Cal U. rolls out food truck

April 29, 2013
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Food truck chef Melinda Gibson serves a pulled pork and Napa slaw sandwich.
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Photos by Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter
The line builds at lunchtime at the new food truck on the campus of California University of Pennsylvania. Order a Print
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The new California U. food truck features a Southern fusion menu focused on pulled pork, beef and chicken tacos or sandwiches dressed in gourmet slaws.

CALIFORNIA – Students at California University of Pennsylvania are not dining on the boring food their parents grew accustomed to on college campuses.

They can now use their meal plans to purchase spiced-up sandwiches and tacos from a food truck the university rolled out in March, taking a cue from a trend that began to emerge in warmer climates.

“Why a food truck?” said Larry Sebek, Cal U.’s interim assistant vice president of student affairs. “With the TV screen and the music, it’s just a fun experience that meets the needs of our campus population.”

The food truck concept also grew out of a need for students to purchase food court-style items once extensive renovations to the student union disrupt dining services in that building, Sebek said.

“We’ll need to relieve a bit of the stress.”

“This is a full-size operation that, two years down the road, will have to do high-output sandwiches and pizza,” he said.

Right now, the truck specializes in pulled pork, chicken or beef sandwiches flavored with Southern-fusion barbecue sauces, which include Carolina mustard and Memphis sweet and tangy. To set them apart from the others, theses sandwiches can be topped with specialty slaws.

Chef Billy Cowherd is fond of the Napa slaw, which is cut thin and flavored with a Korean Thai sweet chili sauce.

“To me, that is the Korean version of ketchup. It’s excellent,” Cowherd said.

Students appear to be enjoying this food, as the truck attracted a good-sized lunchtime crowd Friday.

“I do like it,” said Josh Hay, 21, a Cal U. senior from Somerset County “It’s definitely good for the price. You get two decent-size tacos for $3. You can’t beat that.”

Sebek said the truck gives the university the flexibility of not having to always serve food from the same places. Plans are under way to move it to sporting events and concerts, and it is open to the public.

“It’s being well received,” Sebek said.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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