River Cottage Australia

Vintage Food Van Flippng with Steve Jackson

Thinking of setting up your own food van? You cant go past the advice of Vintage Food Vans owner, Steve Jackson.

He has been collecting, restoring and re-selling vintage caravans for the past 10 years here in the Bega valley. To make them viable, he turns them into mobile commercial kitchens for the fast food business.

Steve is particularly interested in restoring the 1950s Australian Carapark caravans – a beautiful, stylised, air streamed van, finished in polished aluminium, that are known by vintage caravan enthusiasts as the "toaster".

The Van Flippin' Business 

Bringing together his passions for conservation and cooking, Steve and his talented friend John Barlow work together on the vans, bringing different skills to the job.

Before they can get to work on each van, Steve has to scout for them. He spends a lot of time looking online or driving up and down the coast. When he spots one, usually in a state of disrepair, he goes in and knocks on the door and finds out of they want to sell. He then brings them home and gets to work on the restoration process.

Each project takes them about two months to complete.

After gutting out the inside, the next, and probably the most time consuming part of the process, is stripping the van back to its frame to check for corrosion by removing the plywood walls and floors and each sheet of aluminum. There are thousands of rivets holding up each sheet, which have to be drilled out and back in again!

John Barlow is the man with the tools and Steve is generally the one with the design ideas. Together they make a great team!

Previous Life

With an Applied Science degree in Conservation, Institutions and Museums, Steve originally started out as a French polisher, restoring furniture in Canberra.  Steve has racked up over thirty years of experience conserving cultural materials.

Steve later changed careers and studied cookery at TAFE for four years and then set up a mobile food business called Hardcore Carnivore, which was a 1952 Carapark food van, that he took to markets, festivals and events, selling street food inspired by French and southern American style comfort dishes.

The motivation behind taking the van to public places was to engage people! Steve enjoys seeing the reactions of people seeing the high polished ‘like new’ vans!

Steve's Home

Bringing his experience in renovating and re-selling houses in the past, Steve and his wife Meg moved from Canberra to Buckenjo, bought a plot of land on the outskirts of Bega and built their dream home.

Using recycled materials such as telegraph poles, double glazed glass left over from builders’ mistakes the bolts and wooden planks from old bridges, the house is a stunning masterpiece overlooking the Bega Valley.

Steve also collets antique acoustic guitars – used to be in a band – he has 7 beautiful guitars at his house.

For more, visit Vintage Food Vans: facebook.com/vintagefoodvans

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