The history of the Crepe Wagon is about three people and a food journey that goes from traditional French sweets to Spanish street food. It was born in a wet field in Donegal which is not a place you would usually associate with macaroons, crepes or churros. It was grown in the polytunnels of North Dublin surrounded by seed grown spinach and rocket. It had its real test in sunny Madrid.
In 2015 my husband Jamie was a musician for hire. He noticed the trend for chocolate fountains and sweet carts at weddings. My brother Brendan was working as a carpenter by day and taking on upcycling projects at the weekends. I was working as a nurse’s aide in a palliative care centre so the question of what I was going to do with this life was never too far from my mind.
Macaroons at Weddings
One day Jamie and Brendan arrived with a surprise for me. They had found a 1920s trailer chassis in a field in Donegal. The owner wanted rid of it so they dug it out of the field and transported it back to Dublin. The two of them often arrived home with strange things but this time their plan involved me. “A Food Cart, Lesley”, they said with an excited look in their eyes “Serving your macaroons at weddings”. I was not as enthusiastic. While I didn’t doubt their ability to build something with the chassis (even I could see its potential), I did have doubts about the macaroon idea.
I love macaroons. Baking them is a joy. I love their fruity melt-in-the-mouth sensation and their delicious sweetness. They were such delicate items that I wondered if they would be suitable for a food cart. During that time I spent my evenings in my polytunnels out the back, growing my spinaches, basils and tomato plants from seed. I grew up with that with my Da and I loved the way it gave you fresh food all year round. I wanted to come up with something similar that was natural, healthy and that used some of my own produce.
Healthy Homemade Crepes
That’s when I came up with the idea of crepes. I had always done pancakes and crepes on a small scale for kids parties. I knew what flour worked best and the correct mix. I knew for sure that they went down a bomb at parties and events. They are a real relaxed casual food. People love them. They were healthy. They were easy to serve and I thought they would be a much better fit for a food cart.
I started making my menus. Brendan added large traditional Breton Crepe plates to the wagon. I got in touch with the HSE to research food preparation in the wagon. They were very helpful. Our wagon was a bit different as it was not a propelled unit. We had to have a canopy and make sure everything, including the sinks, were separate. It took Brendan three months to put the finishing touches to it. When I finally saw the wagon it looked amazing. It had a stunning set of antique wheels and stylish mudguards. Brendan replaced the industrial looking gas piston with wooden scrolls. It gave it a handcrafted feel. We christened it Wanderly Wagon. The HSE passed it without any issues and we knew that we were on the way.
First Outdoor Event for the Crepe Wagon
Our first gig was the Smithfield Christmas Fair. I was so nervous loading the car up. What if we forgot something? What if people didn’t like the crepes? When we arrived we realised that there were no lights. Then the canopy wouldn’t behave and it threatened to collapse. But the people loved the food. The queue stretched on and on. We ran out of chocolate and had to run to get some more. Then we ran out of change. We stayed calm and got through it. The crepes went down a treat and the organisers were happy. After that we got a few more gigs at the Flavours of Fingal and the Dublin Docklands Riverfest.
The feeling of finally doing something I was passionate about and turning it into a business was a huge boost for me. I started to believe in my abilities. I wanted to push myself and learn about business, to provide something for my kids. I added more choices to the menu and began making vegan crepes. We ordered our bright yellow custom built canopy from France. We built a website and started getting corporate gigs. We found a horse box in Wexford and Brendan worked his magic on that. Then there was a larger trailer from Roscommon and we brought that back to life too. Along the way I was looking for a new killer product.
Looking into Churros
Churros had always been on my mind. They were casual. They were different. They were delicious. They were also healthy and vegan. Like crepes I had experience making them already. I could make the dough myself but I needed a machine if we were to do them for the public at outdoor events. Brendan and Jamie were busy restoring the trailers so I researched machines. They were expensive. There was also a lot of different options and they all had mixed reviews.
In the end we went with machines from Blancos Industrias in Spain. What sold us was the fact that they offered training with their machines. Unfortunately Bloom had invited us to their flower festival so we did not have time to jet off to Spain. The machines arrived a week before the festival and we spent that time in the back garden getting the technique right. We ate a lot of churros!
Best Mobile Catering for the Crepe Wagon
Bloom was the test for our churros. We avoided the dreaded overmixing. We used the cleanest oil possible and we maintained the temperature. I knew these basic principles were key to good churros. At the end of the day we won the award for best mobile catering at it. After that, we had the time to avail of the churros course in Madrid with churro makers from all over the world. We discovered that we were using the machines right all the time.
Testing the Spanish Churros
To celebrate, we treated ourselves to a sample table at the legendary Churros restaurant, Chocolatería San Ginés. I will always remember the moment myself and Jamie tasted those churros. We had a lot of Spanish and Mexican customers at Bloom and they all remarked that our churros were as good as the ones they remembered at home, if not better. We looked at each other across the table. Our mouths stuffed with crispy churros that had soft gooey insides. We both knew which churros we preferred.
Back in Ireland we started to see a lot of interest coming for corporate events. As a mobile outfit we were flexible enough to fit into different spaces, whether it was outdoor or indoor. We did lunches and brunches for different businesses like Trip Advisor. Obviously with the pandemic that all slowed down but it is starting to pick up again.
Today our adventure continues as we continue to bring delicious new foods to Irish people and explore what more we can do with food in Ireland.
If you want to book us for your event, do get in touch.