New Orleans gets its first permanent food truck lot this week. Deja Vieux Food Park (1681 Religious St., 504-248-9553; www.dejavieuxfoodpark.com) is a joint venture between Ross Baudy, his wife Sharonda Baudy and Grant DeFilippo. Ross spoke with Gambit about the food truck lot.
What did it take to start the state's first food truck lot?
Baudy: My wife and I moved back to New Orleans about eight years ago. She was interested in getting a food truck, and we happened to get a food trailer instead. Right around that time, the city changed the laws; they were not permitting food trailers anymore, only food trucks. So I went and visited a couple of food truck parks — in Austin (Texas) and Florida — and one day we figured out that we could get the trailer parked and permitted in a permanent location. We thought it was a great idea that we had seen work in other cities.
We did a lot of research and I spoke with food truck lot owners in Washington, Colorado and Texas, and I got a feel for what their cities were looking for them to do as far as the food trucks' ordinances and operating (permits) and some of the conveniences that food trucks need. We built our concept off of all of these concepts. They gave me a lot of good information and helped us make an outline, so when we went to the (New Orleans) City Planning Commission, we had a general idea of how we could operate.
It was much more challenging than we originally anticipated, with all the different agencies we had to work with and all the different rules. We went through a year and a half of dealing with the city and the City Council trying to get the proper ordinances in place. There were no city ordinances for this, so essentially we had to work with all these agencies to get all the food truck ordinances in place.
We worked with the [New Orleans Health Department] for a month, because of the regulations in terms of them dumping drain water and recycling oil and stuff like that. So we've got a place where (food trucks) can dump their drain water, get fresh water, plug into power and recycle cooking oil. We have a second phase planned where we will sell propane and build a commissary kitchen in the building behind us.
What other amenities does the lot have?
B: It's an outdoor venue. We built a walk-up bar out of a shipping container. There's no inside seating because it's an all-outdoor venue. There will be seating in front of the bar, and there are two restrooms in a shipping container. We have a 600-square-foot covered patio in the center of the lot, so we'll have some TVs there and seating. My wife's (food trailer) will be the only permanent fixture, and we'll be able to rotate up to six food trucks, either daily or weekly. We've gotten 25 applications so far. Based on our zoning, we have to get a special event permit to have live music, so we intend to do live music at least once a month. Outside of that, we'll have a projection screen for movie nights, and we'll do tailgating for all the games.
What's the concept of your wife's food trailer?
B: It's called Soulsation Kitchen. She does breakfast and brunch all day. She has some traditional breakfast items and some not-so-traditional items with a soul food twist. We did a trial run earlier this year, and the breakfast thing just kind of exploded with the (Ernest N. Morial) Convention Center people, Walmart workers, all the industrial and Port (of New Orleans) employees. She opened at 5 a.m. and there was a line, so she'll be open at 5 for breakfast, but the rest of the trucks will open at 10 a.m. for lunch. During the week, we'll be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays we'll stay open probably till 2 a.m.