucks open up opportunities for catering on film shoots, at events, festivals, markets and other occasions previously not suited to their business because of a lack of mobility.  The idea for Cape Town Food Trucks is to create a culture around this trend, as a movement and as a group of trucks we have the chance to change the mindset of councils and municipalities. The idea is for Cape Town Food Trucks to create opportunities for the truckers on board, the trucks would rotate at different locations we get permission for. To keep interest in the different trucks and provide variety, we would also be handling bookings and providing opportunities around functions, events and shoots as well as letting people know how they work with social networking etc.
How did Limoncello get on board?
Lee: Luca is family, we eat in his restaurant a lot, his food is perfectly suited to a food truck because everything is cooked fresh on the spot. His food is of such a high standard and is so delicious, we just thought what a fantastic thing it would be to have it on some of our filmsets.

Do you feel South Africa is ready for the trend?
Sam: Judging from the response to the truck,South Africans have been waiting for this for a while, we have had a lot of interest from people interested in getting on board with Cape Town Food Trucks by leasing their own trucks or doing up their own trucks and joining us.  Our satisfied diners love the truck.

How have audiences responded?
Sam: The truck turns heads wherever she goes, she is beautiful, but not just gorgeous to look at, she has serious substance and people are loving Luca’s food, it is so fresh and tasty.
To track down Limoncello, check out and follow the updates on their twitter page.

Get truckin’ folks.