08 Jan Qantas – Get Hungry : A Mexican Canteen Hits New South Wales
Qantas conducts a brief interview with Cantina Movil director, Stephanie Raco, highlighting Cantina’s humble beginnings.
First you meet someone, second you start a relationship and third you open a business together. Or at least that’s what Stephanie Raco and Rode Valle did. Sixteen years down the line and they are now driving their business forward, quite literally. Stephanie and Rode are the owners of Cantina Movil, a Mexican food truck in New South Wales.
Cantina Movil started in 2011 when the pair was looking for something to launch ‘that was outside the box and beyond the four walls of our previous venture,’ explains Stephanie, a brick and mortar bar-restaurant in one of Sydney’s suburbs, Manly.
‘The global food truck scene caught our attention especially the fact that there were trucks gaining critical respect for the cuisine they were serving.’
Stephanie and Rode love Mexican food, but the choice of starting up a Mexican food truck was a business decision above all. ‘It’s easy to eat standing up, it’s a cuisine that lends itself to some exciting flavours that can be achieved in many ways and with some core recipes,’ explains Stephanie.
The holy grail
The couple are seasoned entrepreneurs, that’s why when it came to designing their menu, they didn’t take wild chances. They called Head Chef Simon Livingston of ‘Bent on Food’ – a multi award-winning café and cookery school in New South Wales – to create the Cantina Movil dishes.
‘We knew that our very talented friend Chef Simon Livingston had travelled Mexico extensively so what we’d be able to offer would be autentico and delicioso'” says Stephanie.
Chef Simon taught the pair how to prepare and cook the food. The result: burritos with Mexican slaw in its tangy citrus dressing, pinto beans, Monterrey Jack cheese, creamy chipotle mayo and fresh coriander rolled in a soft flour tortilla.
They eventually launched Cantina Movil in December 2011 in Curl Curl Beach, one of Sydney’s best surfing and bodyboarding beaches. ‘We were a 2-man operation doing it all from the kitchen to the onboard service […] I truly love the contact with customers,’ says Stephanie.
After weeks of personally distributing flyers around business parks and surf companies to generate lunch time trade, the City of Sydney announced what Stephanie qualifies as the holy grail: their food truck initiative. ‘We put all our energy into attaining one of the coverted permits,’ she explains. ‘We were short-listed and participated in the incredibly nerve racking cook-off in front of a distinguished line up of industry experts,’ from New South Wales and beyond. ‘Cantina Movil was issued a permit and was the first food truck to serve on the streets of Sydney in April 2012 and we were catapulted to centre stage.’
Stephanie and Rode now have 10 staff and recently bought a second food truck, Amigo 2. They also have a service cart, El Carrito.
Interview with Stephanie Raco
How would you describe your delicious food?
Here is a quote from Rode: ‘We sell Mexican – how else could you answer that without sounding arrogant!’
If you could sell a dish that represents New South Wales, what would it be?
Locally caught Snapper, filleted, grilled and served in a taco with a pine/mango salsa, fresh lime and a sprinkling of (local) Southern Highlands fetta atop.
How many are you in the team and what’s next for Cantina Movil?
10 Amigos make up our posse – we’ll continue bringing the fiesta to the masses and pushing the envelope of what Meals on Wheels can be.
You can find Cantina Movil all around Sydney and New South Wales. You can follow their moves with the Sydney Food Trucks app.
For more information on Sydney’s Street Food check out QANTAS main street food page by clicking the link below: