Isuzu food trucks bringing culinary delights around the country

Behind every great mobile food experience is a great truck that brings the kitchen to the people, wherever they may be

From the Winter Night Markets in the heart of Melbourne, to providores with local delicacies in country towns, wherever you travel in Victoria, there is something good to eat. With food festivals as popular as ever, cooks and chefs are looking at ways to tap into that market by bringing their talents to the masses.

It’s not as simple as just loading some containers of food into the back of a truck and delivering them. There’s a lot of work that goes into taking a hospitality business on the road so its wares can reach a wider variety of hungry mouths —with considerations ranging from researching the right set-up, securing a builder for the kitchen installation, and finding the right set of wheels to support the operation.

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The Li’l Dumpling Van

Based out of Geelong, The Li’l Dumpling Van is famous for its delicious dumplings, traditionally known as ‘dim sum’ (not to be confused with ‘dim sim’). Translated from Chinese ‘dim sum’ means to ‘touch the heart’, and many would say that is what these delicious morsels are designed to do!

Be it beef, chicken, pork or vegan varieties, these dumplings are handmade using only natural vegetable colouring and ingredients sourced locally from suppliers in the region.

“Our dumplings are all handmade and change colour throughout the year because we use fresh carrot, spinach, and beetroot,” explains Emma Ma, joint owner of The Li’l Dumpling Van. “Every batch is different because the veggies are different each time.”

The business opened during the 2020 lockdowns offering deliveries of frozen dumplings to the local area.

Once the lockdowns were over, Emma and husband Herris (the chef of the operation) were able to set the business free and offer pan-fried dumplings to punters on-the-go. On the transport side of things, this meant a mobile kitchen on a trailer, which was hooked onto their passenger ute.

Herris could not be happier with his Isuzu NQR truck

Finding this combination functional, but not ideal, they then moved on to a light-duty truck with a built-in kitchen, which allowed them to store and serve more dumplings on event day.

The Li’l Dumpling Van has now expanded operations with a big, new (and very blue) Isuzu truck designed to stand out from the crowd.

“We wanted to do ‘little,’ but slowly it just happened to evolve into the biggest dumpling truck in the market!” Emma said with a laugh.

“Probably 80 per cent of children think we are the ice cream truck, but we don’t mind… if we’ve got your attention, the design is working!”

Requiring an 8.5-metre-long chassis to accommodate their custom-designed kitchen and servery from Frank’s Food Vans in Tullamarine, Emma and Herris landed on a NQR 87/80-190 with 6-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) recommended by the team at Geelong Isuzu. 

The NQR features a GVM of 8,700 kg and a GCM of 12,200 kg, with a turbocharged four-cylinder 4HK1-TCC engine that can reliably draw the weight of over 6.5-tonnes of kitchen equipment and supplies. 

The ability of the NQR platform to safely float the weight of the custom build was a key issue for Emma and Herris, who were investing a significant amount of money into the production of their new business venture. 

The NQR’s steel spring suspension with double acting hydraulic shock absorbers on front and rear, in combination with a total axle capacity of 9,700 kg, put any concerns to rest. 

“With the heavy build and the appliances, we knew we needed a strong, quality truck and a reliable brand if wanted to keep it going for at least 10 years,” Herris says. 

“So, we started asking around and people from other food trucks would say, ‘If you want quality, you choose Isuzu. We were very happy to go with Isuzu.”

Pizza Party Hire

Another business recently upgrading its choice of vehicles has a distinctly Italian flavour.

After years as an executive chef in Queenstown New Zealand, Mark Beeby and his wife Paula moved to Australia in the early 2000s to fire things up in the world of mobile catering.

Mark soon found a niche with woodfired pizza, and with a new base in Point Cook, Melbourne, founded mobile catering business, Pizza Party Hire.  

The popularity of their menu led to Mark needing a larger oven and an upgrade to their transport — which at the time was a passenger van and trailer combination. 

Bringing the wood, the fire, the oven and the pizza to the public is a job for these Isuzu NLRs

Mark stopped in for a chat with Westar Trucks in Derrimut to help sort out the right rig for his niche operation. 

“We worked with Isuzu’s engineering software, and that same day I ordered an Isuzu NLR 45-150 for our first fully integrated woodfired pizza truck.” 

The modified NLR 45-150 has a total load capacity of 1,400 kg and is designed to expand the kitchen on one side, with the opposite side available for storage. A mobile cool room towed on a trailer behind the truck allows Mark to keep perishables separate from other materials. 

Hauling the weight of the kitchen and supplies is straightforward thanks to the NLR’s four-cylinder, three-litre turbo powered engine that produces 110 kW (150 PS) @ 2,800 rpm and 375 Nm of torque @ 1,600 – 2,800 rpm.  

“I was very specific about needing the 800 kg oven onboard. I worked with Isuzu and Alltruck Bodies to get a truly bespoke build which came out even better than I anticipated.”  

Paula and Mark Beeby have brought a whole new level of service to the wood-fired pizza world

With the first NLR truck performing well and proving a functional choice for their business, Mark and Paula began planning for a second unit with a larger 1,200 kg oven, handling no less than nine pizzas at a time. 

An NMR 65/45-150 with a load capacity of 2,355 kg was selected by Westar Trucks and complemented with a matching custom kitchen from Alltruck Bodies to hero this huge woodfire oven. 

“We added an air deflector on the roof of the cab and the body,” Mark explained. 

“The aerodynamic addition made a big difference to the stability of the setup and an impact on fuel consumption, plus it improved the look of the truck which is important at events.” 

Coming up to 12 years behind the pizza paddle, Mark is still enjoying the hustle and bustle of public events and is looking to evolve the business to focus on catering for private and corporate bookings.

“A huge advantage with our current business model is that we’re going to where the people want us, instead of us waiting for the people to walk into a shop as retails does. 

“I have no doubt that scaling-up with Isuzu Trucks has been the single best decision we have made for the business.”

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