Photos by Chris Casella

Truck Takeover

I’m sitting on the patio at Meisters’, the smell of the next table’s pizza making my stomach growl, but not as much as the conversation going on in front of me.

Two chefs are talking shop and menu planning—ingredients are all over the place and the chef potty mouth is in full effect.

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“snake beans”

“fresh lime and red curry paste”

            “f*cking phenomenal”

              “Thai crispy pork belly—leave it out in the sun”

      “Cape Malay style roti flat bread”

“chicken skin chips”

“pakora—thinly sliced aubergine in a chick pea batter”

“they’re going to be working with food they’ve never f*cking seen before”

“beer pairings”

Adding bass notes to the pitched conversation is my stomach, growling and rumbling and tumbling. Sadly, we all have to wait until June 11 at Land-Grant Brewing to see and taste the outcome of this brainstorming session between Catie Randazzo and Damian Ettish. For one night, Randazzo will hand over the keys to her Challah Food Truck to Ettish, a fellow food truck chef from South Africa. Ettish, whose nickname is Fetty (Ettish goes to Fetish goes to Fetty) runs Fetty’s Street Food back home. Ironically, “fet” means fat in Afrikaans.

The two met when Ettish, in town visiting his girlfriend for a spell, stopped by Challah for a bite and started a conversation. Randazzo, always on the lookout for new flavors for her own cookery toolbox and the Columbus community, immediately tapped the young man for a guest spot. Hailing from Cape Town, Ettish’s culinary point of view is influenced by his hometown, as well as his extensive travels.

“Every year, I travel to a new place—India, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, the U.S.—and the food I cook is inspired by my travels,” he said. As a result, his food has a quality to it, adding flavors gathered from various corners of the globe and presented as a bouquet of the familiar and the remixed.

“I’ve learned everything on my journies,” he explained, his beer sweating in the late-afternoon sun. “I’ve always wanted to be a chef—I worked in advertising in London, and two years in I took time off to backpack in India for three months. I had plans for the first two nights and then let the rest happen—it was some weird and wonderful stuff.”

His base cuisine, however, is that of his homeland. “South Africa is one of the most diverse countries in the world,” he explained. “Bread is the staple, we eat a shit-ton of white bread. We have the largest Indian population outside of India, so a lot of those flavors are mixed in.”

As Randazzo and Ettish talk it out, one dish becomes a source of fascination: bunny chow. Using the ubiquitous white bread as a vessel, bunny chow is essentially a stew, cheap and convenient comfort food. “It’s basically African street food that everyone eats now. It never used to be a white thing, and then the young people started eating it and loving it. Now, it’s in fancy, elitist restaurants, served perfectly.”

For all these international flavors and new windows into global cultures, Ettish credits his mom’s cooking as his jumping off point. “Mom’s lamb chops, they were delicious in their simplicity,” he recalled. “South African lamb is gamier, with crispy, succulent fat, and then with peas and veg, mashed potatoes…I ate well.”

Eventually, I take my leave of the two virtuosos, leaving them to talk more shop and drink more beer in the twilight of spring. On the way home, I make a Five Guys pit stop because by now I am starving and, sadly, have no chicken-skin chips at my house.

The Challah-Fetty’s Street Food Truck mashup takes place from 5-10 p.m. at Land Grant Brewing in Franklinton on June 11.

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