Kim Bates-Wallace stands at the kitchen window inside her food truck. While she is chopping, prepping and filling menu requests, she keeps an eye on her customers, mingling and talking to each other as if they were longtime friends.

As owner of Over the Plate Food Truck and Catering, Kim likes bringing people together through her healthy, homemade meals. Whether she’s preparing one of her daily menu items at a special community event or catering a private party, she brings her kitchen on wheels to her clients.

The truck’s open kitchen gives her customers a view of what she is preparing. “It’s the nostalgia of everything,” said Kim, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Army, wife and mother. “You’re seeing someone cooking your meal. It’s amazing what comes off of food trucks. Here everyone sees what I’m doing.”

Kim creates meals from fresh ingredients and keeps healthy eating in mind. For example, her fish tacos are lightly coated with cornmeal, no heavy batter here, and they are gluten free. She makes everything from scratch, including the diced pineapple and vegetable pieces that go into the pineapple salsa and the julienned vegetables that make up the crunch and complements the tacos. The end result is a combination of savory and sweet tucked into a warm taco with the gently fried fish.

Kim said food truck foodies offer a variety of foods, flavors and tastes, and their customers come for the whole experience. As the owner and chef, she enjoys personally meeting her patrons. “I’m talking to you, you are talking to me — the owner.”

Her menus vary from her daytime lunch choices to her catering menu for either a private lunch or dinner. She caters on Fort Hood for Hails and Farewells, Change of Command ceremonies, and private parties. In fact, her first catering job, before she bought her truck, was on Fort Hood where she catered a party for 15 guests.

Kim had just started culinary school when she was approached by a friend who was looking for a caterer who would come to her home to prepare for a party of 15 guests. But she couldn’t find someone who would actually prepare the food at her house. When Kim heard of her need she said, “I could serve 15 people.”

“It all started there,” she said. That was the turning point that gave her the idea to buy a food truck.

New beginnings

Kim and her husband, Jamie, also a retired veteran as of 2016, were able to finish their last four years of duty at Fort Hood. When Kim retired in 2012 she first worked as a certified personal trainer. But something was missing from her professional life and she started taking culinary classes through Central Texas College on Fort Hood.

“I prefer hands on learning and wanted the experience of being in a kitchen,” she said. “I needed that experience of being in a kitchen. I had to be more efficient. I wasn’t looking for a degree.”

Working in someone else’s kitchen was not an option for Kim. She wanted to be her own boss. She didn’t want someone telling her how to do her work. But she didn’t want the responsibility of a brick and mortar restaurant. That’s when the idea of a food truck was born.

She found a company in San Antonio that built food trucks and was ready to sign. Then she found a fully equipped food truck on Ebay, but it was in Detroit.

Kim, a native of Lansing, Michigan, went home every year for three weeks. In 2014, she took a side trip to Detroit, about a two-hour drive, to see the truck.

“An engineer had retrofitted the truck,” she said. Its original purpose was to be a rolling Coney Dog stand. But the original owner decided to open a (stationery) stand instead.”

The Coney Dog was created in Detroit in the early 20th century by Greek immigrants. It’s a hotdog on a bun topped with chili in a special sauce, chopped onions and a line of yellow mustard. It has been a Detroit staple since the early 20th century, with variations popping up in other Midwest and Plains states.

“I saw the truck for 15 minutes than flew home to Harker Heights,” she said. She knew she couldn’t drive the truck to Texas herself so her dad and nephew drove it for her.

The truck was in good condition but it needed cleaning. “I cleaned every day for two weeks to get the truck ready. I clean all the time.”

Kim doesn’t park her food truck in one location. She prefers working with special events and private parties. It isn’t unusual to see her truck parked in the driveway of someone’s home while she caters an occasion.

She offers a selection of menu items for her catered events and said ultimately, the menu depends on what the host wants. She serves only buffet style, and will work with guests dietary needs.

When on-site at a private home event, she stays from beginning to end, unless she has another appointment, then she will go back to clean up. “There is a niche for having people come to your house. I actually take out the garbage.”

Her staff of two is affiliated with the army: either a spouse or veteran. “Military spouses are the hardest working people,” she said.

Working a food truck does come with its challenges, however, like the time the truck’s computer crashed while she was on her way to an event in Salado. The computer controls the truck’s operation and it cost $1,500 to repair. She also had to repair her deep fryers. But despite the mechanical challenges of owning a food truck, the blessings are endless.

“I get to feed people, I get to do what I love,” she said. “It’s not really working. Seeing people wait in line, that you are feeding, it’s a good feeling.”

Over the Plate’s Fish Tacos

Makes 4 servings, 2 tacos each

  • 1 pound of perch, pegasus or any white fish
  • 1 cup cornmeal fish fry
  • Vegetable oil for frying (enough to cover fish)

Heat oil to 350 degrees. Dredge fish in cornmeal, fry in batches for 5 minutes.

Pineapple Pico

  • 1 pineapple, peeled and diced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup jicama, peeled and diced
  • ½ cilantro, chopped with some stems
  • ½ cup red onion, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and put in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Chipotle Mayo

  • 1 cup mayo
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Place all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend for 1 minute until smooth. Put in a squeeze bottle and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Slaw

  • ½ red cabbage, chopped
  • ½ green cabbage, chopped
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ancho chili pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Let sit about 15 minutes before serving.

*Hint: Put 1 Can of chipotle pepper in a mini food processor. Blend until smooth. Place 1 tablespoon in each compartment of an ice cube tray, cover with wrap and freeze. This way you don’t waste the rest of the can! Just pop it out whenever you need it!

Assemble the tacos

Using flour or corn tortilla, warm in the microwave or on a flattop grill

Place slaw in a tortilla, add a piece of fish, then the pico and top with chipotle mayo. Enjoy!

Catherine Hosman is editor of Tex Appeal Magazine. Contact her at editor@texappealmag.com or 254-774-5234.

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