By Quintin Ellison | The Sylva Herald
The food trucks William McKee is considering wouldn’t serve your everyday fare; Cashiers is, after all, an affluent community with expectations. Think sushi, sliders and hummus.
Nor does McKee want to undercut local restaurants. Area chefs would help prepare the culinary treats, working out of trucks parked on Frank Allen Road. McKee envisions a tidily landscaped, well-lit site with seating. There would be, at most, three food trucks.
“The only way we’ll do this is if there’s support,” the Cashiers-based developer said. “We are trying to partner with the restaurants, not take business from them. And, it needs to be first class, fun and in the spirit of Cashiers.”
Food trucks these days are not your daddy’s “roach coaches” peddling sandwiches, chips and cold drinks to hard-hat-wearing construction workers. Food trucks are trendy nationwide, and have spawned reality television shows, cookbooks and even a big-screen movie, “Chef,” about a man who abandons his gourmet restaurant to find creative fulfillment through serving meals on wheels.
The surge of interest isn’t just in Cashiers; it seems all of Jackson County is suddenly abuzz about food trucks.
County officials say they are fielding calls almost daily about the regulatory requirements involved. The most basic rule can be daunting: food trucks must be permitted in conjunction with regulated establishments, environmental health worker Jill Breedlove said. This provides a daily home base for cleaning, prepping and such.
This week, the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority board plans to discuss how food trucks might impact the water- and sewer-providing nonprofit.
“We are beginning to see more and more activity,” Director Dan Harbaugh said. “That is good and it is something we want to promote. But it generates demands on the system.”
Jeannette Evans of Sylva’s Mad Batter Food and Film said last week that she’s almost raised the $4,000 needed to buy a food truck. She wants to serve the university crowd in Cullowhee as she did for 15 years before her restaurant there burned last year; she reopened on Main Street in April.
“People think it’s neat, and it is, but it’s hard work,” said Gadson Griffis, who with his partner, Jennifer FitzSimons, owns and operates Cosmic Carry-out Restaurant, a food truck parked at Innovation Brewing Co. on West Main Street in Sylva.
Griffis is, by training, a lawyer. He bailed out after growing weary of domestic-relations issues, his legal specialty in his Arkansas practice. Previously, Griffis worked at Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville, Va., learning the ins and outs of food preparation. FitzSimons had experienced the street-food scene in Portland, Ore. The two, looking for something to do and some money, put things together and bought their food truck.
For about a year and a half, the couple parked at Southwestern Community College and served students lunches; along with traditional burgers and barbecue, they offer vegan and vegetarian fare. On the weekends, during the growing season, they would park at the Jackson County farmers market. Now, however, they’ve found a thriving, loyal customer base through their association with Innovation.
For his part, McKee wants a couple of things to happen before moving forward on food trucks in Cashiers. He wants restaurant and community support, plus he wants strict county zoning in place to reassure people about his intentions and to safeguard against shoddy practitioners. McKee said he might test the concept this fall, but he’s really looking toward next spring.