Ft. Lauderdale has added three food trucks to the riverside near the Andrews Avenue bridge, and all are run by former yacht crew.
The trucks — Expresso Coffee’s second location, Nacho Bizness’ second location, and the new Wholly Crepe — opened for business Friday and had an official grand opening Monday, complete with elected officials cutting ribbons.
“After coming here 12 years ago to work on boats, and now I have the mayor and city commissioners here opening my business, it’s awesome,” said Terrence Booth, owner of Wholly Crepe and former chef of the 164-foot Feadship M/Y Floridian. “It’s a bit daunting to turn around and take that step ashore.”
Booth, a native of South London, and his wife, Christine David-Booth, chief stew on the 155-foot Christensen M/Y Abbracci, came up with the idea and created the business model. Just before they were ready to open the truck, she was called away on a trip. So Booth is manning the truck with friend and fellow former yachtie Jane Ormerod, who spent 20 years as a chef on yachts, including M/Y Triple Seven and M/Y Capella C.
The trucks are set up on the north bank of the New River, just east of the Andrews Avenue bridge. The city park beside them is named for H. Wayne Huizenga, who used to own M/Y Floridian.
“I used to work for Mr. Huizenga on his boat, and now to be here running a business next to the park named for a man who gave so much to Ft. Lauderdale, and the opportunities he gave me,” Booth said, letting his thought drift off.
The skills he learned working on yachts prepared him for life ashore.
“You’re not just a chef on a yacht, you’re a provisioner and you work with all kinds of people, all nationalities,” he said. “Stews aren’t just cleaning toilets. Working in that job you get to understand what clients want. It’s personal service, and it teaches you a lot about people, especially if you’re doing it right. If you’re putting it down, you’re not doing it right.”
When the Booths decided to start a food truck business, they discovered the city-supported plan to place a few trucks on Riverwalk. Through that, Booth met Aaron Byers, owner of the food truck company Nacho Bizness and a fellow former yachtie. Byers put Booth to work on his truck one busy day to give him a glimpse of what it would be like. Afterward, Booth realized he needed to streamline his menu.
This is Byers’ second location. Unlike his first truck, this one physically belongs to the city, though Nacho Bizness runs the business inside. The same goes for Expresso Coffee, the drive-through coffee shop across the street from Maritime Professional Training (MPT) on South Andrews Avenue. Owner John Robichaud and Suzy Ludlow — both yachties from the 1990s — have contracted with the city to operate the truck for a year, and has expanded the menu to serve a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches in addition to breakfast fare such as waffles and coffee.
“We wanted Riverwalk back to what it was planned to be 20, 25 years ago,” Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said before snipping a blue ribbon marking the official opening. “There are great riverwalks all over the world, but none of them have the river we do.”
Identified with blue banners that read “Gourmet Delights”, the trucks are expected to remain in place for about a year, experimenting with opening times as the seasons and demand changes. Expect two to be open for breakfast, all three for lunch, and at least two for dinner, at least for now.
“It’s going to be trial and error, but we’ve got to be patient,” Booth said. “We just opened Friday.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.