It’s a grey day in Bristol, England: Rain is falling. The clouds hang low above the picturesque city on the River Avon. But there is no room for cloudy thoughts, because it is Thursday – and therefore time for the Temple Quay market in the heart of the quarter bearing the same name. Local specialities, varied food and refreshing drinks attract the residents here at weekly intervals. Murray May’s, a bright blue food truck with a real charcoal barbecue from which it is sizzling and smoking has also been around for some time. A colorful spot in grey, both visually and in taste: Ewan ‘Murray’ and Thecla ‘May’ combine their seasonal British products with eastern spices, scents and aromas – and then barbecue them over an open fire. Great passion for food and some faraway journeys inspired the young couple to make their professional dream come true – in their historic Mercedes-Benz 508 D.
Ewan made his living as a chef, Thecla worked in restaurants and bars. Together they wanted to take the next step – their own business. But they quickly agreed that a restaurant should not become too inflexible, too risky. After long consideration came the brilliant idea: “We spent a winter working in a ski resort in Japan,” the two remember. “Dotted around resort were quaint little vans, half hidden by snow, sheltering wood-fired ovens. We loved the concept of being able to park up at various locations and serve delicious, affordable food, and here our idea was born.” The question quickly arose: Which van would be suitable for setting up a food truck? “We knew we wanted a vehicle full of character, to match us and our food,” says Ewan beaming. The choice finally fell on an old military vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz 508 D – which they were able to call their own just six months later.
We knew we wanted a vehicle full of character, to match us and our food.
Before Ewan became a cook, he worked as an electrician – so most of the conversion work he undertook himself. There was additional support from friends: “We started the conversion beginning of January 2017, and we had our first event booked in the beginning of April,” says the handyman. “So it was a bit of a push to say the least.” At first tires were changed and batteries were replaced – but quickly it was time to get to work: But there was hardly any other van with an open fire or anything like it around. Sparse support channels and experience made it impossible for Thecla and Ewan to follow existing examples. So it was time to get creative, to find their own solutions – simply to try them out and see which ones worked best.
Planning took up a large part of the work: “Ewan has a lot of experience as a chef in a small kitchen,” Thecla knows. “This really helped him design the layout as he was thinking about how we would operate.” Every corner and every detail was measured, documented and planned so that the equipment could be fitted as accurately as possible later on. But first of all the van, which the two also affectionately call ‘Nessie’, needed a new coat of paint. “Choosing the colors for the respray was incredibly difficult. We kept changing our mind,” Thecla laughs. “We outsourced this to some very talented people at prestige auto refinishing in Yate, they put a lot of love into their work and we were totally delighted with the outcome.”
Three weeks later with radiant blue bodywork, the major works could finally start. First step: The complete removal of the interior equipment. With a real charcoal barbeque in the van, a fireproof partition wall was essential. This was additionally supplemented by a wall made of stainless steel. A powerful roof ventilation system was installed above the old ventilation shaft, and the highlight followed: On a stainless steel table, the two installed an original Turkish manganese barbeque that extends over the complete partition wall. All that was missing was technical equipment, insulation and cladding – over which Thecla and Ewan opted for wipeable PVC for hygienic reasons. Then the finishing touches were made: After installing the work tops and a sink, the front bar was covered with copper – making the counter a very special highlight. After the installation of various pipes and a sufficient tank, the refrigerator and some shelf units could be installed – and the dream of owning a food truck became reality.
“Some people thought we were crazy, but it all worked out!” says Ewan proudly. They like to remember their first event, which they attended on schedule after the renovation – right here, at Temple Quay Market. But that’s not all they love about their local market: “While we love the excitement and variety of trading at a festival, our local markets are our favorite events,” Thecla and Ewan say. “It’s a great vibe amongst the traders, and we love getting to know our customers.” Initial doubts as to whether they could actually make a living with this business model were quickly pushed aside. “Having people excited about eating our food and seeing our van,” they enthuse “and knowing that this is our creation is very rewarding.”
The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.