Truck food - described in the media as “a phenomenon” - is our prediction for the next big thing to happen to Irish food. We’ve bought gourmet pizza from market stalls, we’ve eaten crab linguini at Festivals, there is even a Ballymaloe Cookery School course on the subject, programmed for next September. But there is still much room for more. We talked to truck food pioneer Kevin Pyke, who left a thriving restaurant, Watts & Co, to serve street food in Derry from his van on the banks of the River Foyle: Pyke’N’Pommes.
“I was always fascinated with Street food” explains Kevin Pyke, And, since opening Pyke’N’Pommes, it’s been an “amazing 8 months”. Kevin has seen his menu grow from just two dishes to a staple of eight to ten, and seen his customer base rise from 15-20 people per day, to numbering over a hundred on a Friday, and 70-80 on a Saturday.
Pyke N Pomme’s is open on average between 10am-6pm Mon-Sat and the customer base support has been regular, ever increasing, and ready to experiment. “It’s a bit of theatre, having a bit of crack. That’s what makes it work”.
The authorities were “pretty helpful”, perhaps his background as a noted chef gave him an edge which allowed them to trust. The hardest thing, he says, was getting a place to trade without upsetting ratepayers. “Eventually I found a bit of private land, a great wee spot on the river front”. He rents this land and in addition operates out of a unit, which itself is decorated in grafitti - street art for street food!
His bus is an old LDV Convoy. It was once a community bus. Its conversion to food vehicle had begun before Kevin bought it. Most of the prep is done in the Unit, the Bus is the Theatre in which two chefs serve the food.
All the ingredients come from within a ten mile radius of Derry (apart from Jack McCarthy’s black pudding). The vegetables for the slaws and salads come from WhiteOaks farm, and the fish comes direct from Greencastle.
The menu is written with humour and style, there’s Notorious PIG, Cod Father and the Legenderry Burger. Garnishes are sophisticated and tasty, beetroot pickle, WhiteOaks farm baby leaves, carefully julienned slaws. The pork is brined for 24 hours, dry rubbed and then slow cooked. The bread is Lebanese flat bread for the pork, and their own sourdough buns for the burgers. This Christmas he even served partridge.
It’s been a bold move for Kevin that has paid off. Next year is looking even more exciting with a number of full weddings already booked, including one in the grounds of Rathmullen, when he will serve locally-reared wagyu beef.
“The business is there. But a lot still needs to be changed. Food like this has so much to offer”, and, with a bit of ambition from the powers that be, “a lot more could happen.”
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