FREDERICTON – Keith Phillippe hasn’t always been in the food truck business. He’s been a sailor, a criminal law practitioner, and now he owns GastroGnomes, a food truck that serves up food around the Capital City and changes its menu from season to season.
How did your business get started?
We had a restaurant in Nova Scotia. We sold it and then opened a restaurant in Fredericton called Ten Resto. When we sold that restaurant, we decided it was time to get back out and get mobile. We spent most of six years traveling, five of them on a sailboat, and we missed being outside. So we had the food truck built when we were moving out of the restaurant.
Have you found that people respond well to your food truck?
Yes, we’ve been really pleased. We see a lot of new people who have become regulars and we still [serve] people who used to be regular restaurant [customers].
How would you describe what you serve?
I’d describe it as “global eclectic,” which is a really impressive way of saying, “I get to cook whatever I feel like.” On the truck, we basically change the menu every season. This year’s focus is primarily tacos, poutines with a heavy emphasis on gluten-free items and vegan items.
What are some of the unique challenges of working in a food truck as opposed to a restaurant?
First of all, when a food truck has an issue, the expenses are astronomical because you are dealing with a vehicle as well as a kitchen. The other obvious one is the heat. On Saturday we did a wedding, and I took the temperature actually standing right in front of that flat top and it was 158 degrees Fahrenheit inside the cabinet that the thermometer was reading. My little spice shakers started melting.
How do you cope with the heat?
You stay hydrated (laughs).
What are your plans for the future?
I’ve got this far in life without having made plans for the future. We’ll just keep enjoying life. We’ll do this as long as we enjoy it. One of the other things I’ve done up till now is teach cooking classes at Sobeys just because I enjoy the teaching. That program is ending, so I’m not sure what I’m doing in the future.
So you’ve been in the food industry your whole life?
No, I’ve been in the food industry for the last 14, 15 years. Before that, I was a sailor for six years. Before that, I practiced criminal law for 17 years.
But you like the food truck the best.
For now. It’s always for now. I liked doing whatever it was I was doing at the time. And when I made a change it was because it was just time to move on to new challenges.