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The mobile dinner party

PUBLISHED: 11:41 09 June 2015

Vintage food truck My Kitchen Your Place with owner Phoebe Cripps.

Vintage food truck My Kitchen Your Place with owner Phoebe Cripps.

Tessa Allingham meets Phoebe Cripps originator of My Kitchen Your Place

With My Kitchen Your Place picsFor a short while back in February, Phoebe Cripps trended on Twitter. An unfortunate typo in a local press headline – sweetly timed with the opening of Fifty Shades – ended up suggesting that her ‘bespoke’ catering offer extended beyond food. The tabloids were on it like bees to a honeypot. No doubt a sub-editor was ticked off, but a fledgling business was launched.

Cocktails, written carefully in full, are only part of Phoebe’s story. The 22-year-old from Chelsworth works flat out taking her vintage St Tropez fire truck to local farmers’ markets, point-to-point meets, and private functions, offering whatever food fits the occasion under her business name, My Kitchen Your Place.

“Sometimes it’s just hot drinks, cakes, bacon rolls, that sort of thing,” Phoebe explains, her words tumbling out in a high-speed stream of enthusiasm and energy. “Other events want a casserole, or a cream tea, or canapés, or a pile of cupcakes. I love doing wraps – we do a great pulled chicken and guacamole one. Most country shows or sports events offer hog roasts or burgers, but we [Phoebe and her partner, Kevin] thought there was a gap for variety, something good quality and a bit different.”

When she’s not behind the counter in her van, Phoebe is busy preparing dishes. A self-taught cook (she was brought up surrounded by food and immersed in the hospitality industry at her parents’ pub, the Peacock in Chelsworth), Phoebe rents a commercial prep kitchen near Bury St Edmunds. There, she’ll make up batches of her favourite pheasant casserole, or a popular Spanish sausage dish, a heap of brownies or whatever an upcoming event calls for. She’s working hard to develop her own recipes or, such as with the pheasant casserole, to put her spin on a recipe from her parents’ archive. She buys ingredients locally where possible.

“Game is from local shoots and I love the meat from Lavenham Butchers – their Red Poll from a herd in Chelsworth is amazing.

I can’t believe it’s pretty much the same price as other meat and the quality is far better.

I meet Phoebe at the delightful Nayland farmers’ market. Her truck is parked outside the village hall where the market (given a new lease of life thanks to fresh management by Suffolk Market Events’ Justine Paul) is held on the second Saturday of every month. There’s a tempting mix of local produce on sale – meaty sausages from Totham Bangers, pots of flavour from Trimley Herbs, delicious smoked goodies from Stour Valley Smokehouse, cuts of venison from Discover Venison, baked treats from Nuthouse Shortbread. Many of the traders grab a moment to buy a coffee from Phoebe’s van where the grill sizzles, a posy of spring flowers brightens up the counter and, were it not for the teeming rain this morning, two folding chairs and a table usually invite customers to linger.

Kevin happily dons a pinny to man the van while Phoebe and I take cover to talk. She tells me Kevin is a good cook, but that his real strength has been getting the 1975 former fire truck road- and business-worthy.

“We’re both really into vintage vehicles and we looked online for about six months before we found this one. It was red and rusty, but we loved it straight away and brought it back from Sussex on the back of a trailer on December 14.”

The couple then worked over Christmas, sanding, painting it a classy cream, and kitting out the van to be ready to launch the business in early 2015.

“I’ve never felt stress like it,” Phoebe remembers. “I’ve had this idea bubbling away since I was 19 and it’s so exciting to see it really happening. “

A scant few months on, Phoebe is already thinking about the next stage of My Kitchen Your Place.

“I’ve got loads of summer events coming up, like Hadleigh Show, Wings and Wheels at Heveningham Hall, and the classic car show at Helmingham in August. I’d like to do more weddings – I’ve already had an enquiry for three years’ time – I’d like to have another van one day and I’d love to do the Latitude festival. I want to have some haybales covered in blankets for people to sit on, we’ll strap some to the roof of the van . . .”

There seems to be no stopping her. Given such determination – and with the right publicity of course – chances are Phoebe will succeed.

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