Hardcore food van carving new markets

WHEN people think of a food van, their mind normally turns to hot dogs or soft serve ice cream.

However, one business is changing the game within the Bega Valley – and alleviating hardcore hunger in the process.

The Hard-Core Carnivore van has been a constant presence at festivals and events both within the region and further afield.

The business is owned by chef Steve Jackson, his wife Meg Jordan-Jones and Mr Jackson’s sister Sue Thalis.

Hard-Core Carnivore’s staff serve meals out of their vintage 1952 chrome mobile food van.

Mr Jackson affectionately calls his van “The Toaster” (see attached story).

Working with the van’s unique look, Mr Jackson said he aims to tap into “contemporary food trends”. 

A glance at the menu reveals an extravagant range of meals, including:

* Slow braised drunken beef cheeks on a garlic Pontiac mash with buttered baby spinach.

* Moroccan lamb kefta on wheat tortillas with roasted carrot and lentil hummus.

* Chicken and Chorizo tortillas with rocket, cheddar and a roasted tomato and chipotle salsa.

Mr Jackson said Hard-Core Carnivore loved to surprise customers, particularly at festivals.

“People’s expectations at festivals are that the food will be ordinary,” he said. 

“So they are pleasantly surprised when they see bistro style food, or ‘gourmet street food’ as we describe it. 

“They are surprised to see a pork and chorizo stuffed squid - that keeps us going.” 

Mr Jackson said the business had been well received since it started in April.

“People are getting more educated about food, through seeing TV shows and such,” he said. 

“People want better food, not Dagwood dogs or a sausage sandwich.

“We’ve noticed a trend, people at festivals like street food. 

“We do street food through to fine dining.”

Hard-Core Carnivore serves three or four dishes at lunch time and does night-time specials.

When asked what has been a fan favourite, Mr Jackson has no hesitation in saying the HCC pulled pork roll.

“A nice thing is that we have new audiences each week,” he said. 

“The menu changes, but the pulled pork roll is favourite. 

“I’d say 60 per cent of the food we sell is that pulled pork roll.”

Hard-Core has catered for weddings and numerous festivals on the Far South Coast, including the Eden Whale Festival, Narooma’s Great Southern Blues Festival and Candelo Markets.

However, the van has travelled as far as Lakes Entrance, Canberra and NSW Central Coast.

Mr Jackson and his team have covered various events such as ChromeFest and the Canberra Country Roots and Blues Festival.

Mr Jackson said Hard-Core Carnivore raises the Bega Valley’s profile.

“It’s nice to get out of the region and make people aware about here,” he said.

“It promotes the region - this is a funky, contemporary business from Bega. 

“The van has street appeal and attracts people.”

Mr Jackson said Hard-Core Carnivore was the equivalent of a full-time job, admitting that it could lead to lack of sleep.

Work begins mid-week with Mr Jackson preparing the food, before the van is based at events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Monday and Tuesday is spent cleaning up the van.

“The beautiful thing about the van is it can be mad for 2-3 days, but we compress seven days of work into that time – it’s pretty hardcore,” Mr Jackson said.

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