Karl Cooney is the charming co-owner of Surry Hills staple, Yulli’s in Crown Street. He’s also part of the team behind Sydney’s latest and some would argue cutest food truck, the Veggie Patch. With herb gardens, solar panels and award-winning vegie burgers wrapped up in a barn on wheels, it’s already made it to our favourite dining list. We talk to Karl about how it all came about.
You’ve got a well-loved and patronised restaurant in Yulli’s, so why food trucks?
Let’s just say I’m a glutton for punishment! It’s new, different and fun and I thought ‘let’s just give it a crack’. It’s a challenge in every way. We’ve had to ‘unthink’ everything we take for granted with a conventional restaurant – even the basic stuff like sourcing power.
How did the Veggie Patch come together?
It’s a collaboration between two businesses, my vego restaurant and bar Yulli’s, and East Sydney design company TMOD (Georgie & Milenka pictured). We wanted to create accessible, restaurant-quality food with an innovative, artistic edge.
Why vego and what’s the philosophy behind the van?
Half of the team are vegetarian for ethical reasons, but we’re not trying to be preachy about it. We just want to give people the option of enjoying a great vegetarian meal once a week, or as many times a week as they can because, it’s a lot better for the environment. We’re devoted to using seasonal produce sourced from local growers. Our whole food philosophy extends on the ‘paddock-to-plate’ movement. We want to offer minimally processed, full-flavoured cuisine aimed at reconnecting growers with diners.
Tell us a bit about Spud.
We could have gone down the route of buying a prefab van, decked out and ready to go. In hindsight that would have been much easier! Instead, we bought Spud – a friend’s old campervan. We installed new solar panels on the roof to power our fridges, basic appliances and lights, and we decked Spud out with planter boxes and macramé potholders filled with herbs, which will garnish the food and be used in our cooking. And Spud won’t be guzzling petrol because he’s powered by recycled vegetable oil straight from the vat.
Finally, what’s on the menu?
It will change with the seasons, but right now there’s our zucchini and chickpea fritter burger with beetroot relish, slow-roasted tomatoes, caramelised onions, spinach, coriander and a dill-cumin mayo and our felafel burger, with fresh radish, pickled cabbage and a cumin and tahini dressing. And you should definitely try our raw pumpkin pasta.
Salivating yet? The City’s free smartphone app, which will help you locate the trucks any time of the day or night, is due to launch in the next week or so. Sign up to sydneyfoodtrucks.com.au to be the first to find out when it’s available for download. To locate the whereabouts of the Veggie Patch in the meantime, check out their Facebook page.