Get Hungry: For the Love of Veggies
'I love the moment when someone not used to eating veggo food realises that it isn't all lentils and mung beans,' says Karl Kooney, co-founder of the Veggie Patch Van and Yulli's.
Karl and Danielle are both vegetarians 'so there was never really an option to open anything but vegetarian restaurants,' he explains. However, the pair didn't always plan to open trendy vegetarian restaurants across Sydney. Back in 2004, Yulli's was a craft beer bar with a menu designed around shared vegetarian food.
'Well, turns out Sydney was particularly keen for our food and what was intended as a craft beer bar very quickly became a vegetarian restaurant that happened to have a sweet beer list,' recounts Karl.
With that in mind, Karl set out with the mission to bring tasty vegetarian food to the masses, but without compromising on the quality of his products. He started the Veggie Patch Van in 2012 with his wife, as well as his chef and designer friends.
They converted an old 1996 Usuzu diesel truck into an eco-friendly vegetarian van called Spud. "We used all sustainable materials when building the truck and sourced second hand stainless for the internal fit-out," says Karl. 'The roof is decked with solar panels and we have 4 batteries inside the truck to keep the power going when there is no sun.'
The Veggie Patch team also work hard to ensure their ingredients are coming from New South Wales to lower their carbon footprint. 'This can be challenging at times and there are definitely times you have to compromise,' says Karl. However, at the Veggie Patch, all the business decisions are made with the environment in mind.
You will easily spot the Veggie Patch van - the yellow and green truck is never quiet, as crowds of veggie lovers swarm around it. According to Karl, their pan-fried halloumi burger with peach bourbon and chipotle sauce is a crowd pleaser. Their sweet potato chips served with kale and vegan basil mayo are also a huge favourite.
The Veggie Patch team likes to innovate whilst still serving restaurant quality food. 'I love that there are no rules; there is no history to vegetarian food so anything goes,' says Karl. 'One of the best bits of advice I was ever given was to always be stoked with what you put on the table - if you're not, why would anyone else be?'
We caught up with Karl to chat all things veggie.
Interview with Karl Kooney
Do you get many international visitors checking out the Veggie Patch van?
The beauty of vegetarians is that they are more defined by attitude than by birthplace. I couldn't say that a particular nationality is most likely to come see us but I can say we get a lot of wonderful, compassionate people looking for a good meal.
Where's your favourite place to sell your food?
We're finding our favourite place to be in NSW is Byron (ed: beachside town in New South Wales renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and surf spots)! Danielle and I moved up here with our daughters Molly and Winnie and our pup Jessie in 2014 and we are loving it. We have had the Veggie Patch up here a couple of times for Splendour, (ed: a music festival in New South Wales) and have found that what we do is really well received! Our truck Spud is getting on so we figure we might bring him up here in his old age in 2016.
If you could create a veggie dish that represents New South Wales what would it be?
I would love to do an epic dish that highlights our amazing native ingredients and incorporates our own Yulli's Brews beers as ingredients. We could do bush tucker burger with a saltbush patty, Davidson Plum and vanilla porter jam, dried bush tomatoes and a lemon myrtle and garlic mayo - that would be fun!
You can find the Veggie Patch all around Sydney and New South Wales. You can follow their moves with the Sydney Food Trucks app.
Find out more about Street Food options in New South Wales.