Food truck offers students a new look at culinary arts –

Last week’s menu included roasted corn quesadillas, roasted tomato soup and fresh-cut french fries — with cookies for dessert.

This week at the Skagit Valley College Mobile Food Lab, it’ll likely be a very different menu. For the culinary arts students who work at the food truck under the watchful eye of instructor Joshua Young, variety is just one of the lessons the experience offers.

The mobile food lab is open one day a week — 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays — outside the college’s Craft Brewing Academy at the Port of Skagit west of Burlington.

The food truck, which opened earlier this year, was started to give students practical experience in everything from planning menus to stocking the truck.

“It shows the students how to run a business,” said Young. “I can cook the best food in the world, but if I can’t turn a dime into a dollar …”

Skagit Valley College Food Services Manager Lyn Highet said the college had discussed adding a food truck to its culinary arts program for several years, as it frequently appeared on surveys that ask students what they’d like to learn about. A grant helped fund the program. 

“We couldn’t be more excited about the future opportunities it will provide our students and we really look forward to sharing it with the community,” Highet said in an email.

While administrators worked hard to take the food truck from idea to reality, Young noted that it was students who got it operational, considering details as small as the labels on the drawers inside the truck.

“Those students had an experience nobody else had. They had a blank slate of a truck, a blank slate of a kitchen,” he said. 

Young said the original idea was to park the truck in different parts of the county each week. The COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on that.

But there is still plenty to learn, such as the variety that goes into the weekly menus. For example, students took some locally grown corn and are using it three different ways, such as for a filling for quesadillas one week and as part of a stock in another, Young said.

“Changing the menu gives them a stake in it,” he said.

Veronica Conley, a Skagit Valley College student who is taking part in the food truck program, said she hopes to open her own Southwestern cuisine food truck someday, and has appreciated the opportunity to learn the ropes.

“It gives us the experience we need,” she said. “Last week I created a smoked-corn salad and it turned out really good. But this week is a new ballgame, and I enjoy that.”