What’s new in food: The Village Food Truck Park opens in Fletcher

TRUCKIN': Bob Turner opened The Village Food Truck Park to provide a commercial kitchen for food truck owners and lunchtime options for Fletcher residents, workers and visitors. Photo by Andy Hall

Bob Turner wanted to create an oasis of food trucks in what many Fletcher residents and workers considered a food desert. So, he decided to buy the abandoned car wash near the corner of Old Airport and Cane Creek roads and turn it into The Village Food Truck Park.

The park, the first in Fletcher and one of very few in Western North Carolina, had its grand opening on July 7, featuring burgers from Brevard’s Smash NC and German comfort fare from Hendersonville’s Haus Heidelberg on Wheels. Local classic rock and blues band Livewire performed.

Tucked among industrial warehouses and plants, with a view of the Bearwallow Highlands mountain range to the east, the venue will serve the weekday lunchtime crowd. Turner says Fletcher has “lots of office and warehouse workers [with] nowhere to grab a quick bite to eat for lunch.”

The park will also provide much-needed operations space for food truck owners.

Turner refurbished the former car wash, which was suffering from vandalism, into a one-stop shop for food trucks. It provides a commercial space for trucks to prepare, cook, store, vend and dump — all requirements for a permit. He says he’s “overwhelmed by the positive feedback from the food truck community.

“I’m a firm believer in the importance of small business and local food. Giving chefs and food truck operators a place that they can call home, a food hub in a community of other chefs and operators — that is very exciting to me. But I’m most excited to be part of the dream that these young entrepreneurs are following. Opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant is very risky and can cost millions of dollars, and most banks are very hesitant about loaning money for a restaurant.  The food truck can give chefs a chance to follow their dreams at a greatly reduced startup cost.  We hope to provide the necessary infrastructure to support those dreams.”

The food truck park is open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 pm., with plans to expand to dinner and weekends depending on demand. Two trucks will be on-site daily, with different trucks rotating throughout the week.

“The big dream and goal is to have several food truck choices in one place so that Mom, Dad and the kids can each get whatever type of food they want in an outdoor, community space,” says Turner.

“The food truck business is a grassroots, food-to-the-people movement, and I think it’s pretty cool to be part of that.”

The Village Food Truck Park is at 25 Fletcher Commercial Drive, Fletcher. For more information, visit avl.mx/cub.

‘Putting up’ summer

“Putting up,” or canning and preserving, the summer harvest for access during long winter months has been a tradition born out of necessity in the mountains for generations.

On Saturday, July 22, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., the WNC Farmers Market will hold its first “Save and Seal the Summer” session at the new on-site WNC FoodWorks kitchen. Community experts and farmers will present preserving techniques at the free event.

“The live demonstrations from community experts focus on teaching people the ways of preserving food that our grandparents used, which seem to have been lost to many people with the rise of convenience when it comes to food,” says Ellerslie McCue, marketing coordinator for the market. “[Preserving] has been the way of life in Appalachia until the last 30 or so years, and it’s amazing to see people becoming more interested in learning and implementing this lifestyle into their lives today.”

Topics covered will include beekeeping, heirloom tomatoes (including presentation and tasting), food waste, quick pickling, canning basics and making hot sauce.

There will also be a session on the new WNC FoodWorks facility, which is slated to open later this summer. Owned and operated by the Center for Agriculture and Food Entrepreneurship, it includes a shared-use commissary kitchen and a small-business training and educational center.

“This is a dream partnership because both groups share a passion for the local food system here in WNC and can work together to connect farmers with food entrepreneurs. Then the market can also help provide them with avenues to sell their finished products,” says McCue.

“‘Save and Seal the Summer,'” she adds, “is designed to connect [attendees] with community educators in a personal setting that allows you to ask questions and feel more comfortable about doing these practices at home. The learning doesn’t stop at this event — we hope to provide folks with a foundation of knowledge … and the resources to grow.”

The WNC Farmers Market is at 570 Brevard Road. For more information and to register, visit avl.mx/cud.

The avenue home

New Avenue M executive chef Jennifer Cole has cooked in kitchens from the Deep South to Europe and New York City. But her Western North Carolina roots and passion for the region’s culinary traditions, taught to her by her grandmother, have brought her back home.

Cole worked with notable chefs Susan Spicer at Bayona in New Orleans and Jean Paul Vinay in Europe. She was named “Best Female Chef” in Madrid by El Pais, during her time as executive chef at Ene. Upon returning to the States, Cole became the chef and owner of La Mujer Gala in Brooklyn and helped to open the Upper West Side’s famed Taberna. During this time, she took part in a cooking competition on the Food Network‘s “Chopped” — and won.

Avenue M co-owner Ralph Lonow says he interviewed many candidates for executive chef but was immediately drawn to Cole’s presence and personality.

“We set up a tasting, and as soon as we tasted her first course of mushroom croquettes, we knew she was a front-runner,” he says. “Once we learned about her knowledge and love of wine, we were ready to hire her.”

Lonow says the new, seasonal menu has been evolving since Cole was hired in May and depends on what local farmers are growing. Current items include Cole Family Farm Baby Kale Salad with bacon and blue cheese dressing, and Hickory Nut Gap Beef Cheeks with sweet potato purée and braised local turnips.

Cole moved back to Western North Carolina to take over her family farm in Haywood County with her brothers. She says she is excited to share her travels through cooking but is glad to be back where it all began.

“I’m so happy to be home in the mountains of my youth and close to family,” she says. “If I’m not in the kitchen, you’ll find me in my garden or hiking through these beautiful mountains.”

Avenue M is at 791 Merrimon Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/91w.

Four footlongs

The Four Feet to Hell hot dog eating contest returns to DSSOLVR brewery on Wednesday, July 19, at 7 p.m.

Competitors will vie for who can devour four foot-long hot dogs custom-made by The Chop Shop Butchery in six minutes and 66 seconds. The person who finishes first will be declared the winner and will receive a personalized championship belt, a place on the venue’s Wall of Flames and other prizes. There will also be prizes for second and third place.

“The contest idea came to us on a work retreat, where a staff member boastfully stated he could easily eat 10 hot dogs,” says Will Craddock, “vibe lord” at DSSOLVR. “No one thought it would be possible, so we had a staff hot dog eating contest. We then decided to make it a fun event, and it was a huge success. Our patio was overflowing with people, and you had to fight to even see what was happening.”

There will also be a hot dog pop-up on the day of the competition, and the brewery’s Four Feet to Hell Northern German-Style Pilsner will be available on draft during the week of the event.

Tickets to the event are $5, with proceeds going to MANNA FoodBank.

DSSOLVR is at 63 N. Lexington Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/cuf.

With a little help from my friends

A national support group for food and beverage professionals struggling with addiction, Ben’s Friends, has relaunched its weekly meetings in Asheville.
The meetings, which began July 10, will take place at Rabbit Hole at Sunny Point Café in West Asheville every Monday, 10-11 a.m.
“The chapter welcomes anyone who has found, or is struggling to find, sobriety while working in the food and beverage industry,” according to a press release.
The organization was founded by Charleston, S.C., restaurateurs Steve Palmer and Mickey Bakst in honor of Ben Murray, a chef who struggled with alcoholism and took his own life.

“With alcohol and drugs ravishing the food and beverage community, Ben’s Friends provides a safe shelter for those restaurant employees seeking sobriety, and we are happy to be back in Asheville,” says Bakst in an email exchange with Xpress. “Having others in the industry who understand the unique stresses and pressures of restaurant life creates a strong connection for the suffering addict. Ben’s Friends is here to help anyone in the F&B industry find a path to a better life.”

Rabbit Hole at Sunny Point Café is at 9 State St. For more information, visit avl.mx/8ps.


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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