Asheville’s Food Truck Frenzy: Meals on Wheels

It all started with 12 lunches.
“I was painting trim underneath this desk in this office building,” Jeremiah Jackson said. “And the secretary was complaining about how they couldn’t get 12 meals made and delivered there. So, I popped my head up and said, ‘I can do it.’”
And it was this simple interaction in 2013 that led to Jackson creating the Farm-to-Fender food truck in Asheville. Jackson, with an extensive culinary background as an executive chef, was working construction and landscaping to pay the bills. He wasn’t finding his ideal outlet for his passion of food and cooking. But, with that small start of 12 lunches, his orders and customers spiraled out from there. Now he has two food trucks, the catering company, and a café of the same name.
“After that, I’d get another gig, and from those events, I’d book more jobs,” Jackson said. “Every time we were feeding people, the people wanted more. And that’s when we decided to start the food truck.”

“This is an eccentric area with all kinds of different people interested in different things, and food trucks provide that kind of atmosphere.” —Chris Cogswell

Over the last few years, dozens of food trucks have sprung up in Asheville and greater Western North Carolina. Parked at local breweries, sporting events, outdoor music venues, or simply at some open lot around the corner, these mobile hotspots are a growing trend in the culinary scene, one that seemingly has no end in sight.
“It’s putting high-quality, restaurant-style food out of a tin can,” said Chris Cogswell, co-owner of the Appalachian Chic food truck. “This is an eccentric area with all kinds of different people interested in different things, and food trucks provide that kind of atmosphere—from deli sandwiches to carnival food to every kind of ethnic cuisine you could imagine.”
“Every truck has their own personality,” Jackson added. “You’re tasting the personality of that chef and of the distinct and delicious cuisines.”
Cogswell estimated that since he launched his truck almost two years ago, there have been about 20 or so new vehicles on the scene. And with a city as welcoming and collaborative as Asheville, the saying “the more, the merrier” really does ring true, especially in terms of the farm-to-table movement.
“All of our ingredients are locally sourced, with everything made from scratch,” Cogswell said. “The influences with our sandwiches are southern-rooted, with our meats and veggies coming from farms around the area.”
With a name like Farm-to-Fender, Jackson also procures his ingredients (milk, cream, peppers, meats, potatoes, etc.) from local farms and producers.

Asheville’s Food Truck Frenzy: Meals on Wheels

El Kimchi co-owner Don Lee (right) and his food truck crew, which includes his wife (left).

“When you’re talking to me or any other of these executive chefs in these food trucks, you’re learning about that farmer and their products that we directly talk with,” he said. “And with that, you’re only three steps away from where your food comes from, and not thousands of miles away and shipped here in a freezer container.”
A mainstay in the Asheville food truck scene is El Kimchi, which is Korean-style barbecue with a Mexican flair (tacos, burritos, quesadillas). Bouncing around the city almost everyday, El Kimchi is in demand, and probably somewhere nearby.
“Our mission is that the customers like what we’re doing, that maybe it’s something new that they’ve never tried before,” said El Kimchi co-owner Don Lee. “People here are interested in trying new things, and they like it, which makes us very happy.”
Lee moved to Asheville from Seoul, South Korea, 11 years ago. His daughter had been an international exchange student in Western North Carolina, and Lee and his wife fell in love with the area.
“We just found the mountains here such a beautiful place,” Lee said. “My wife was a chef back in Seoul, and I also worked in restaurants. When we came to Asheville, we decided to open the food truck and bring our favorite Korean foods to the people here.”
Though Cogswell grew up just down the road in Brevard, Jackson found his way to Asheville from a whirlwind culinary excursion around the world that included stops in Charleston, SC, and New Zealand.
“I like that I’m taking ingredients from my backyard and making food that people enjoy. It’s about sharing that love and passion with others,” Jackson said. “For all of us food truck owners and chefs, every day is an adventure. Those mornings you hit the road with the mountains right in front of you—it’s living your dream.”

Meals to-go from Farm-to-Fender (left) and Appalachian Chic (right).

This post is adapted from our annual Welcome to Western North Carolina magazine. Click here to read more online, or click here to order your own free copy.