Oil Patch food goes mobile
WATFORD CITY -- Michael Campbell has cooked for kings and queens. Now the chef is cranking out burgers and burritos for oil field workers from a food truck in Watford City.
"You've got to be super fast because everybody's in a hurry," said Campbell, who runs The Little Blue Joint.
Mobile food trucks are popping up in western North Dakota to satisfy the appetites of an influx of new workers.
But not all communities have embraced the lunch wagons.
Williston has a moratorium against mobile food trucks in city limits, but planning and zoning officials are reviewing the issue, said Auditor John Kautzman.
Having food trucks in the city created additional traffic and parking hazards, he said.
"People would run across roadways and run across ditches and things like that," Kautzman said.
The Upper Missouri District Health Unit is reminding people to be sure a mobile food truck is licensed before eating there, said Daphne Clark, environmental health practitioner.
Clark said she's not aware of any issues with food trucks so far, but officials are urging people to ask to see the license when they order. If the truck is not inspected, it's possible the operators have not been trained on safe food preparation, Clark said.
For Campbell, who has been a chef since 1989, meeting the food safety standards is something he takes seriously.
Campbell said he's cooked for many famous people during his career as a chef, including a gig as the official chef for the king and queen of Sweden during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Most recently he operated The Little Blue Joint restaurant and catering business in Darby, Mont., but saw it would be more profitable to go mobile and move to North Dakota.
"Most of the men from my town are in North Dakota," Campbell said.
Just down the road from Campbell is Pizza on the Fly, run by AJ Jordan and Nat Small, friends from Washington.
The business has operated from a Watford City parking lot for about four months, serving local residents as well as filling orders from oil workers who call or text as they're getting off work.
Pedro Lopez, who is working on a pipeline near Watford City, said he often stops at food trucks because many other restaurants are closed when his shift ends.
"They're awesome, especially when you get off work," Lopez said.
In Alexander, Sweeto Burrito strives to make a burrito in one minute, said Shane Schiele, who moved from northern California to help run the food truck.
The keys to success are to have a location with plenty of room for trucks to park and good food, Schiele said.
But it's not easy work. Campbell said he typically works 16-hour days.
"Lots of food trucks come through town. Not many of them stay," Campbell said. "It's fun and fast and furious."
Dalrymple is a reporter stationed in the Oil Patch for Forum Communications Co.