This summer, the program rolled out a food truck trailer purchased at auction, attached to a retrofitted ambulance that hauls it from site to site. Painted on the truck are logos for both the college’s student-run catering service through Titus Creek Cafe, and the Wine Country Culinary Institute name and website.
The truck has been a regular vendor at the Walla Walla Farmer’s Market this season. Menu items vary each weekend, but consistently feature local produce.
“We always try to take a look at what’s fresh from the farmers at the market,” Thiessen said.
Thiessen said he and college President Steve VanAusdle first talked about the food truck idea in the fall. The vehicles were available at auction for a deal, and work started on them during the spring.
Food trucks have grown in popularity in recent years, particularly in larger cities where trucks specializing in specific dishes — like grilled cheese sandwiches or Cuban fare — draw regular customers.
“It’s one of the hottest food trends out there,” Thiessen said.
Besides being able to draw customers, a food truck gives students practical experience preparing dishes from a daily menu. It gives students’ work great exposure, and also showcases the program’s new name and direction.
“This is a huge educational opportunity for our students, to be able to get that real life work experience, which is absolutely critical,” Thiessen said.
Students staff the truck’s kitchen, taking orders and preparing food as its ordered. On Saturday, students worked in the truck with guidance from culinary arts instructor Greg Schnorr. Schnorr is also a local organic farmer, and has been a vendor with the Farmer’s Market since 1995.
The lunch-time menu last Saturday featured a burger showcasing grass-fed beef from Lostine Cattle Co.; a pulled pork sandwich on Hawaiian bread served with slaw; and an Olympics-inspired fruit trifle with peaches, strawberries, other local berries and whipped cream on sponge cake.
Schnorr said students bake their own breads, cure their own bacon and always feature a few items of locally raised food.
The truck has storage for portable chairs and tables with umbrellas, which are set up for any market customers to use.