Zach Ware is just your typical incoming senior at Mahomet-Seymour High School.
“I’m into friends and cars and girls and business,” he said. ” Just a regular 17-year-old boy.”
Only, I don’t know many 17-year-olds who have started their own mobile food trucks. With the support of his family, especially his mom — who once owned her own cafe — Ware has launched The Crave Truck, a mobile food operation selling street waffles in Champaign and Urbana.
Street waffles are a chewier version of a typical “American” Belgian waffle. Instead of batter, they are made from dough; the concept is popular all over Europe and in larger cities. Ware got the idea when his family was watching an episode of Bobby Flay’s “Throwdown” that featured a street waffle truck in New York City.
“We’re a foodie family,” said mom Marisa Anstey.
Ware, who is a bit of gearhead and has worked in a body shop, bought the truck in December. He then fully outfitted it with a kitchen, carefully measuring and using every inch of space. He purchased some equipment used on eBay to keep costs down, and even sold his own car to help fund the project. He says he pretty much has worked on the truck every minute he’s not at school or with his friends.
The end result is that The Crave Truck has a mobile kitchen fully certified by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department. Ware developed a business plan and did his market research on the kids in his Mahomet neighborhood. His 13-year-old sister helps out with the truck and he is employing some of his friends to work for him.
Ware plans to use proceeds from the truck to help fund his college education. He hopes to be accepted at the University of Illinois, and would continue to operate the truck while in school.
“It still seems kind of crazy to me that I got this up off the ground,” he said.
The Crave Truck’s waffles range from the classic at $3.25 to a whole-grain version ($4) and one that is gluten-free ($5). Toppings include whipped cream, nutella, ice cream, bacon fresh fruit and more; they range in price from $1-2, although most are a dollar. The Crave Truck also has its own line of coffee (Crave Coffee, of course). The waffles are made to order and are meant to be eaten while hot. Ware and Antsey plan to offer specials, especially seasonal ones; they are very open to feedback. Currently, The Crave Truck accepts cash only, but is working on a credit/debit system for the future.
During our interview, I tried the whole-grain version sprinkled with powdered sugar and strawberries on top. It was a delicious treat, although the portion size wasn’t enough to be a complete meal (at least not a lunch). As expected the dough was chewier than a typical Belgian waffle.
“This whole food truck culture can absolutely be supported by Champaign-Urbana,” Anstey said. “There should be more, with the diversity of this community that includes a college campus.”
You can find The Crave Truck at Urbana’s Market at the Square and it is often at Tires Plus in Champaign, and it has plans to expand its locations soon. The best way to keep track of The Crave Truck is to follow it on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.