With hefty start-up costs to open a restaurant, many culinary entrepreneurs are turning to food trucks to earn a living doing what they love. Just like the CAROclub crew, an Adelaide-based trio who are winning punters over with their mouth-watering meat dishes.
Slow-cooked, smoked, braised, fried, over coals, on a spit — the CAROclub crew makes meat the hero of its dishes in many different ways. Consisting of Tim Attiwill and Kyle McLean (of My Kitchen Rules 2017 fame) and their best mate and head chef Kain Slotegraaf (formerly of Bread & Bone), the ‘dude food’ boys have developed an impressive food truck following.
“CARO, the Latin word for meat, inspired the name — we love American-style Tex-Mex food and we love our meat, so we merged all these things to offer what now is the CAROclub menu,” Tim says.
“For public events we’ve been part of food line-ups for gigs with 20k+ patrons. We also offer private catering for everything from first birthdays to weddings.”
Keen to capitalise on their 15 minutes of fame from being on My Kitchen Rules in 2017, where ‘the pub mates from SA’ made it all the way to third place, Tim and Kyle launched the CAROclub that year.
“It was a bloody great feeling to leave our old lives behind and focus on running our OWN business,” Kyle says.
“Tim in particular was chained to the nine to five grind, so leaving this life behind was fantastic.”
While the lads initially had intentions of opening a bricks and mortar business, they quickly realised the start-up costs were too high. So they decided to test the waters with a food truck, where they could take their business to the people, rather than relying on people coming to them.
“We call it a truck but it’s actually a trailer we bought second-hand and refurbished,” says Tim.
“Being very event based, our week is usually Thursday to Sunday, with the early part of the week full of the boring stuff like stocktake, invoicing, ordering and admin-type duties. Thursday is usually our prep day (we have an off-site prep kitchen we lease) and Friday to Sun we usually have at least one event a day/night or a whole weekend event.”
The boys all come from very different work backgrounds, with regards to their prior studies and careers, which has worked well as they’ve combined their strengths.
“I concentrate on socials, advertising, marketing and bookings and can usually be found front of house on event days,” Tim says.
“Kain is our Head Chef and Kyle is the money guy, looking after accounts and logistics.”
With new players hitting the road all the time, the food truck industry is super-competitive.
“The industry has grown massively over the years, especially since our inception. There’s always a new truck or pop-up appearing on the scene,” Tim says.
“It’s all about reputation and street presence. The first year we said yes to every opportunity (most were awesome, some were horrible!) but we needed to be out there on the streets. It’s about being seen and growing a following.”
Head Chef Kain says one of the secrets of the CAROclub’s growing following is their Fried Chicken Burger with everything made in-house, including the sauces and pickles.
“It took about 12 months to get to where it is. It is SO GOOD! And another favourite is the Hamburguesa, our take on a Mexican cheeseburger,” Kain says.
“This thing is the bomb and was recently awarded 5 stars in The Advertiser. If you want to become popular, you need to create something people will remember, something delicious that leaves them wanting more. Have a small and simple menu, where you focus on making four or five dishes really well.”
Starting off as one truck, the CAROclub now has a pop-up booze offering — the CARObar. And they can set up shop at large events, such as the Adelaide Fringe (in The Garden) and The Royal Adelaide Show (a pop-up 80 seat restaurant).
“Looking forward, the next step for us is to move to bricks and mortar. We have some plans in the pipelines but can’t reveal too much just yet,” Tim says.
“Keep an eye on our socials for an announcement later in the year…”