Here we are on Pt 7 of our Q&A series with local food creators (We’ll call the “Dousing the Fire” series a separate entity for now). We first met Heidi at the onset of Covid when everyone was in full panic mode. As CCC is a site advocating for the food and drink industry on the Sunshine Coast, we did what we could to help by creating ads of who was open providing take away to the community. Salt & Swine was one of those businesses. That’s called “trial by fire”. Since then, Katrina has learned to navigate the current landscape and is doing some great food. Read on…
What eventually got you to owning a food truck? What were you doing prior?
It’s been a dream of mine since I was a teenager growing up here to be an entrepreneur and to cook for people as a career. After graduating highschool, I pursued post-secondary education in business administration and then landed a government job, first in Ottawa, and then in Sechelt where I spent fifteen years. Last summer we got a chance to do a pop up in the food truck that was parked at Bricker Cider in West Sechelt. We were there two days a week and it gave us an awesome opportunity to test out our menu and the food truck lifestyle. Needless to say, through all the challenges, I loved every minute of it. Aside from the pop ups at Bricker, we also set up a food tent at the local night markets, Persephone Farmers Market, and Tapworks. It was such a busy, exciting summer. Salt & Swine was so well supported and the food was so well received, that in October I left my full time job and started focusing on Salt & Swine full time.
What was the decision in Mexican food being your focus?
Ever since I was a child Mexican food was my favourite. My dad used to take us across the border to Washington where we would always eat at these “holes in wall” he would call them. They weren’t fancy, but the Mexican food was so delicious and simple. The best thing would always be the warm, fresh tortilla chips right out of the fryer and tangy salsa. I’ve always been chasing that taste, and I’ve just never found it on this side of the border. When I really wanted to recreate that experience I had to make it myself. At first we weren’t sure that Mexican was going to be the only thing we focused on, but it was so well received and brought me so much happiness that it was a no brainer!
What would you say are the pluses and minuses in running a “mobile restaurant” in comparison to a brick and mortar establishment?
Well I can’t really compare, as we haven’t had the full brick and mortar experience yet… ask me again in a year lol. We have had a taste of it though, as we were in one spot for a while during the COVID-19 lockdown when we were prepping and serving out of Harmony Hall, and we definitely enjoyed the easier logistics. When people say that owning a restaurant is hard, I think about what we’ve gone through the past year and a half… prepping our food in various commissary kitchens, carrying it all around town to wherever we are, setting up our tent and then our trailer, never having a real home base, being affected by the weather, and not being able to keep up with demand or store enough of what we need in our small space. One of the obvious pluses in running a mobile restaurant is low financial overhead, but believe me you pay for it in sweat equity!
How many kilometres a week would you say you’re racking up?
Now that’s a good question, a lot for sure. Even though we try our best to keep good inventory lists and communicate, it seems inevitable that we are running across town multiple times per day. Like I say, storage in the trailer is very limited. In terms of travel with the trailer, right now I only move it a couple times a week and we stay in Gibsons so we don’t log too many towing kilometres.
When you’re home with the kids and you’re making dinner, what’s it going to be? Mexican food or…???
When the kids and I have time together at home we usually make kid friendly comfort food, like homemade chicken strips and roast potatoes. Our favourite make at home dinner though is DIY sushi. We all make our rolls exactly how we like them and I’ll say I’ve gotten a lot better at rolling sushi after rolling hundreds of burritos!
If you were to decide to start a second truck, Mexican again or something different?
I know it would be crazy logistically, but it would be awesome to do something different. Last year we did a pub menu at Tapworks on Thursdays, “locals nights”, and we loved that menu. We still get asked when we are going to have a pub night again and still get comments on our burgers. I would love to convert that menu into its own truck.
You’re about to go on TV to compete in a cooking contest. What’s your signature dish you feel the most confident about?
If I were to go on a cooking contest, I would love to do something like ‘Chopped’ where you need to be more improvisational and creative on the spot. The thing I love most about cooking and what I’m most confident of is creating something out of nothing and thinking on my feet. It’s how I’ve come up with some of my best ideas ha ha!
This goes back to the truck vs restaurant but tell us about your upcoming venture.
Well this past fall we signed a lease for a small storefront location on North Road and Kiwanis Way. Like I say, we have worked so hard over the past year and a half without having a real “home base” and we really felt like the next step would be to secure our own kitchen location. I’m so excited to be able to have everything in one spot and expand our menu to include things that were just too difficult in the truck (like fish tacos, dessert, and breakfast!). We are also looking forward to selling some of our products packaged to take home, like our tortilla chips, salsa, and pickled jalapenos. The space will have limited seating at first, in keeping with COVID regulations, but eventually will have expanded seating and will be licenced so that we can finally serve margaritas with our food! We are really looking forward to welcoming everyone to our new home early in the new year.
Do you see a Salt & Swine Empire?
I will say that I’m super proud of what we have created up to this point. It’s been an unbelievable team effort and everyday I’m blown away by the support and dedication shown by the entire Salt & Swine team, including my friends and family. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I have faith that we are going to keep challenging ourselves to see out the vision that we’ve been dreaming about since day one.
You mentioned you’ll be packaging your salsa. Are you hoping to grow that beyond our humble shores?
Right now I am committed to seeing out my plan here on the Coast. I am a born and raised Sunshine Coaster and what I’m creating is what I always wanted to have here. One thing that’s always stung a little growing up here is not having all the great food options like in the city. It’s more important to me to do the best I can here in Gibsons for the locals, than to think about reaching out to other markets. This has all been such a dream come true and I have my community to thank for that.
HOURS AND LOCATIONS
Tapworks Brewing Company:
Taco Tuesdays 4 pm – 8 pm (or sell out)
The 101 Brewhouse + Distillery:
Wednesday – Friday 12 pm – 8 pm (or sell out)
Persephone Brewing Company:
Saturday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm (or sell out)