The Univesity of Guelph Gryph N’ Grille food truck

Something’s cooking on four wheels at U of G, and it’s rolling to a campus location near you. Sporting a flaming exterior and a “GryphN’” wielding kitchen utensils, Gryph N’ Grille is U of G’s new food truck.

Operated by Hospitality Services, the food truck has been well received, says Ed Townsley, assistant director, Food and Retail Services. Featuring a menu of locally-sourced food prepared fresh on the truck, Gryph N’ Grille made its first appearance Sept. 14 in front of Creelman Hall. That’s also when public health inspector Kelly Briscoe gave her seal of approval. Since then, the food truck has served about 350 customers per day, says Townsley.

Fuelling the food truck frenzy is its convenience and mobility, which caters to busy students, faculty and staff who want a quick bite to eat. Another driving force was a lack of space on campus to build new food outlets, says Townsley, adding that many are busy with back-to-school crowds, such as the University Centre and Creelman Hall. The food truck will help relieve some of that pressure.

With its focus on local food and sustainability, the food truck recycles its cooking oil for biofuel and uses energy-efficient appliances and biodegradable food containers. “It’s something we already do on campus,” says Mark Kenny, procurement manager at Hospitality Services.

The menu consists of 10 items, including burgers, fries and poutine that will rotate on a daily basis. The “royal” burgers are made from local beef at 100-Mile Kitchen in Creelman Hall, and the honey used in Gryph N’ Grille’s sauces comes from the Honey Bee Research Centre on campus. Kenny and the chef team envision more local offerings, such as using campus-raised Arctic char in fish tacos and cheese curds made using milk from the Dairy Barn.

Inside U of G's new food truck.
Matt Pinsonneault serves up a burger and fries in a biodegradable container.

“There’s a lot more interaction with students,” says executive chef Vijay Nair, comparing working on a food truck to a kitchen. “It’s much more fun and spontaneous.” Working with Nair are hospitality staff Jairo Maldonado, Matt Pinsonneault, Laura Tomona and Jen Britton. Once parked, the food truck takes about 15 minutes to set up.

Although the City of Guelph recently allowed food trucks on its streets, Gryph N’ Grille will be staying on campus. “We have a small city here,” says Kenny of the U of G campus, adding that the food truck could also be used to cater special events on campus, such as athletic events, conferences and weddings.

There’s a strong appetite for the food truck’s fare, thanks to social media. Open Monday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the truck’s location is posted on its social media accounts on Facebook and on Twitter: @GryphNGrille using the hashtag #GryphNEats.

“We prefer it to be a pop-up restaurant,” says Townsley. “As far as I know, we’re the only Ontario school that has one.”

The only thing that’s not local is the truck itself, which was built by Venture Food Trucks, a company based in Napanee, Ont. Guelph graphic designer and U of G alumna Cai Sepulis of Ballyhoo Media was commissioned to create the truck’s unique exterior.

“It’s really great food on the plate, and that’s what customers want,” says Kenny.