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A food trailer parked on the west side of Franklin Street in downtown Columbus recently served oven-roasted chicken breast with Hungarian sauce and flank steak with hunter sauce to members of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.
The 48-foot trailer, connected to a pickup truck, features a sandwich station, friers, grills, convection ovens, a freezer, a half-bath and a stereo system.
Local entrepreneur Billie Chisman launched the business, On The Spot Catering in April to cater local and regional events including weddings, fundraisers and business functions.
“Four to go and two regular,” Chisman called down the length of the truck, as chef Angel Vierling moved quickly to box some of the lunches for the waiting customers who had lined up in front of the chamber offices.
Chisman got the idea of launching a food truck from watching shows on Food Network and seeing the popularity of such businesses in cities such as Indianapolis.
However, Columbus city ordinance does not allow food trucks in most downtown areas. So her trailer, so far, functions simply as a catering vehicle, which falls outside the city ordinance.
Chisman said the trailer served its first meals — 2,700 of them — April 12 at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville in Jennings County. Chisman, a sergeant in the Indiana National Guard Reserve, also owns a spa and a restaurant on the Camp Atterbury military post near Edinburgh.
The mobile kitchen also has provided food at weddings, local businesses and educational institutions such as Ivy Tech Community College.
“We’ve served in the middle of the woods,” Chisman said. “Wherever they need (us) to go, we go.”
On The Spot Catering has no set menu. Instead, potential clients typically meet with event planner Angi Trapp to discuss appropriate entrees and desserts, which can include anything from salads and soups to gazpacho, brisket and seared ahi tuna lollipops.
Chisman did much of the design work of the trailer, which weighs 30,000 pounds, and had it custom built at Worldwide Trailer Sales in Tampa, Fla., for about $100,000.
On The Spot Catering employs 12, including Chisman’s son, William, 16.
Vierling, the chef, was studying accounting but changed her major to culinary arts. She graduated from Ivy Tech in May. She said she enjoys the creativity required in her profession and the challenge to deliver high-quality meals in a mobile kitchen — though she said the trailer has about every piece of equipment that a stationary kitchen would.
Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, said via email that Chisman inspires her because of her entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to her employees.
“She takes excellent care of her team, providing health benefits and profit sharing,” Frey said.
Chisman said she ultimately would like to run four food trucks with different menus throughout south-central Indiana, but that will not happen until Columbus changes its laws concerning food trucks.
The Columbus Area Planning Department studied the issue last year and recommended allowing a certain number and certain types of food trucks in some downtown areas, including Washington and Fourth streets, but Mayor Kristen Brown shelved the proposal indefinitely this year after hearing complaints from downtown merchants.
The merchants worried about parking and that the food trucks would operate only during peak hours and cut into established businesses’ profit.
Chisman said she hopes the city eventually will revisit the issue, but for now, she is happy seeing the trailer roll through south-central Indiana to delight customers with Vierling’s culinary concoctions.
“This has been a dream for a long time,” Chisman said.
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