Posted by: Jerry Garrett | September 8, 2014

CHEF: What Model Food Truck Was That?

Jon Favreau's Restaurant on Wheels in the movie "Chef"

Jon Favreau’s Meals on Wheels in the movie “Chef”


The movie “Chef” is Jon Favreau’s paean to food – with a twist: A famous chef walks away from the frou-frou restaurant business to become a vagabond food truck operator.

Any idea what kind of truck that was?

There’s a passing reference in the script to a ’78 Chevy, and sure enough, if you look it up, you’ll find the proper model nomenclature was a 1978 Chevrolet P30 Walk-In Van. The government classified it as a truck. P-Series trucks had all kinds of uses – motorhomes, delivery trucks, airport shuttles, etc – and most of them had custom box bodies. The food trucks generally did, anyway.

Manual for P-Series Chevy Step Vans.

Manual for P-Series Chevy Step Vans.

The specs?

Made in P10, P20 and P30 configurations, they came equipped with one of three powerplants: a 292 cubic inch six, a 350 V8 and a 454 V8. I would guess the movie truck had the smaller V8, as the P30 was a lot of truck to push around with a six. The 454 was such a gas guzzler, they would have gone broke trying to keep gas in it on a road trip from Miami to Los Angeles.

The truck in the movie looked to be about a 17-footer. Some other random specs: GVWR: 9000, GAWR front: 40000, with 8×19.5D tires and 19.5×6.00 wheels, GAWR rear: 6200 with dual 8×19.5D tires and 19.5×6.00 rims. Some of the restaurant gear it was equipped with: a flat-top grill, deep fryer, hot box, freezer, prep table and fridge with ice bin for cold drinks.

You could probably pick up a decent used one for $15,000-$30,000.

People actually make much pricier, more sophisticated, brand new food trucks now, using Fords, Chevys, GMCs, Dodges and even Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. They are wildly popular in the southern California area, despite onerous regulations and punitive fees.

Food trucks seem like a trendy new phenomenon, but I know I’ve been eating at them in SoCal since the 1960s. We used to also call them “roach coaches,” “taco tanks”, “lunchboxes”, “garbage wagons” and worse.

To eat at one, you have to have a sense of humor, spirit of adventure and tolerance for some quirks. The quality of the food is probably better now than it was in the ‘60s, but even way back then, it was actually quite tasty – not to mention fresh and inexpensive – hence their enduring popularity.

I once found a shiny two-inch screw inside my burrito, served by my favorite lunch truck in Monrovia, California. When I showed it to the chef, he said, “Hey at least it’s a brand new screw, not an old rusty one. Nothing is too good for you, my friend.”

The rest of the burrito was screw-free and pretty satisfying overall.

Jerry Garrett

September 8, 2014





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