When you set out to follow your dreams, there's no telling where they'll take you. Chef Christina Harbison may have settled in NoDa (on 35th Street) for now, but the Savannah, Ga., native has traveled the world cultivating her passion. Harbison always knew she wanted to be a chef. She studied business management and accounting at her parents' insistence, keeping her kitchen skills sharp by cooking for her college friends and their families. While attending Manhattan's renowned French Culinary Institute, she volunteered at the James Beard House, a restaurant home to what Harbison describes as "cutting edge people doing the most creative things," inspiring her to carve out an equally creative path for herself. So she sailed the open seas, working 18-to-20-hour days from Maine to South America, living in St. Barts, spearfishing and lobstering in the Caribbean. When a layover in Charlotte lasted longer than expected, Harbision, who had heard buzz about the food truck scene in Asheville, decided to stick around and build a food truck of her own.
Creative Loafing: What goes into building your own food truck?
Christina Harbison: A lot of patience! You have to think about what size you want, whether you want it to be driveable or a tow-behind. Driveable trucks are trouble; I have friends in L.A. that use them but they're always breaking down and then you also have to consider the fuel costs. I built mine as if I were in a New York City apartment or yacht. Everything fits in perfectly into its designated space. Trying to follow North Carolina's codes is a little bit confusing. I had a health inspector tell me what would and wouldn't work and so we were able to get all our business licenses. It was quite a process.
Why did you choose NoDa as the place to start your business?
I live in the heart of NoDa, and as soon as I moved here, I started networking with local food people, going to their openings and such, especially other food truck people like Roaming Fork and Urban Legend; they're my allies. I noticed there was nowhere in NoDa to just grab something to eat on a Sunday morning other than in a bar, and I don't think people necessarily want to go back to the bar with a hangover.
Initially, I really wanted to do breakfast and some dinners, but there's a nine o'clock curfew for food trucks so I can't do it. We'll be doing breakfast Mondays through Fridays. We want to be affiliated with the local breweries, NoDa Brewing Company and Birdsong Brewing, since neither one of them offer food.
What sort of goodies can your patrons expect?
I'm classically French trained: Every morning for the past six years, I've made fresh pastries to try and appease people from different parts of Europe and America, all different walks of life. All our pastries are homemade from scratch. People ask us where we get our dough; they can't believe it's made in-house. On our first day, we had a couple of top sellers. First was the jalapeno cheddar biscuit, topped with bacon or sausage. The other was a bacon and provolone egg, over easy, with raw spinach, olive oil, salt and pepper to order and a huge slice of beefsteak tomato. We also sold out of our cranberry scone with orange glaze. It was awesome; I still can't believe how many people turned out.