Behind the window of local food trucks
As most kitchen employees are aware, operating hours are filled with constant movement, steadily rising temperatures and no time for small talk.
Kevin Brune is no stranger to the hectic rush of the culinary life. His eatery, however, also lacks the luxury of space. That's because Kevin's Voodoo Kitchen is a food truck.
As such, all of the appliances found in a kitchen, such as a refrigerator, prep station, oven, stove and a three-compartment sink, are situated side by side within the confines of a transportable van.
Despite the compact size, Voodoo Kitchen still manages to quickly send out orders upon orders of Louisiana-style Creole and Cajun food to its seemingly never-ending stream of customers.
Kevin, who owns the business with his wife Diana, has a background deeply rooted in Louisiana. That rich history serves as the inspiration for his food truck's products.
"Our family used to always get together, and there was always cooking going on," he said. "If my sister was cooking something and she stepped away, one of us would step in and finish it. So it's always kind of been a family thing."
Kevin noticed a lack of authentic Cajun flavor in Florida when he moved here in 1989. He first tossed around the idea of a food truck after attending a food truck lunch during a conference in Los Angeles about a decade later. He started Voodoo Kitchen Food Truck in September 2013 as homage to his brother.
"We were really close. [My brother] loved to cook and he taught me how to do some stuff and it was something he wanted to do. He passed away in February of 2013 and that was when I just decided that that was the time to do it," he said.
On the menu are classic Louisiana dishes, such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, étouffées and gumbo. Kevin makes sure to get his ingredients from the area as well. The crawfish and sandwich bread come from Louisiana, while the shrimp comes from Florida, Louisiana or Mississippi.
Kevin's personal favorite, his pastalaya, switches out rice for spaghetti, yet keeps all the traditional flavors of jambalaya. Although it's not a dish he makes regularly, due to its intricacy, it often catches the taste buds of loyal customers. Used in it is the trinity of vegetables, consisting of onions, bell peppers and celery, which serves as the base for many Cajun dishes.
Having a smaller area does not necessarily mean smaller issues. Problems arise because there isn't always space to store a bountiful inventory, like there is in restaurants.
"You have a storage unit, you have a commissary or you've got different places where you have to go to do everything you need to do," Kevin said.
Voodoo Kitchen's generator was in repair, and the Brunes had to rent out another one in order to keep working, wherein lies another problem specific to food trucks.
"We have all the same stuff a restaurant might have, we have plumbing issues, electrical issues, gas issues, but we also have mechanical issues that restaurants don't have to deal with," he said.
Additionally, health inspections are more frequent, because each city the truck travels to requires its own examinations to be done.
However, the customers make the trials and tribulations all worth it.
"Someone who's never tried this type of food before, and they come back to the truck and they say, 'This is awesome. I've never tried a crawfish. This is incredible,' and they're just overjoyed," Diana said. "That's really rewarding."
Kayo Roman, a Deltona resident who attended the Orange City Food Truck Bazaar, said she had been curious about trying out food trucks for a while.
"I've had Cajun food before, but I haven't had it for a while. I'm not sure if there's another one around, so I figured [to eat] while you're here," she said.
Voodoo Kitchen is based in Orlando, yet can be found in other Central Florida locations up to an hour away.
"Here, it's more of a social gathering. Some of the local promoters will sometimes hire a band. Families will bring pop-up chairs and tents and make a night out of it," Brune said. "Plus, there's food you might not be able to find anywhere else in Orlando and you can't get it every day. It's just whenever the next truck event is."
Noelle Campbell is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @noellecampz or email her at NoelleC@CentralFloridaFuture.com.