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Nicey Treats

All About Food Trucks

History of Food Trucks

Food trucks have been around for a couple hundred years in America, and are currently taking our nation by storm. Every major city seems to have at least one food truck, but how did this mobile cuisine start? Street food has been around in larger cities on the east coast since the late 17th Scratch Truckcentury. In 1691, New York City began to “regulate street vendors selling food from push carts.” As technology advanced, so did food trucks, transforming from dining cars on trains to wagons to the US Army utilizing mobile kitchens to feed the troops during the early wars.

The food truck hype really sparked only a few years ago in 2006 when “Wikipedia adds ‘food truck’ to their list of entries.” After that, more food trucks started popping up around the country in hopes to catch on to the latest craze.  In 2010 alone, the National Restaurant Association decided to “dedicate 1,500 square feet to food truck exhibits at its annual convention”, Food Network premiered “The Great Food Truck Race” and Mobile Cuisine became “the first website to provide coverage of the mobile food industry nationally.”

Food Truck Initiatives

Food trucks have experienced a huge fan base as the trend continues. Cities now have regular food truck gatherings every day where they can all park at one place and let the customers come to them. The old-fashioned lunch gatherings at a restaurant have now been replaced by finding a food truck closest to a business and eating out that way.

Byrne's Grilled PizzaThe only difficult part of being a food truck fan? Finding where they are. That’s why one fan based in Indianapolis decided to come up with a way to track his favorite trucks.

“I started @indyfoodtruck right on the cusp of the Indianapolis food truck boom. There was West Coast Tacos, Scratch, Duos, Hoosier Fat Daddy, Fat Sammies and maybe a couple of others, all running around downtown, serving up delicious and quick street food. I was hooked from the start but found it tremendously difficult to figure out where all the trucks were parked on any given day. I just figured, ‘Hey, if I’m having this much trouble, I bet everyone else is too,’ so I decided to share my tracking efforts with the rest of the city. That was over two years ago, and I’m still sending out the updates every day, but instead of a mere handful, we now have dozens and dozens of active food trucks in Indy,” explains Matt Hanger, creator of @indyfoodtruck.

Setting Them Apart

Matt Hanger has frequented many food trucks, especially in the Indianapolis area, and knows what sets food trucks apart.

“In my opinion, the trucks that excel, the ones that set themselves apart from the crowd, have a genuine passion for creating great food. What that means exactly is different to different people, but you know it when you see it. Without that I don’t think you could have a truly great food truck,” he explains.

Matt continued with “Of course, great service matters too, it’s tremendously important. How you interact with customers in-person and social media. Creating a pleasant atmosphere (cleanliness, where you park, quiet generators, how the food is presented, etc.) matters too.”

Equipment Essentials

Owning and operating your very own food truck takes a lot of timFoodTruckPics 002e, especially for the planning. You need to plan what your menu will be and what you will serve before you even purchase the truck. Even if you already have a vision of what your truck will serve, you need to fine tune the menu so you can know whether or not a truck will be able to fulfill its needs.

FoodCart USA is one of the pioneering companies to create custom food trucks and bring the food truck trend to Miami, Florida. Tania from FoodCart USA helps design food truck kitchens based on the potential menu of the truck. The same thing goes with what type of equipment you will need. The first question FoodCart USA asks to customers is ‘What is going to be on the menu?’. Tania said that everybody usually wants a flattop, and most refrigeration. She also said that refrigeration is key to a food truck, and not having enough refrigeration is usually the main thing customers complain about. There is no real difference between restaurant equipment and equipment for food trucks, except food truck equipment may be a little smaller for space reasons.

What’s Tania’s piece of advice for food truck operators? “To me, make sure they keep up with the health codes. Make sure we have clean, nice food [and good] appearance outside of [the] vehicle and safety and the health. [I] would love [for food trucks] to someday have grades just like restaurants,” she explained.

Keep in mind that the way you lay out your mobile food truck is crucial to your truck’s success. You want to create a flexible kitchen that’s easy to move around and also easy enough to switch equipment if your menu changes and you want to try something new. Also, you need to consider what type of power source you will be using for your equipment. Everything in a mobile food kitchen must be 120V, according to Product Consultant Sarah Templeton.

“They should have some form of generator for the refrigerator units,” Product Consultant Brian Greentaner explains. “However, when you get to the cooking equipment, the power requirements of the griddles and ovens require a larger power source, which would have to be a tow-able generator.”

Think about what you will need for food prep, refrigeration, the actual cooking, serving and storage. “Equipment like panini’s, griddles, fryers, food warmers, refrigeration for storage and/or sandwich tables for example. It really depends on what items the food trucks are serving, the list could go on and on,” Product Consultant Blair Dovidas explains.

“You can use [Central’s] equipment, however you would have to purchase shallow depth cooking equipment like grills and charbroilers, and once installed would need to have a stainless fabricator do some creative welding for stability and for ease of cleanliness,” explains Product Consultant Rick Arenstein.

Brian Greentaner continued, “Most [equipment] will require some sort of retrofit. The wheel wells in these types of trucks are a form of an obstacle.”

Pho MiSlow Food Truck, based out of Hollywood, Florida, said their essentials are a spoon and tool kit.

A food truck has to be clean and sanitary, so an operator needs some sanitation necessities. Make sure your truck has towels, trash cans, anti-fatigue mats (for all of the standing and running around), broom, mops and squeegees would all be great. Keep pests at bay in your food truck with an insect control system.  Make sure you know how to prepare for food truck for health inspections, too.

To give you an idea of what a typical successful food truck requires, Nation’s Restaurant News  proivdes details for the Sauca food truck. They list out what an established food truck has equipment wise, and how much everything costs.

“Sauca

Headquarters: Washington, D.C.

No. of trucks: 2 in operation, 2 more expected to launch this summer

Proprietor: Farhad Assari, former investment banker

Signature item: The Sauca, a hand-held, griddled flatbread sandwich inspired by global street food. Examples: Mexicali Fish Taco, $7.50; The Medi Veggie, $6.50

Type of truck: Workhorse

Kitchen footprint: 70 square feet

Selected equipment:

  •     grill for warming and marking 
flatbreads
  •     griddle for cooking proteins
  •     steamer for warming fillings
  •     sandwich prep table
  •     stand-up refrigerator
  •     undercounter refrigerated drawers
  •     undercounter warmers
  •     three-compartment sink, hand sink
  •     custom-made service window

Total cost: $100,000, including truck, equipment, installation and exterior wrap”

Safety

I spoke with Michael Jay Fine, owner of Fine Fire Equipment Company located in North Miami Beach, Florida regarding fire safety and mobile kitchens. “All maFine Fire Equipment Companynufacturers require an automatic fire suppression system and are serviced and inspected every six months, and during those six month inspections it is very, very important that the detection link (what goes off to activate the system) gets changed every six months,” Michael explained.

“Some companies sometimes overlook this very important change. Bottom line is that these systems need to be maintained per every manufacturer inspection,” he continued.

If you’re in the Florida area and would like to consult with Mr. Fine, call them at (305)945-9956 for Dade County, or (954)966-1936 for Broward County.

Shop With Central

Still interested in starting up your own food truck? Central has a plethora of food truck necessities that will fit in your mobile kitchen. If you have any questions regarding products, our Product Consultants can certainly help.

Don’t forget about FoodCart USA if you’re looking for a customized food truck! FOODCART FRONT flyer

 

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Healthy Recipes and Cooking Tips for Losing Weight in 2013

Start out 2013 on the right foot! This is the time of year where the weight loss commercials start rolling in one after the other, and gym memberships skyrocket. It’s obvious that everyone would like to start losing some weight (or those extra Holiday pounds!) by the time the New Year begins.

To begin your weight loss journey, start with some healthy cooking basics. Using these techniques can get you into a routine of creating a healthy lifestyle for you and whoever else you cook for. The American Heart Association offers these simple cooking tips:Arrangement of Vegetables

  • Cook your vegetables by stir-frying or steaming them
  • Try and use herbs, fat-free or low fat sauces and salad dressings
  • If you make a big meal save some and freeze it for another time when you don’t have the time to create a new meal
  • Smoothies are an easy way to get your required daily servings of fruit
  • Don’t use pre-packaged seasoning packets – they’re usually loaded with salt. To be healthy make your own!,
  • Try to buy frozen vegetables over canned – canned contains high amounts of sodium!
  • When baking replace ½ cup butter, shortening or oil substitute with 3 ripe bananas, a cup of applesauce, fat-free/low-fat yogurt or fat-free/low-fat sour cream
  • Buy whole grain products whenever possible
  • Use fat-free milk or 1% instead of whole or 2%

Woman’s Day recommends these cooking tips for ways to cut out some calories and fat in your cooking:

  • If you’re going to make a stir-fry, use some vegetable broth in place of oil or butter
  • Take off chicken skin to skip some calories and unhealthy saturated fatblackberries
  • To add some flavor to veggies or salads squeeze on some citrus fruit!
  • If you’re going to need cheese, pick one with big flavor so you don’t have to use so much
  • Fat-free Greek yogurt is a great replacement for sour cream
  • To thicken up soup puree some vegetables to skip unwanted extra calories
  • Start adding vegetables into any dish to get your recommended daily five servings
  • Make your own marinade to save calories and skip the large amount of sodium in store-bought bottles

Everyone usually goes over their calorie limit around the Holidays. EatingWell.com has this article for foods to eat to help cleanse your body after overeating from a big meal.

Now…what should you cook to put your healthy-cooking skills to the test? There are plenty of websites that have a plethora of great recipes that makeover your traditional meals into healthy ones, and also has extra cooking tips!running

 

Losing weight takes dedication, motivation and hard work. Remember to keep track of what you eat and pay attention to portion size. Get help staying motivated with family and friends. Make a change at the grocery store and buy healthy produce and food, and get rid of everything that could hurt your diet at home. Finally it takes a little bit of moving to get to losing, so make exercise a part of your daily routine! Good luck and Happy 2013!

Children

Celebrating Halloween in School Cafeterias

Halloween is a favorite holiday for a lot of people, especially children. Here are some ideas to help you plan your school’s Halloween celebration, specifically in the cafeteria.

Start off your students’ day right with a pumpkin-themed breakfast. Transform regular pancakes into “Flap-Jack-O-Laterns” or create an impressive fall-inspired French toast dish.

Take your lunch from ordinary to extraordinary just by using normal ingredients and taking it up a notch. Start off by serving up some spooky main courses, such as hot dog mummies, worms on a bun or making your own healthy (but still creepy) lunchables for the students. To quench everyone’s thirst, serve up bloody punch in a cauldron with a floating hand for ice.

Make some spooktacular sides to accompany your main courses. Halloween is a great holiday to use to your advantage when you want to sneak in fruits and vegetables by making it fun. These ideas are all very easy to do and won’t increase your cost. Take fruit cups (preferably orange ones, such as mandarin oranges or peaches) and use a permanent marker to draw on the lid and make a jack-o-lantern face. You can also do the same thing to clementine or tangerine oranges. Create a squashed gut side by using spaghetti squash and tomato sauce. You can add some dairy into the meal by using mozzarella sticks and make “finger food”.

Finish off the spooky, Halloween-themed meal by giving the students a real treat. Halloween dessert ideas are widespread and easy to find. Selected ideas range from brain cupcakes, to cookies in the shape of skulls or skeletons. There’s even a recipe for “corny cookies”. The choice is up to you and the possibilities are endless!

If you want your students to take home their dessert instead of enjoying it in the cafeteria, there are many ideas for treat bags to go. Popcorn might be the easiest way for a cheap treat which can be transformed into any flavoring or color you want! A variation of Chex Mix is also another cheap way to promote a sweet treat. Instead of a typical popcorn ball, try a Rice Krispie treat pumpkin!

Makeover your cafeteria into a spooky Halloween destination by having students create decorations, making your own or using these ideas for a cheap way to create a creepy atmosphere.

http://www.marthastewart.com/270997/crepe-paper-curtains?&backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/halloween-decorating

http://crafts.kaboose.com/easy-outdoor-halloween-decorations-2.html

Finally provide some Halloween fun for your students to cap off the day right! Easy games include Halloween Bingo, pin the bowtie on Mr. Bones or pin the spider to the spider web. Gingerbread houses aren’t only for Christmas! Have the children create their own haunted mansion by using colored frosting and graham crackers.

If you’re still stumped for Halloween ideas, don’t forget to visit our Pinterest page and look for our Halloween Treats board!

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5 Restaurant and Foodservice Industry Trends

The foodservice industry is constantly evolving.  One minute we’re focused on one thing, then six months down the road something new pops up.  In our 2011 “end of year” foodservice trends and predictions review, quite a few trends have really stuck such as mobile ordering devices, local food and double-sided menus (menus that separate healthy and unhealthy, such as McDonald’s recent “Favorites Under 400“).  Then there are other trends we haven’t heard much about such as plate shapes.

So as you can see, a lot can change in eight months.  Here are some of the latest trends, and we hope you will share what you are seeing in our comment section below.

Pop-Up Restaurants

Food trucks aren’t the only form of mobile food, pop-up restaurants are too.  A pop-up restaurant is a temporary dining experience that can be used for a chef to try out different menu items, a landlord wishing to rent out space during downtime or a dining experience for an event such as the pop-up Goodness, which lasted the duration of New York’s fashion week in February.

However Intuit doesn’t say pop-ups are anything new, because they have been around for quite a long time.  They are starting to show true staying power though.  Perhaps it’s because  it’s cheaper to start a pop-up than to open a restaurant, it’s a great way to test out an idea or maybe there is something to be said for the power of social media to draw customers.

Upscale Kids Menus

Quinoa, black bean and corn salad, stuffed zucchini boats, pesto pasta, apple oat balls and felafel wraps are just five of the 54 winning entries of the first Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on August 20.  Just to reiterate, these ideas weren’t whipped up by professional chefs with years of experience, but just children.  With the new USDA guidelines for schools and an overall push for better eating habits, restaurants have started to pick up on revamping kids menus and provide out of the box menu ideas.  For instance Applebees offers a grilled chicken sandwich with a variety of sides (the side advertised being broccoli) and Ruby Tuesday offers kids chop steak with broccoli and white cheddar mashed potatoes.  These menus are much more advanced compared to the days of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and macaroni and cheese.

Gen Y Changing the Game

A recent Food Management article looked closely at Packaged Fact’s  “Collegiate Gen Y eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report” and it appears that college-aged Gen Y’ers (18 to 22) are starting to define new trends in food.  According to Food Management, it’s because of the way they are exposed to new foods and they predict these trends will stay because the foodservice industry will have to adapt once all these students enter the workforce.

The report found students “are nutritionally minded, crave flavorful foods, look for comfort and indulgence and need speed and convenience.”  Some recent foods or trends that have been introduced in college foodservices have been going meatless, chickpeas, different fruits and vegetables, Asian cuisine, comfort foods (such as Italian or Mexican) and foods one can eat while on the go.

Awareness of Food Allergies and Diet Restrictions on Menus

This section isn’t necessarily a trend, but restaurants are starting to pay more attention to food allergies and dietary restrictions and take them more seriously.  Even as far back as a couple years ago, people weren’t thinking about gluten-free.  Today?  Several restaurants include gluten-free items on their menu.  But food allergy awareness extends further than the menu.  In the back of the house, restaurants have to ensure people with severe food allergies remain safe.  Many restaurants have put procedures in place while others are still learning and take food allergies on a case by case basis.  To help, manufacturers of foodservice products have begun to create products to help with food allergies, such as San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone cutting boards.  Then when it comes to just health or dietary restrictions, restaurants are including nutritional information or helpful guides to help diners make informed choices on the food they eat.  For instance noting an entree is low calorie or low fat.  Others may let customers know an item has a low amount of sodium.

Local and Sustainability

Consumers are really starting to care more about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, what the animals they may consume are eating, etc.  Over the last couple years there has been a rise in locally sourced food.  This rise went as high as restaurants going “hyper-local,” where they grow their own food.  It provides customers with a fresh product while keeping it in a community.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum where people and/or restaurants care about where their meat comes from and what the animal is eating.  There are some individuals that can tell a difference in taste between a grass fed cow and corn fed cow.  In a Forbes article, they said people “can now buy specialized breeds, meats raised on different diets, and those without antibiotics or hormones in just about every major city.”

What changes are you seeing in the foodservice industry? Restaurants, schools, etc.?  Please share below!

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Guest Blog: London’s 2012 Olympic Food Vision

Blog written by Autumn Faust, Product Data Coordinator at Central

With the Olympic opening ceremonies just around the corner, millions around the world are preparing to cheer on their home countries.  London has just a little more to prepare for as they are hosting the 2012 Olympic Games.  This will be their third time hosting; their last time being in 1948.

Due to the economic climate and post World-War II rationing, the usual extravaganza the Games bring was noticeably missing.  Consequently, those Games became known as the “Austerity Games.”  This year’s Olympics may not be serving as an equalizer after years of World War, but London is facing another challenge.

They are challenging the long-time notion that the United Kingdom lacks a first-class cuisine.

Considered the largest, peace-time catering operation in the world, they now have their chance to showcase to the world their local fare.  Not only will all eyes be on London, but all taste buds as well.

The 2012 London Olympic bid promised a “memorable occasion that will make a positive impact before, during and beyond the main event.”  This must encompass what food is served and how it is served during the Games.

It is estimated 14 million meals at over 40 locations will be served during the Olympics.  This creates an immense challenge to deliver award winning food while keeping true to London’s sustainability promise.

Simply a tastier, healthier and greener Games.

Five themes with various objectives and commitments were outlined to help the food establishments of London adhere to the city’s promise.

This is known as the London 2012 Food Vision.

The Numbers

  • 31 competition venues
  • 955 competition sessions
  • 160,000 workforce
  • 23,900 athletes and team officials
  • 20,600 broadcasters and press
  • 4,800 olympic and paralympic family
  • 9 million ticket sales
  • 14 million meals

 

Food Amounts

American Translation

25,000 loaves of bread

25,000 loaves of bread

232 tons of potatoes

464,000 lbs. of potatoes

82 tons of seafood

164,000 lbs. of seafood

31 tons of poultry items

62,000 lbs. of poultry items

100 tons of meet

200,000 lbs. of meet

75,000 liters of milk

46,231 gallons of milk

19 tons of eggs

38,000 lbs. of eggs

17 tons of cheese

34,000 lbs. of cheese

330 tons of fruits and vegetables

660,000 lbs. of fruits and vegetables

 

Food Safety and Hygiene

  • Ensure exemplary standards of food safety and hygiene at all Games venues
  • Develop and apply robust traceability procedures
  • Manage the risk of targeted, malicious contamination of food supply

Choice and Balance

  • Ensure there is a diverse range of food and beverage for all customers, catering for all dietary and cultural requirements, that are high quality, value for money and accessible

  • Provide access to free drinking water at all Games venues
  • Provide a range of healthy and nutritious options for all customer groups
  • Effective use of vending services

Food Sourcing and Supply Chains

  • Support the delivery of safe food across the Games

  • Ensure food and beverage products are sourced with regard to high benchmark and aspirational environmental, ethical and animal welfare standards
  • Support a broad supply chain including smaller scale, British, regional and local enterprises

Environmental Management

  • Optimize supply of catering equipment
  • Maximize energy and water efficiency of catering equipment
  • Zero waste direct to landfill during Games time
  • 70% waste reused, recycled
  • Minimize carbon emissions

Skills and Education

  • 100% catering staff to receive minimum ‘Games’ training
  • Use games as a live case study for students
  • Target host boroughs for recruitment into hospitality training
  • Encourage and support innovative partnerships between catering and organizations and colleges
  • The Games provide an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the substantial and diverse hospitality career opportunities available
  • Develop quality credit framework to formulate sustainable catering study module

London was announced as the winning bid for hosting the Games in 2005.  Seven years of hard work and planning will come together beginning this Friday, July 27.  With the limited amount of time the Olympics run, there is only one chance to get the food right.  While we’ll be cheering on our American athletes, we’ll definitely be rooting for London to “wow” the world with their 2012 Food Vision.

Sample menu of the food being served in Olympic Park.

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Foodservice Industry Week in Brief: July 19

Looking for some of the week’s top information? Check out these five stories from the foodservice industry from July 16-20.

U.S. Drought To Affect Food Prices

From HuffPost Green, Read Full Story

When looking at the U.S. Drought Monitor for the week of July 16, almost every state is at least experiencing abnormally dry conditions, but a majority of states fall under the moderate, severe and extreme drought categories.

This drought is bad news for farmers and may soon mean a rise in food prices too.  A HuffPost Green article reported grain prices in the Midwest are “near or past records.”  Prices for soybeans, corn and other crops have increased as well.  They spoke with U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsak, who said a rise in grain prices could mean higher meat and poultry prices in the future.

 Burger King’s Lettuce Fiasco

From Los Angeles Times Business, Read Full Story

A Cleveland Burger King employee caused quite a stir this week after posting a picture of himself standing on two tubs of lettuce.  The L.A. Times said there were actually three employees involved in the incident, all of which have been fired.

Burger King released a statement that said “food safety is a top priority at all Burger King restaurants and the company maintains a zero-tolerance policy against any violations such as the one in question.”

The Latest on California’s Foie Gras Ban

From HuffPost Food, Read Article and Northridge-Chatsworth Patch, Read Article

On July 1, California banned the sale of foie gras, the fatty liver of an animal (typically ducks or geese).  Restaurants caught serving the item can be fined up to $1,000.  “Foie gras is usually produced through a process in which ducks or geese are force fed corn through tubes and inserted in their throats, a practice seen as inhumane by animal rights activists,” said a Northridge-Chatsworth Patch article.

The foie gras ban has caused an uproar by restaurants and patrons who serve or enjoy the menu item and many have even made attempts to reverse the ruling but have so far been unsuccessful.  However, HuffPost Food reports restaurants are still finding ways to serve foie gras.  Some of the loopholes restaurants have found have been stating they are on land owned by a federal agency (and not the state of California), serving it as free side dish or cooking foie gras brought in by customers.

Changes in Restaurant Bread Service

From MonkeyDish, Read Article

A complimentary bread basket is common in many restaurants, but things are beginning to change now that foodservices are providing more upscale options and charging for them.

MonkeyDish spoke with Professor Ezra Eichelberger of the Culinary Institute of America who said, “Bread is a sign of hospitality and it imparts a feeling of spirituality and sharing to guests, but you have to cover your costs.”  He added customers are okay to upgrade as long as the bread is of higher quality, but providing free bread is beneficial to keep on the menu as well.

New York Trans Fat Regulation is Working

From CNN, Read Article

The ban on trans fats that New York City put into place five-years-ago  is proving to be successful.  CNN reported city health officials have discovered the amount of unhealthy fats customers have ate in fast food has drastically decreased.

Also, many of the large fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc., have actually implemented changes to locations nationwide in addition to New York City.  The changes were subtle and many customers did not even notice them.  These results come at a time when another controversial ban has been proposed, the sale of sugary beverages.