Remember Chef, the 2014 American comedy, in which Carl Casper, (Jon Favreau), an innovative chef loses his job at a restaurant and travels across America in a food truck to reclaim his culinary creativity?
Many youngsters — not all of them chefs though — are reliving Casper’s experience across Delhi and other NCR towns on similar food trucks. What motivated Casper was a loss of job but many of these youngsters got on to the food trucks because they could not find the funds to start a restaurant.
The food trucks that first arrived on city roads about three years back are now ubiquitous — there are over 30 food trucks in Delhi/NCR. Gurgaon has about 18 of them, Delhi and Noida have six each.
Young chefs in the region, wearing aprons and caps, are slicing and dicing an array of awesome dishes in these kitchens on the wheels. On the menu are myriad Japanese, Lebanese, Continental, and Mexican dishes such as Tacos, Quesadillas, Burritos, Enchiladas, which you would otherwise find only in fine-dining restaurants.
The food trucks — passion projects of their owners — flaunt whacky names and colourful customised designs — Oh Buoy, Eggjactly, Drifters Café, Forklicious, Sushi House Mafia, Dosa Inc. If Oh Buoy offers Mexican fast food, pastas and risottos; Sushi House Mafia serves sushi.
“Sushi is an expensive meal, and we wanted to introduce it to the common people,” says Vikrant Misra, 33, a retail professional who launched Sushi House Mafia in January along with his lawyer friend, Lavanika Partis. “I wanted to start a restaurant but soon realised that rents in Gurgaon were too high to realise that dream. So I decided to launch the food truck.”
Though the young food truck owners come from varying professional backgrounds, passion for food brings them together. And they do not forget to remind you that their specialty food trucks are not to be confused with immobile stationary Chinese food vans. “Food trucks have brought authentic international cuisine to the streets at a very affordable price. And unlike most street stalls, we ensure high food safety standards,” says Varun Yadav, who started Oh Buoy, the first food truck in Noida. Yadav was a computer engineer before he set out on gastronomic journey with his friend Neha Yadav, a chef.
The trucks get their supplies from their base kitchens where primary cooking happens. They have state-of-the-art kitchens complete with sewage and water tanks. Eggjactly, which offers Belgian waffles, pastas, and breads, has a 400-litre water tank, 200-litre sewage tank on the roof and a holding bin at the bottom.
So where and how does one locate these mobile restaurants which are changing the very idea of street food in the city? Most operate between 11am and 11pm, travel to fixed locations, follow a timetable, and update their whereabouts on their websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
In Gurgaon, a lot of them are parked on Leisure Valley Road with their managers handing out menus to the steady stream of customers in the evening. Some of these trucks, Traffic Stopper for instance, operate until 3am. “We keep quite busy, most of our customers are young professionals,” says Shashank Mishra, the manager.
Vikrant Misra, whose trucks organised live screening of India-West India semi-final on Thursday, agrees, “Food trucks are more successful in Gurgaon as it is multicultural city full of expats and young professionals. They travel abroad frequently and understand the concept.”
Now these food trucks arrive at doorsteps too with all their Mexican and Continental fare to cater to private parties. Karan Malik’s Super Sucker is seen more at events such as auto expos, food festivals, exhibitions, and private parties than on roads these days. “Apart from corporate events, we regularly cater to birthdays, where we offer a variety from hotdogs to French fries to momos,” says Malik, who drives the Super Sucker himself. Having Super Sucker at your birthday costs about `600 per person.
Now even five star hotels are bringing their gourmet expertise to the street on food trucks. The Lalit Food Truck Company, for example, operates at two locations — the World Trade Center in Barakhamba Lane on weekdays and the courtyard of the DLF Mall in Saket on weekends. It offers a range of Mexican dishes such as Tacos, Falafel, and Churros.
“The idea was to offer five-star quality food with a street food experience to the people on the go at an affordable price. The food sold by trucks is prepared at The Lalit New Delhi’s kitchen,” says Keshav Suri, executive director, Lalit Suri Hospitality Group.
The company has launched food trucks in Mumbai, Bangalore, and recently a pizza truck in Delhi. “We plan to expand The Lalit Food Truck Company across India, including smaller cities,” says Suri.