Mobile eatery ‘Evolution Kitchen’ available for rent

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County residents are used to traveling to area restaurants for a nice meal.
Soon, a new restaurant will be traveling to them.
It’s called “Evolution Kitchen,” a food bus that will serve up a constantly changing menu based on the whims of whoever happens to be renting the vehicle at the time. The brainchild of local foodie Lisa Mitchell, Evolution Kitchen will be loaned to established restaurants looking to export their wares, or to aspiring chefs looking for an inexpensive avenue through which to showcase their dishes without having to first commit to a long-term, bricks-and-mortar lease.
“I think that’s the beauty of food trucks, is that it allows people to rent at an affordable rate and have an opportunity to test things out and decide if it’s something they’re interested in pursuing,” Mitchell said. “When we bought it, I knew I couldn’t do this as my full-time business, so I had to come up with a model to allow other people to use it, too.”
Evolution Kitchen’s journey to Addison County and its renaissance as a food truck is an interesting story unto itself.
The 1988 GMC G3500, with approximately 67,000 miles, lived a long life in Texas as a taco, hot dog and catering truck before arriving in Addison County two-and-a-half years ago. Then-owner Anne Collins donated the vehicle to the Parent-Child Center (PCC) of Addison County, hoping the local nonprofit could get some use out of it.
Unfortunately, the bus would have required substantial updating to be of use to the PCC, which ended up putting the vehicle on the market.
“I had been trying to find the money to purchase it, when someone else scooped it up,” Mitchell recalled. “The owner didn’t know I was interested in it and randomly wrote me for food truck advice because of Foodaroo. I shared the research I’d done while contemplating the bus, and asked her to please ask me first if she ever decided to sell it, and about a year later, she did.”
Presented by Middlebury UndergrounD (MUD), Foodaroo draws some of the state’s most talented chefs and beverage makers. Food trucks and locally sourced cuisine are a big part of Foodaroo, as are musicians, street performers, cooking competitions, dancers and other forms of entertainment.
Lisa and spouse Andy Mitchell have been driving forces behind both MUD and Foodaroo. Evolution Kitchen will officially get rolling at the Fifth Annual Foodaroo on Sunday, June 23, at the Marble Works shopping complex in Middlebury.
That Sunday is when Arcadian Restaurant and Haymaker Bun Co. will use it to parade their popular products. Arcadian co-owner and executive Chef Matt Corrente has looked over the bus to see how he’ll design a menu based on its equipment, which includes a fryer, a flat-top grill, two burners, a refrigerator, sink and countertop. A small, portable pizza oven will also be part of the mix, according to Mitchell.
“We named it Evolution Kitchen because it focuses on an evolving series of chefs and (food) concepts, so that’s kind of the ‘umbrella’ name,” said Mitchell, who co-owns the bus with Andy.
The bus will include a shingle on which the rotating cast of chefs can place their own business names.
Following Foodaroo, Evolution Kitchen will be ready to hit the road. Organizers are organizing a Facebook page, Instagram handle and other social media opportunities for consumers to track the bus after it’s put into service.
Mitchell has also spoken with Town Hall Theater officials about parking the bus in their adjacent alley and creating a food court with tables there. The bus will travel to other nearby destinations in Addison County, too, like Tandem in Bristol, he said.
Pitches are coming in from chefs interested in taking the bus for a culinary spin. Inquiries about Evolution Kitchen should be emailed to Mitchell at [email protected].
“We’re starting with our own networks, reaching out to folks who are chefs we’ve either worked with through Foodaroo or other things,” Mitchell said. “We will work to curate what the offerings are, and our goal is for the bus to offer food that’s not available in Middlebury right now.”
ARTIST MICHAEL KIN takes a break while painting an old bus that is being refurbished to be used as a food bus that chefs can rent out and sell their dishes on the street.
Independent photo/Steve James
Mitchell would prefer that applicants have past experience with food service and “pop-up” cooking events.
That said, Mitchell won’t overlook applications from folks who aren’t currently in the food service industry. A responsible person with a solid idea can make the cut. The bus will also be available to cater private parties.
“We just want to make sure (ventures) are high quality and good service, so people associate that with the truck,” Mitchell added.
While the Mitchells don’t want to broadcast their total investment in Evolution Kitchen, they acknowledged it will total less than a quarter of what it would cost to buy a new food van, which can run $50,000-$100,000. She gave major props to a variety of local businesses and artisans that have agreed to fix and improve the bus for free, or at reduced cost.
“It’s taken a village to bring the bus back to life,” Mitchell said.
Mike’s Auto made small repairs and inspected it. Cornwall Auto Body painstakingly stripped and primed it, Mitchell noted, and Aqua ViTea artist Michael Kin is completing a vibrant mural on the exterior of the vehicle.
Silver Maple Construction is sponsoring and adding a new grill and other creative features, while Dennis Newton is working on the electrical system. Joe Schine performed interior sanding and painting, while Jesse Gillette from Vermont Integrated Architecture did interior welding.
“Our health inspection is on May 15, and we can’t wait to get the bus rolling,” she added.
Kin is now painting the bus mural in a garage on Route 7 in New Haven.
Mitchell has yet to work out rental fees for the vehicle, but promised they’ll be reasonable. She said its availability will range from single events to approximately one week.
“We want to make it very affordable, so people will actually use it,” she said. “We really want it to serve the community.”
Mitchell, of Cuban heritage, will be among the food bus users.
“I would love to do some Latin American and Cuban cuisine,” she said.
No special permit is needed to drive the food bus. Due in part to the bus’s age, Mitchell wants Evolution Kitchen to stick around Addison County.
“I want it to have the longest life it possibly can,” she said.
Better Middlebury Partnership Executive Director Karen Duguay praised the Mitchells for their food bus concept and believes it will make a good addition to the downtown, which will soon face construction disruption related to a major rail bridges project.
“I think it’s really exciting and I love the idea,” Duguay said. “I think anything we can do to generate a sense of excitement and maybe even some urgency is good. If a food truck is downtown for a short period of time, I think that generates that kind of urgency — ‘let me get down there, I have to check this out.’”
Special and unusual events will be key in helping the downtown remain resilient during the next three years of periodic rail bridges work, according to Duguay.
“Anything we can do right now that encourages people to come into the downtown and hopefully stay and check out the stores … is fantastic,” she said. “I love that so many other organizations are doing those things to complement what’s already happening. I think all of us working together is a really great way to support Middlebury during this period, and well beyond.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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