Brian Hayes of Silver Maple Construction working on the Evolution Kitchen truck
After years of working in the culinary industry, Lisa Mitchell has come closer than most to nabbing her childhood dream job.
“When I was 5 years old, the first thing I wanted to be was an ice cream lady and have an ice cream truck,” she said. “I remember being really fascinated with the idea of vending food out of a truck and making people happy.”
Now Mitchell, 45, and husband Andy, 44, are co-owners of Evolution Kitchen, a mobile eatery that will debut June 23 at the fifth annual Foodaroo
festival in Middlebury. While Evolution Kitchen won’t be serving up Firecracker ice pops or Chaco Tacos, its core concept is just as exciting: The Mitchells will rent the truck out to a changing cast of culinary characters that will peddle their wares at events in and beyond Addison County.
So far, Evolution Kitchen’s summer lineup includes the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival
, the Grift
's 20th anniversary party at Mad River Glen, and the Tour de Farms
in Vergennes. The truck will also take up temporary residence on some Saturdays in the alley next to Town Hall Theater
, featuring chefs such as Alganesh Michael of BTV Ethiopian
. A full schedule
is available online and on the truck’s Instagram
If food-truck reincarnation is a thing, the Evolution Kitchen truck has had good karma; it's had many yummy iterations. The vehicle, a 1988 GMC, began its life in Houston, Texas, where it served Mediterranean food under the alias “Kat’s Kitchen” and hot dogs as “Doggy Style Dogs.” (Said one Yelp reviewer of the latter, “The world stopped and moved in slow motion when I bit into one of their hot dogs.” Damn.)
After making the rounds in Texas, the truck was donated to the Addison County Parent/Child Center
, and then put back on the market. That's when it caught Mitchell’s eye.
“I had been dreaming about buying it and waiting for the price to come down," she said, "but just when I was ready to do it, someone just slipped in and bought it.”
Luckily, a year later, the owners put it up for sale again. Mitchell nabbed the truck for $4,000 and refurbished it with help from Silver Maple Construction
, MacIntyre Plumbing & Heating and other volunteer individuals and organizations. Earlier this month, the truck passed its health department inspection “with flying colors,” Mitchell noted.
Evolution Kitchen isn't Mitchell’s only undertaking. She and her husband run the nonprofit Middlebury Underground
and the Foodaroo
festival, both also focused on community-building through food. She also works a variety of communications jobs. So Mitchell realized she wouldn't have time to run the food truck alone.
With that in mind, she developed the truck’s current modus operandi, which she likened to a “curated Airbnb model.” Mitchell and partner chefs will determine rental costs on an individual basis, but she’s determined to make it affordable.
“This truck kind of combines a lot of things for me,” Mitchell said, “like my love of cooking and food, building community and networking with chefs, and giving them a platform to experiment and thrive.”
As construction in downtown Middlebury continues to limit traffic, Mitchell hopes Evolution Kitchen will help restaurateurs pursue catering opportunities away from their brick-and-mortar venues. She’s also working with the Better Middlebury Partnership and Neighbors, Together to bring more business downtown.
Michael Kin, the 47-year-old Aqua ViTea
art director known locally for his colorful kombucha bottle designs, is painting the truck so that its exterior showcases its core mission. Kin, once a naturalist educator for the Audubon Society in Oregon, said he was thrilled to dive into the “evolution” aspect of the project. He has painted panels on each side of the truck that together illustrate a vivid history of food and cooking.
“There are all of these traditions that will be coming out of this truck," Kin said, "and it’s the history of our learning to cook that’s gotten us to this place where you can have all these traditions in one spot.”
The truck is bright, with alternating splashes of yellow and light blue and striking red-orange accents. Kin said the color choices were inspired by Jack Black’s luchador costume in the 2006 film Nacho Libre.
While warm weather facilitates business year round in food-truck hubs such as Texas, trucks in the Northeast typically shut down in October to avoid frozen pipes and water tanks. Evolution Kitchen will spend the winter parked in the Aqua ViTea warehouse.
Meantime, Mitchell has a lot to look forward to as the Vermont summer approaches. An experienced chef herself, she anticipates cooking in the truck, and plans to obtain a liquor license further down the road.
Middlebury’s two-in-one restaurant and bakery Arcadian and Haymaker Buns
will be the first to take the wheel at Foodaroo. Arcadian chef Matt Corrente worked the festival in previous years as a chef for Two Brothers
, cooking up street eats from a tent. This year, he’ll join the other trucks that wheel in for the day, including ArtsRiot
and Sisters of Anarchy Ice Cream
Corrente and his wife, Caroline, who bakes for Haymaker, will plan their menu around the truck’s available machinery and spatial limitations. The Arcadian options will be their take on Italian street food. As for the baked goodies? They will likely remain outside the truck.
“It gets pretty hot in there,” Matt Corrente said. “We don’t want to melt the frosting on the buns.”