Lindsay Russell and her partner, Ed, have brought a little piece of the American South to the Coffs Coast with The Palmetto, a little food truck that’s all about great flavours, created with good quality local produce, to be shared amongst family and friends – whilst having a bit of fun!
Hi Lindsay. Can you tell us about your personal history here on the Coffs Coast?
Ed grew up coming to the Coffs Coast on holiday, ever since he was a kid. He is originally from the Mornington Peninsula, so would escape the cold winters with his family. When we decided to move to Australia from Vietnam, we felt right at home here in the sunshine. We have been living in Sawtell for two and a half years and couldn’t be happier. It’s pretty much paradise! Plus, the community has welcomed us with open arms, which is nice.
The Palmetto is a unique food truck that you started with your partner, Ed. Can you tell us about how you guys met?
We actually met in Vietnam. I was working in Hoi An as the marketing director for a vintage Vespa tour company. Ed was doing a motorbike trip throughout Vietnam and ended up in Hoi An midway. It sounds cheesy, but it was love at first sight.
We lived in Vietnam for almost a year together, before deciding to make the move Down Under. We pit stopped for a visit to my hometown in South Carolina on the way, where Ed had a second love at first sight – Southern food. I showed him all of my favourite restaurants and diners, and ideas for bringing the cuisine back to Australia started there.
Have you both always had a love of food and cooking?
I grew up cooking, so it’s always been a passion for me. Even at a very young age, I would binge on cooking shows and make feasts for my family. My dad was a pretty amazing cook, so taught me a lot about flavours, cuisines and instilled the value of using local produce.
I’ll always remember those trips to Belue’s, the local greengrocer in my town. This was really becoming rare at the time, with chain supermarkets dominating in the USA.
I was also lucky enough to work on two famous food trucks in Charleston, South Carolina throughout university – right when the “food truck boom” hit.
Ed’s always had a passion for eating, but his passion for cooking is a newfound one. He’s quickly mastered the art of being a BBQ pitmaster, and I always call him the “flavour master” when we’re prepping food.
What made you decide to start up a food truck here on the Coffs Coast?
Ed’s parents had this old caravan sitting in their yard for a few years. It was acting as a storage shed. We made a bargain; if they gave us the van, we’d build them a shed (by the way, if you’re reading this – we promise we will build it soon!)
We knew we wanted to start our own business together, and with my experience on food trucks back home – it just made sense. We also felt that the Coffs Coast was in need of some authentic Southern cookin’ that highlighted the incredible local produce.
What was the process like for renovating the truck and getting it ready to use?
We couldn’t have done it without Ed’s professional carpentry skills. He completely renovated the van into the cute blue food truck it is today. Ed worked so hard every weekend while working full-time on his carpentry business, making the total process around eight months.
We took the blue from the van’s original stripe and integrated some beachy colours and upcycled timber. We’re actually getting ready to do a second van, which is pretty exciting.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in renovating the truck ready for foodservice?
Our biggest challenge was managing the small space. It was hard to find tiny appliances that would still let us cook on a large scale. We were on a tight budget too, so that made things tricky.
Can you tell us about the style of food you serve?
Our food takes influences from all over the Southern region of the USA because I was born in Texas but raised mainly in South Carolina. Our menu changes all the time, but you’ll see lots of classic Southern dishes, American BBQ and Texmex. It’s all comfort food that’s made from the soul.
What is it about BBQ and Southern food that you love so much?
Southern food originates from so many cultures. You can see influences from Native American, British, Spanish, African, French, the Caribbean and many other cultures. Bringing these influences together over generations has created some big flavours. These flavours are what we love so much.
Also, a lot of Southern food embodies the “low n’ slow” method. Not only is Southern food about eating as a family or a community – it’s about cooking as a community, kind of like a celebration of food.
Where do your recipes come from? Do you create them, or are they old traditional recipes?
We actually create most of our own recipes using inspiration from original recipes and tweaking them until we feel they’re perfect.
Let’s be honest; test kitchen days are pretty awesome. Some recipes are old family recipes that are already perfect as is.
We’re in the works of launching our Palmetto Spice Mixes, which are recipes we’ve created from scratch. We’ll have our Texmex Spice Mix, Southerner Down Under Mix, and BBQ Rubs up for sale in the next few months. We also hope to expand to sauces too, since we make our own BBQ and Hot Sauces (Ed’s a chilli fanatic).
What are some of your favourite types of events/venues to cater for?
We love backyard events. There’s something about coming into someone’s home and bringing them joy through our food. These events are usually pretty intimate, so we really get to know the guests, which is fun. This year our favourite event was probably Bowl-A-Nana Skate Competition. It was such a cool community event, with amazing skaters. We also love concerts; what could be better than cooking food and listening to live music?
Where can people usually find you and The Palmetto?
We are so excited that we have our new home at Boronia Park in Sawtell. This is the little park on the way up to Sawtell Headland. We get to do what we love in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. That view is insane!
We have lots of Op Shop picnic blankets, a free secondhand book library, games like frisbees and hacky sacks, and of course – Southern food.
We encourage buskers to come to the park and play nice tunes, and you can BYO. We’ll be there lunch and dinner on weekends and plan to expand our schedule soon. Check out our social media or website to track us down.