They grace your Instagram feed with pictures of mouth-watering dishes, they colour our streets with their beautifully designed trucks, and they introduce us to food that we have never experienced before. Food trucks are an enriching part of Toronto, and a part that has helped diversify our Canadian cuisine. Food truck vending has really come into its own over the last couple of years. It seems that a new demographic has taken over the concept of “street food” and revamped it completely. Gone are the days of hotdogs and fries. The food trucks of today are anything but ordinary, each owner operating under their own niche and turning it into a profitable business.
How profitable is the business? Well, profitable enough to expand into the restaurant industry as CEO of Eva’s Original Chimneys plans to do in the winter. In case you have not seen the famous “doughnut cones” circling the web, Eva’s original chimney’s specializes in freshly baked Hungarian pastries. The pastry itself is called Kürtos Klaacs. Originally, it comes in a cylindrical “chimney” shape, but Eva’s Original Chimneys expanded on the idea by making it an ice cream cone.
When Kristen Butler and husband Justin first started running their food truck back in June 2015, they weren’t sure as to where they were headed in the industry. Toronto’s curiosity for new experiences and adventurous palate supported them.
“I think Torontonians are really accepting of this, I think they are more adventurous in their food choices. It’s an exciting time for the food industry,” said Butler. Kürtos Klaacs has been around for hundreds of year in the eastern part of Europe and it has finally made its way across shore.
Food trucks definitely have a unique method of spreading cultural appreciation. However, they also raise awareness of what’s going on around us. Heirloom is another relatively new food truck, but with a local and homegrown approach to food. Everything on their menu is locally sourced and in-season, changing specials according to the season.
“People don’t really understand where their food is coming from. We focus on sustainability in the community.If we don’t start being more sustainable, the world is going to end up in a bad spot and that’s the one thing we wanted to showcase,” says Steffen Marin, owner and a chef at Heirloom.
Toronto is definitely not used to seeing locally sourced food sitting in supermarkets. Also, restaurants that specialize in this type of food tend to be on the pricier side. However, Heirloom connects a whole new demographic of people who would otherwise remain unaware of the impact their food choices make on sustainability.
Attracting a new demographic is what helps the Vegan Extremist succeed in the food truck industry. “There is not enough vegans out there. Probably 80 per cent of my customers are not vegan,” said Jeff Merkel, executive owner of The Vegan Extremist. Introducing meat-eaters to what can be an exciting world of veganism is something that humbled Merkel takes pride in.
Merkel’s truck breaks down misconceptions about food. Vegan food does not always have to be a substitute for a meat product, as the vegan dishes of South East Asia showcase so well. You won’t find veggie burgers at The Vegan Extremist. “To me that is antiquated. I don’t see it as being sustainable. We focus on making meals that are not a replacement for meat they are vegan by default,” says Merkel.
The large community of food truck vendors showcase their foods at festivals, large events, and through catering services across Ontario. There is even a food truck festival, dedicated solely to showcasing the wonderful variety of foods available. And we (as Torontonians) are not the only ones privy to the enriching food culture that food trucks brings. Many cities across Canada are catching on what promises to be a large influencer in Canadian cuisine.
Every food truck uses social media to aid in marketing and advertising, and social media has had a big part in attracting new customers. So, now the customers are contributing to food truck vendors' success with something other than their wallets.
This piece was edited by Maha Syeda, Food Editor of CanCulture.