Gather where they roam.
Cooking with interesting native ingredients from Kawakawa and Kumara to Manuka. Trying new techniques and revolutionising old ones. Combining cuisines for completely new approaches to eating - the past decade has been a golden era for food and cooking innovation.
Now, we can add the spaces we work and cook in, to those innovations. Gather and Roam, a food truck with a twist, had the idea that they could be a mobile outfit with a permanent eatery space, to give them the best of both worlds.
“We wanted to do something different than we had done before,” says chef and owner Simon Wright.
“We thought the truck would give us versatility to work in markets that occur on the weekends and it would give us flexibility to work wherever we wanted.”
Simon invested in a Sprinter van that fits into both their restaurant space in Whangamata, but is also a self-contained kitchen, which allows for more agility in accepting jobs in and around the local area.
“I don’t have to just be a restaurant,” he says. “I can pop up and do a wedding, or I can go to a market and work from there.”
Where the kitchen meets the road.
While the idea of a food truck is well known, Gather and Roam’s van takes dining out to a new level.
The versatility of the van, with its full industrial kitchen and its ease of driving, allows Simon to both connect and interact with local producers, while also foraging for the perfect ingredients for his dishes.
“I try to use as many small producers as often as possible,” Simon says.
The Sprinter takes him on the road to track down the best seasonal, fresh produce to bring back to the eatery space in Whangamata.
“The good thing about having my own truck is that nothing is off limits,” he says.
“I find different ingredients and bits and pieces to give my recipes an extra something that leaves people feeling surprised.”
When trying to find the perfect truck that would convert well into a kitchen, Simon always had the Sprinter in the back of his mind. After driving a Mercedes-Benz as his day-to-day car, it was an easy decision to stay with the brand for the van.
“There’s something about Mercedes that sparks your passion.”
Simon needed this van to have many uses: it had to be a functional kitchen, a mobile food truck, and easy to drive on long journeys. Luckily, the flexibility of the Sprinter means it was perfect to customise for the job.
“It ticked all the boxes,” he says, “and as an added bonus, it drives like a car rather than a truck.”
Ease of driving was particularly important to Simon, as it was essential for the van to be nimble when encountering different terrains and locations.
No matter if he was catering a country wedding, or a city event, the Sprinter could blend in and hold its own.
A van is what you make it.
This wide range of uses also meant that Simon could customise the van for his exact specifications.
“In terms of cooking equipment, I have a whole variety of components in there; a convection oven, gas oven, griddle, chargrill fire, deep fryer, double sink, long bench space and 3 fridges and a freezer, as well bench space.”
“It’s a state of the art design.”
For Simon, breaking down conventions around the typical dining experience were important, because he found that he could bring along his experience in fine dining, no matter if his restaurant was a bricks and mortar location, or a mobile van.
“At the end of the day, fine dining is cooking extreme, and you can always bring in fine dining techniques, ethics and work concepts to the style of cooking you do and add your own twist to it,” he says.
The Gather and Roam food truck and restaurant is helping to keep twisting the food industry in New Zealand, to keep it fresh - and we look forward to seeing how the landscape changes in the next few years.