(PHOTOS) Wisdom and communal cooking: Food for Thought’s Maggie King helps Casper’s food trucks fill hungry bellies


CASPER, Wyo. — Spring is in the air and a series of Casper food trucks are criss-crossing the city to feed hungry bellies, but how do food trucks manage food preparation and storage in such tight spaces?

In the case of food trucks like J&D’s Cajun Kitchen, Holy Guacamole and Papa’s Pork Chops, the answer is Wyoming Food for Thought Commercial Kitchens and Community Spacewith the help and guidance of kitchen manager Maggie King.

Food trucks and other food vendors who need a place to prepare and store food can rent time and space in the communal kitchen located inside the 420 W. First St. building. They can also use the space as a “pop-up” restaurant for special events and parties.

“We’re about to do our fifth party where we’re renting out the kitchen and the space,” J&D Cajun owner Josh Boutte said Friday, adding that some of the company’s parties included DJs, bands live and Skull Tree. Brewing beer served behind the bar inside the Food for Thought space.

Joshua Boutte works in the fryers at J&D’s Cajun Kitchen food truck in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

J&D’s Cajun will be parked at Casper Cigar on Friday night and outside the Black Tooth Brewery over the weekend, and the food they serve is possible in part thanks to Food’s storage and kitchen space. for Thought. The small business also benefited from King’s kitchen wisdom.

“Maggie definitely helped figure out how to put our kitchen together,” Boutte said. “She was a great wealth of knowledge.”

The commercial kitchen includes freezer and refrigerator storage space for small businesses. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

Wyoming Food for Thought executive director Jamie Purcell said Monday that King is critical to both what is already happening inside Casper’s downtown community space and what is planned for his future.

“It’s easy to have the facility, but to have the knowledge and the know-how and also the personality to work with diverse populations [is not]“said Purcell. “She went to culinary school. She’s a cook. She learnt. She runs her own business. She has worked in large and small kitchens so she has been instrumental this past year working with our suppliers and helping J&D start from an idea.

Angelina Saldivar places an order with a customer at the Holy Guacamole food truck in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The shared kitchen space is not isolated and cut off from the rest of Wyoming Food for Thought’s vision of finding “local, sustainable solutions to hunger.” Food for Thought is known for its food bag program which provides food to children and families, having delivered approximately 1.8 million bags since 2013. The grassroots organization also runs a food rescue program which began in 2015.

This program involves recovering food that would otherwise be wasted in kitchens. In partnership with Casper College, Food for Thought was able to get the program approved as part of a national effort known as the Campus Kitchens Project.

Mac and Debbie McCullar help customers at the window of Papa’s Pork Chops food truck. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

The program saves food and packages it into TV-style dinners, distributing them to organizations throughout the community. Food trucks working with King can participate in the program.

“We get this wonderful food from [participating organizations] then we make TV dinners out of them and then we give them to the kids and that’s what I’ve been working on this week,” King said Monday, showing meals including foods like chili, sloppy joes, chicken , roast beef and mash. potatoes.

King showing TV dinners that are part of Food for Thought’s Food Rescue program. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

“It’s the cute breakfasts,” King continued, holding up a container. “They will have this breakfast, which is yogurt and granola with a breakfast burrito. It’s homemade granola and fresh berries. We make the granola from leftovers from the Great Harvest Bakery. The strawberries came from the Ludovico restaurant when it closed and the yogurt came to us from Natural Grocers. And so we’ll give that to the kids for breakfast.

King with breakfast option. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

As for the commercial kitchen space, King said one thing it enables is for Food for Thought to function as a small business incubator.

“Having a food truck is very expensive,” she said. “If you just want to try, we are here for you. You can use the kitchen. It’s $20 an hour. The health department likes food trucks to store their food here because the food truck will shut down at night. So we rent refrigerators, freezers, dry storage and a place to prepare food. »

As long as someone has a tax ID and knows how to handle food safely (King and Food for Thought offer food safety courses), commercial kitchen offerings ensure people can legally sell produce. food in the state.

Five star restaurant equipment repair doing repair work on kitchen equipment Monday. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

In addition to helping food trucks and food vendors, the community space is a place where Food for Thought hosts markets. King said markets provide a place for vendors to sell their food, and Food for Thought is exploring new options for vendors to sell out of the downtown space.

Food for Thought also grows food in community gardens, King said food vendors are also encouraged to use this food in their recipes.

“It will be inexpensive for them and it’s high quality,” she said.

Another idea on the table is to make the space a place where food trucks can congregate in the parking lot, with tables inside for customers. King said it could come in handy, especially on bad weather days.

“We’re on the cusp of so many different things,” she said.

Purcell said Food for Thought ran into hurdles after buying the downtown building three years ago.

All Food for Thought amenities are available to anyone who rents the kitchen. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

“We thought it would be easy,” she said. “We’re going to tear down the facade, build a two-storey greenhouse, turn the kitchen into three kitchens and it’ll become a market hall, right? I’m so excited. I invited the city. I was like, “Come see what we’re going to do”, and they walked through the door and they said, “Cool. Have you checked for asbestos? Have you checked the lead? Have you spoken to an architect?

On top of all of this, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and caused its own headaches. Additionally, Wyoming’s food freedom law saw some changes right after Food for Thought purchased the building, affecting some aspects of the organization’s vision for the space. Nevertheless, King’s arrival on board is something that restores Purcell’s optimism.

“[The] The beauty is that Maggie came over a year ago and was able to do a proof of concept to really show, before we started construction, what this building is capable of? What does the community really need and want? said Purcell. “To sum up, we own this facility and as part of our desire to not just give people bootstraps, but actually help them up, not give them a ladder with rungs missing, but actually give them help them build the ladder they need to get out of poverty. … That’s what this building encompasses.

“Because we have all the other rooms and rooms and now we have the kitchen and we have the expertise. So the desire is just to help create this local food system and help local growers and producers who want to grow.

Another thing that Purcell brought up is that Wyoming Food for Thought accepts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in its local markets. The next Farmers Market is scheduled for Saturday, April 16. Food for Thought will then be at the Beacon Club on Thursday April 21 for Thankful Thursday.

“And then April 22 is Earth Day, and we’re going to be doing a lot of garden prep,” Purcell said. “Everyone is welcome to come.

This Earth Day event will take place at the Food for Thought Center at 900 Saint John Street.

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