Food trucks keeping it simple, delicious

 

The food may travel fast, but it's certainly not fast food. 

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"There's a balance … if you start rushing it, it turns into fast food," said Sergiy Cherueuko, owner and operator of the Robin Bobbin food truck in Estevan. 

His words of wisdom come shortly after his food truck, which largely identifies with pizza enthusiasts, hit the streets of the Energy City earlier this year in May, adding to the variety of food truck options that are now available within the city. 

However, unlike many others who run their food trucks on a part-time basis, Cherueuko and his wife Natalia are looking to go full-time with Robin Bobbin. Through the eyes of many, operating a food truck on a full-time basis is an endeavor not worth pursuing, but for Cherueuko, who's originally from Ukraine, it's just another adventure, one he can enjoy with the rest of his family. 

"I traveled all around the world and worked in many restaurants," he said, referring to his past experiences with cooking. He noted some of those experiences took place on the water aboard large cruise ships.  

"I stopped traveling because my family began to grow," he said. 

In 2008, his wife and now 12-year-old son moved to Estevan where he found employment at the Tower Cafe. Cherueuko said the staff there really helped him get settled and become familiar with the community. They ultimately helped him reach his goal of operating Robin Bobbin, but not before a short stint in the oil fields. Cherueuko said he hopes to run a restaurant one day, but is using Robin Bobbin as a stepping-stone. 

"It's easier to start with the trailer as opposed to a restaurant," he said. "My wife helps me a lot in the trailer and with accounting. My son helps with the pizza boxes and cleaning." 

Their daughter, who joined the family shortly after their arrival in Canada, often calls the trailer their "little pizza house." 

Cherueuko is pleased with the business so far, and said the community feedback has been positive, but admitted it's a lot of work and that the process of making pizzas is slow. He said in order to keep his business running, it's important he keeps things simple and his pizza's reflect the food truck's identity. That means using natural cheese, using high-quality sauce and making fresh dough everyday. 

Riley Beatty, current owner and operator of the Eatz Beatz food truck, which has been in operation since late 2013, agrees wholeheartedly with the idea of keeping things simple. 

"I'd rather make five food items really good, rather than 20 that are just okay," Beatty said. 

Beatty runs his food truck business on a part-time basis, and he said his drive to operate the trailer derived from sheer passion for high-quality food, something his friends often said was lacking in the Energy City. He suggests anyone looking to open a similar business be aware of what they're getting into. 

"Some people will go, 'hey, you fed like 40 or 50 people at lunch,' but they don't realize you have to pay for fuel to run the generator, pay people who helped you out that day and the food itself costs good money, too," he said. "It's a lot of work." 

The unpredictable weather is something residents in the community are used to, but for food truck operators, it's a factor that always has to be taken into account when a day is being planned. 

Both Beatty and Cherueuko get up early in the mornings to smoke the meat and prepare the dough, respectively. Trailer and kitchen inspections are part of the routine as well, and upon completion, the two head out to their designated areas in the city, which are largely comprised of isolated spots on commercial properties, like parking lots belonging to larger businesses. 

Judy Pilloud, city clerk for the City of Estevan, said interest in food trucks from a business standpoint has increased since 2013. 

"The amount that are in the city have increased," Pilloud said. "People like convenience and it was an avenue that was previously not really satisfied in the city." 

Cherueuko is looking forward to remaining open throughout the winter, and despite frequent reminders of the frigid winters that awaits, he remains optimistic that people will still want the savory pizzas his business has to offer. 

"If you make it with love, they will come," he smiled. 

When asked why he chose to call it Robin Bobbin, Cherueuko said it's the name of a restaurant he used to work at in Ukraine. 

"It reminds me of home," he said.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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