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Auckland food truck scene on a roll

BEN ROGERS
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2014
Otis and Sarah Frizzell
ROYAL COUPLE: The king and queen of tacos in Auckland, Otis and Sarah Frizzell.

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If you think a food truck only serves up battered snarlers and greasy chips, think again.

There's a revolution of sorts going on in Auckland's dining scene and trucks are in the middle of it.

At the forefront of the movement are Otis and Sarah Frizzell, who own The Lucky Taco.

"We were on our honeymoon in 2011 and part of it was in the States and we were blown away by the food trucks and creative eateries," Sarah says.

They saw an opportunity and the newlyweds set about chasing their dream.

"It was a little idea that we had and it never went away.

"So we went back to LA and Mexico and did our research properly."

The couple checked out food trucks in Los Angeles and went to Mexico to learn how to make authentic tacos.

They sampled tacos filled with tripe, brain and even sheep's scrotum, but while they were at it they learned how to do the little things right.

"We didn't try and be overly ambitious with the menu, we wanted to do a few things and do them really well."

And if the lines outside their truck are anything to go by they're on the right track.

The Lucky Taco opened in May last year and while the first year has been tough, the Frizzells have made a name for themselves.

"We started in a small kitchen out the back of a friend's bar, but it just became too small and we were tripping over each other.

"We decided to convert the garage into a commercial kitchen, we had to cook illegally in our house for a little while.

"Sarah's pretty OCD and we had incredibly tight self-imposed levels of cleanliness. We weren't out the back washing the dishes with a garden hose.

"That's the romance of it, the hard work."

The prep work begins for the truck on Wednesdays when the Frizzells and their trusty sidekicks Lil' Otis and Ruby White get to work slow-cooking pork, making salsas, marinating beef and rolling tortillas for the weekend.

"Wednesday to Sunday are pretty much 12-hour days," Otis says.

"Then Monday, Tuesday is sort of like 12-hour days but not cooking and not in the truck. We do admin and social media.

"It's like an 80-hour week. Sometimes we joke that between 5 and 9 o'clock on a Sunday, that's our weekend.

"We are working seven days a week on a dream - we are lucky in that way."

On top of food service and prep they look for ways to sell their Lucky Taco Hot Sauce.

"For us we are trying to build a brand, we love the food, the food is the star but it's also part of the brand."

The Lucky Taco has a big following of regulars who gather at the regular weekend park-up on Ponsonby Rd.

"We are blessed with that spot, our other friends with trucks are finding it hard."

Pete Stewart of fellow Auckland food truck The Roaming Dive is relying on private bookings.

"I would like to shift that.

"It's been a bit of a whirlwind, so I would like to become more available to the public," Stewart says.

His truck is popular for weddings where couples want to create a casual vibe.

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"It's a real privilege to be invited to someone's wedding, it's something we take really seriously."

The Roaming Dive started in December after Stewart came across an ex-laundromat vehicle on Trade Me.

The Dive sticks to an American theme offering up sliders and po' boys [submarine sandwiches] along with chilli dogs, wings and fries.

"I've always really been into food and I haven't had cheffing experience.

"All the internal fittings are second-hand and bought from auctions. As much as I could squeeze a penny, I had to."

The Roaming Dive team do all their prep in hired commercial premises - often sports clubs or RSAs.

Stewart would like to see roaming zones set up for trucks in the city, as has been successfully trialled in Sydney.

"It's a tough situation to find a suitable spot for park-ups as brick-and-mortar establishments would not be impressed with food trucks parking outside."

There is also the matter of setting up and packing up which can take some time.

A roaming zone in Auckland is a possibility but would require a market licence or individual street trading permits, an Auckland Council spokesperson says.

"If operating in a public place, food truck vendors need a street trading permit and have to comply with any district plan requirements.

"We also look to avoid conflict with existing established businesses," the spokesperson says.

The Frizzells have faith that the food truck movement will grow.

"The idea of there being enough trucks to sustain a bit of a movement is an idea that I like," Otis says.

"It is somewhat reliant on the council coming to the party and realising there is an important cultural aspect to this.

"It adds diversity and a cultural richness to a city."

Stewart would like to see more trucks on the road too, but is wary of the market becoming saturated.

"There are so many food trucks in the States, and you see ones that are absolutely pumping, but to every one that's pumping there are nine that aren't."

"It's about quality and doing something special.

"Food trucks are really personable.

"The people in the trucks, they're the owners so that's why people get behind them because it's supporting someone's dream."

- East And Bays Courier

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