Things are heating up on the food front as online delivery marketplace Menulog launches across Waikato with new start-up food truck Pasta Fresca jumping on the opportunities it offers.
Hamilton entrepreneur Chris Taylor, 24, launched Pasta Fresca (Italian for Fresh pasta) late last year and has been busy travelling to events across Hamilton and the wider Waikato region.
As winter approaches and the number of events declines he has expanded his business by signing up to Menulog and offering food delivery across Hamilton.
Chris had been working as a case manager for Work and Income, but his heart has been in cooking and the hospitality industry since he was in high school.
"I always watched several cooking shows - I am a huge fan of Gordon Ramsey. And I used to help my parents cook."
He has about seven years of experience in hospitality, working for Tony's Restaurant and Bar in Auckland, Burgerfuel and Furnace Steakhouse in Hamilton.
"After Covid, I was a bit over my job at Work and Income, because it became too repetitive. It feels good to be back in hospo, I enjoy it a lot. The food truck was something I wanted to do for quite a while and pasta is one of the dishes I always enjoyed most, especially my dad's mac'n'cheese."
He says that he has not seen many venues selling only pasta.
"In Auckland I have seen a couple of pasta food trucks, but I found their sauces quite watery and thought I could do it better."
So, he bought a former ambulance and together with his partner Kaleb, rebuilt the inside of the van, apart from the gas and electrical connection. "We named the van Appa, after a character in the Avatar series, because that's the series we were watching at that time."
Chris served his first meal in August last year at the Gourmet to Go event at Tamahere School. "It was a chicken carbonara with green pasta."
He also travelled to the Equifest in Taupo three months later and was surprised how popular his food truck was. "I sold out by 2pm, but I had expected to keep going until 6."
For a four-hour event, Chris has to calculate 8 to 12 hours prepping time. When he is cooking fresh up to order, he can have the meal ready in 6 to 7 minutes.
Now, as it is getting colder outside and there are fewer events, Chris says delivery services like Menulog and UberEats give him security.
"They allow me to be more independent, I don't have to rely on the events and food truck locations. I can even cook from home and be open for more days of the week."
He has just started studying a Bachelor of Business at University of Waikato this semester, while running his truck. "Thanks to the delivery services I can be more flexible and choose not to be open when I am busy with uni."
Chris also cut down on his waste. "When I was doing events only, I had to throw out a lot of my stock, cause it wouldn't last until the next event. Now I can use it up while it is still good."
He has a six choice menu, but does custom orders as well. "I found people like it simple and don't want too many options." Kids usually love his Mac'n'Cheese.
"I don't often have any crazy orders, but one time a kid requested a "Shrek sauce" and wanted a pesto and mint sauce with the pasta. I'm not quite sure what the Italians would think about that though," he says.
His other top seller is his Carbonara. "A lady at the Waikato show said to me I did the best carbonara she ever had. Compliments in hospo are rare but they are what makes my job worth doing."
Menulog's delivery service will be rolling out in 23 cities across New Zealand. To celebrate the launch in Hamilton, they have removed all delivery fees for three months before moving to a tiered system with an average delivery fee of $5 and as low as $1.99 during off-peak times.
You can visit their website here.
You can find Chris and his Pasta Fresca food truck here.