As with any good food scene, Guelph's is one that is constantly evolving in order to keep up with current culinary trends and satisfy hungry palates.
After lengthy, persistent lobbying by fervent supporters that spanned almost two years, Guelph City Council passed a bylaw update last fall to allow food trucks to operate more freely around town.
The first regular lunchtime event is Food Truck Wednesdays, a weekly initiative that will run throughout the summer at the Public Health building on Chancellors Way. Ten food truck vendors are lined up to work a rotating schedule over its course; three vendors will be available on-site each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The event is open to the public and designed to encourage employees at Public Health and surrounding buildings to get outside, get active and meet their neighbours. The location offers an outdoor patio with tables, umbrellas and benches; activities such as Frisbee and bocce are planned once the weather gets nicer.
Food Truck Wednesdays was created, in part, to demonstrate positive working relationships between Public Health officials and vendors, said Jessica Morris, manager of Health Protection at Public Health, adding to note that there is no conflict of interest and in no way alters or affects the inspection process.
All food truck and mobile vendors in Guelph must be licensed by the city and inspected by Public Health officials before they can serve food to the public.
“We have a very good working relationship [with vendors] and a high level of compliance,” Morris said. “This is better than the restaurant – it’s novel, new, space-efficient and clean – and equipment is state-of-the-art. As long as they’re inspected and licensed, bring ‘em on.”
The event is organized by a joint partnership between Public Health's communications department and food truck champion Jakki Prince, owner of Sweet Temptations Cupcakery and its offshoot food truck Sprinkle.
“Jakki is kind of the pioneer for the Guelph food truck world,” said Becky Hood, head chef at 39 Carden Street, who now helps out on the truck when time away from the restaurant permits. “She’s helped us throughout. We follow her around, take her lead.”
Prince spearheaded the campaign for an amendment to the 2015 bylaw to allow food trucks to operate on private property, including schools, churches and parks – and was integral to its passing in council.
Since then, she has taken on an unofficial role as organizer, coordinating events and bringing the local scene together.
“Jakki is kind of like the local guru. She’s very eager and keen,” said Morris, who knows Prince through their involvement on the food truck bylaw working group.
“We wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t a bylaw change. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities,” said Zach Miller, truck chef for Street Food, a food truck collaboration between 39 Carden and Baker Street Station and Guelph’s newest food truck, which just began operating in April.
The truck was at Food Truck Wednesdays’ inaugural event; Miller, Hood and a Baker Street Station employee served up comfort-fusion fare from an eclectic menu that includes boneless beef rib’wich and soy honey garlic chicken and waffles.
“Everyone wants to work on the truck, to be a part of it,” said Hood.
Prince said she strives for balance in food offerings when planning for each event. (Food Truck Wednesdays typically includes two savoury options and one sweet.)
“The food truck community is very welcoming, open and amicable. Everyone knows other truck owners and works to everyone's mutual benefit. We always want there to be a great selection of choices and we develop a schedule based on everyone's availability for weekly dinner and lunch services,” Price said.
Morris said there are currently 40 licensed food trucks that operate within the area and estimates that 10 per cent are based in Guelph.
That number is expected to grow with the advent of summer – official “food truck season” – now that previous bylaw restrictions have been removed and public appetites for the service continue to grow.
“I feel like more and more people are getting into food trucks. It’s a great way to play around with food, showcasing what you really love to do, while cutting out that overhead of running an actual restaurant. It’s fun… Now we’re outside and meeting people,” said Miller.
Food truck culture appears to be alive and well in Guelph. Exhibition Park was host to the first BIG Downtown Food Truck Picnic last summer and supply couldn’t keep up with demand; this year’s event promises to be bigger with more of a festival vibe.
“Food trucks are a phenomenon, grown mostly out of the U.S., and here to stay,” Prince said. “Food trucks add a layer of efficiency, safety and whimsy to the existing culture of large community gatherings, festivals and events. There will always be people celebrating and gathering, so there is always an opportunity for food – and currently the best way to participate is through the growing food truck scene,” Prince said.
When asked about the possible negative association of Public Health and cupcakes, Morris paused for thought before responding.
“We promote moderation, not abstinence. We believe in a balanced lifestyle."
“Guelph is a food city so we should be promoting food trucks and businesses,” Morris said. “They’re weekend warriors, going from event to event, dishing out food. It’s a great, local entrepreneurship endeavor.”
Food Truck Wednesdays’ vendors:
- Bistro Tour from Chef Scotty Cooks (seasonal foods, locally sourced)
- Luchador (internationally-inspired Mexican cuisine)
- Street Food Guelph (comfort-fusion fare)
- Breakfast Blues and BBQs (hearty breakfast and lunch fare)
- Sweet Temptations Cupcakery (classic, seasonal cupcake favourites)
- Mango Chutney (Indian street food, gluten-free with vegan choices)
- Fo’ Cheesy (gourmet grilled cheese)
- Café du Monde Creperie (crepes and desserts)