Earlier this fall, the floor where our corporate test kitchen is located underwent major construction work. In order to avoid all the dust and debris, we (the test kitchen staff) moved to a temporary location: a 30-foot-long “food truck” situated at one end of our rooftop parking deck.
To be clear, this was no ordinary meals-on-wheels truck. We couldn’t just hop in and drive it around the city. This behemoth of a mobile kitchen was towed from central California to our headquarters in San Francisco.
For just over a month, all of our recipes were developed in the long, restaurant-style galley kitchen, complete with a four-burner gas range (powered by a huge propane tank), two regular ovens, two convection ovens, a sink, stainless steel counter tops, low-boy refrigeration units and a walk-in refrigerator with attached freezer compartments. In addition to the basics, the truck offered several special features that we didn’t end up taking advantage of: a “sandwich station,” a griddle cooktop (used as extra countertop space for our cooling racks and finished dishes), and a grilling cooktop (used as a massive makeshift trivet to put hot pots and pans on). We had pretty much everything we needed to get by for a short period of time, except enough storage space. That’s what the walk-in storage pod next to the truck was for.
Because there wasn’t adequate gathering space to conduct large tastings in the truck, we set up a tasting area back inside the building. This worked out pretty well, except for a few rainy days when we had to run back and forth with platters of food covered with heavy-duty foil.
By the time we started getting used to the truck and all its associated quirks—the noisiness from the commercial-grade hood that required us to shout to one another, the freezer doors that wouldn’t fully close due to condensation on the handles that froze into ice, employees that would pretend to order fries from outside the window, and having to hand-wash everything (no dishwasher)—it was time to move back to our old digs.
We’ve been back in our old test kitchen for about seven weeks now, and memories of cooking in the truck seem so far away. The short stint in our temporary kitchen was fun in some ways, but also challenging. I now have a newfound respect for those who work day in and day out in mobile food operations. It’s much harder than it looks!
About the author: As one of Williams-Sonoma’s test kitchen cooks, Sandra spends her work week developing recipes, testing new products, and generally thinking and talking about food all day long. When she’s not in the kitchen, she can be found spending time in the garden with her husband and dog.