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Food truck frenzy hits Penticton

Food trucks are becoming more popular in the South Okanagan and Ian Locket with his Surf Side California truck is leading the charge in establishing more rallies to get people onboard with the trendy food culture revolution. - Joe Fries/Western News
Food trucks are becoming more popular in the South Okanagan and Ian Locket with his Surf Side California truck is leading the charge in establishing more rallies to get people onboard with the trendy food culture revolution.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

It is the perfect way to spend the day sampling a smorgasbord of food within the confines of a parking lot and a local entrepreneur is hoping to keep it a regular thing.

“When I say rally, the food trucks say point us the way. It is pretty cool,” said Ian Locket, co-owner of Surf Side California who was behind a rally held at Skaha Ford last weekend. “The rallies are a big draw because it is a free event for the business hosting it and it gets a lot of people coming down and willing to try new things. We have this following of food trucks now that travels around.”

Locket got immersed in food culture while living in southern California for eight years working in the plumbing industry.

“I was working regular days and eating off the trucks,” said Locket, who grew up in Winfield and moved to Penticton last year with his wife Heidi Mecham, who has a catering background, and their son who plays minor hockey and is an associate player for the Osoyoos Coyotes Junior B team. “I just love food and eight years in California I also fell in love with the whole West Coast surf culture. Food trucks fits right in with that.”

So when the family re-located back to the Okanagan, it seemed like a natural fit. The couples passion for food and Locket’s ability to build things, they came up with Surf Side California.

“We decided to bring that flavour from the southern West Coast here and everyone seems to be loving it. These rallies help introduce people to what we love and everyone gets it right away. Maybe it is just a trend, but I think it is because you are outside on a nice day and you can walk around and try all this different food from a variety of vendors. You aren’t just going through a drive through, it is different,” said Locket.

At their last food truck rally in Penticton, if you weren’t quick many of the favourite items on the menus were gone. Not having a single location is part of the fun, said the Surf Side owner. Developing a following on Facebook and other social media keeps them in touch with fans of their food who seem to come from all over to hunt down one of Locket’s famous fish tacos.

“Some days we have people come back to us three times. That is when you know you put out a good product. It is pretty cool because you get to meet all these people who are stunned how amazing the food is that comes off the truck,” he said.

Locket said it is an easy assumption to make that they make lots of money in a short amount of time but running a food truck is the farthest thing from being easy.

“Look how big that truck is and see there isn’t a lot of room. It can be up to 40 degrees in there and there is a lot of prep work that needs to be done before you open that window. No, it is not easy, but when you believe in what you are doing so much and love it then how can you complain?” he said.

Jen Teichroeb always dreamed of owning her own restaurant, but the costs were just too extravagant. Having worked in the food industry for 15 years, it was on a friend’s request to have some of her baking delivered, that the idea clicked to start her own roving eatery. After a test run that sold out almost immediately, she went to Community Futures who helped lay out a business plan to open The Food Tank and set her on the right track.

“I actually think doing this out of the truck is a lot more fun, “ said Teichroeb, who was a mainstay in Rona’s parking lot last summer. “I was one of those people watching all the food truck shows on the Food Network and thought maybe this is just a fad. As more and more people learn about food and take care in what they are eating they realize that what we provide in these trucks is fresh ingredients that they can trust.”

The Food Tank owner said she tries to keep her prices in line for what a family can afford and run about the same as what you would find eating at a fast-food restaurant.

“People are drawn to trying something new and outside the box of a restaurant or a drive through. I don’t have to explain to someone that what they are eating I roasted myself all night, you can taste the difference, you get full and it is good homemade food,” said Teichroeb.

But, the hurdles can be immense. Teichroeb admits you have to be a problem solver, with location being the number one thing to work out.

“That is why social media becomes important. You must love what you do and I can honestly say I do. Even though it can run you ragged, I love it when people come up to me and say ‘that is the best thing I ever ate.’ It makes me come back every day,” said Teichroeb.

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