One aspect of the health code has long troubled Stanislaus County food truck owners and inspectors alike: trucks are required to park in secured commissaries overnight, but there aren’t enough commissary parking spots to accommodate the county’s numerous mobile food vendors.
But the City of Turlock will soon be home to a one-of-a-kind, full-service commissary able to meet demand – and allow the health department to start enforcing codes.
The $1.3 million, 15,000 square foot Catering Support Services will feature 120 parking spots with electrical hookups, full kitchens, and more amenities than any other commissary in the region – and possibly the state.
“This will be completely different, what we are building here,” said co-owner Naresh Sawhney.
Health Department codes require mobile food vendors to visit an approved commissary daily. It’s at that commissary where all food must be prepared, where gray water must be dumped, and where trucks must be stored overnight.
But Stanislaus County has more food trucks than available commissary parking – with spots numbering in the tens, rather than the hundreds – leading to an essentially unenforceable ordinance. By Sawhney’s estimates, at least one-third of the county’s food trucks are unable to comply with the parking regulation.
One commissary has 40 parking spots, with more than 150 registered trucks using its kitchen, Sawhney said. Other trucks register with a restaurant as their commissary – one which lacks the parking required under regulations.
And some disreputable trucks are causing the city and county problems, dumping gray water into storm water drains or even Turlock Irrigation District canals. Recently, the City of Turlock had a sewer line clog; the clog was traced back to a taco truck owner cooking at his home and dumping large quantities of grease down the drain.
Sawhney was first approached by the City of Turlock three years ago to build a commissary at the former ConAgra site on S. Kilroy Road, which he has owned since 2004. The site was occupied by a meat slaughtering facility at the time, but once that company moved out, Sawhney moved ahead with the commissary plan.
“We are trying to help this community and this city,” Sawhney said.
When CSS opens in October, the commissary will feature two kitchens with 48 feet of combined hood space and nearly every commercial kitchen appliance on the market. From woks to proofers, mixers to choppers, Catering Support Services will offer it all, able to meet any truck’s needs. Even caterers will be able to rent space and equipment to cook in the top-notch commercial kitchen.
“Nobody has to buy anything,” Sawhney said. “Everything will be provided here.”
That includes: a massive cold storage and dry storage facility, walk-in refrigerator, steam wash for vehicles, gasoline and propane station, an ice machine which makes 10 tons of ice daily, and even a small grocery store on-site.
A waste treatment system will remove grease from gray water, prior to pumping the treated water into the city wastewater system. Eventually, the owners even hope to add a small bio-diesel plant, powered by filtered waste.
And, most importantly, CSS will feature a secured yard with indoor and outdoor parking, ensuring food trucks and carts remain safe.
It all adds up to a big investment, but Sawhney and co-owner Ignacio “Nacho” Rico are betting it will pay off. With a rise in enforcement, and the growth of food trucks as an accepted, lower-cost alternative to restaurant dining, business could boom – not just for CSS, but for truck owners, too.
“We are willing to invest to help these small businesses,” Sawhney said.