Helena Carter believes everyone is put on Earth to share their gifts, but she didn’t always think that sharing cooking was for her.
Carter discovered a love for it early on while helping her chef mother in the kitchen and on catering jobs. But witnessing the day-to-day struggles of the profession firsthand made her hesitant to pursue it as a career.
“I told myself I’d do whatever it takes to keep me out of the kitchen at 50,” the now-51-year-old said while sitting outside her food truck, Taste of Louisiana, after serving customers at The Gateway Plaza.
“But, then, look,” she quipped, gesturing back to her food truck, emblazoned with a golden fleur-de-lis.
Carter and her husband, Jerrell, launched Taste of Louisiana out of a tent in Clearfield last July. By October, the Carters’ creole-inspired menu went mobile with a food truck that now serves customers through Davis, Weber, Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Their truck will be among those competing at the inaugural Food Truck and Brewery Battle from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at The Gateway Plaza in downtown Salt Lake City. The event is free, but guests should bring money to sample a wide variety of foods and beers.
The battle kicks off the Salt Awards, The Salt Lake Tribune’s annual celebration of old favorites and emerging talents and experiences. Voting is now open online at http://tribsalt.com.
Taste of Louisiana’s menu reflects Carter’s and her husband’s heritage. Every recipe is a combination of flavors and ingredients passed down from her grandparents, great-grandparents or from her husband’s side of family, all of whom hailed from the Bayou State.
There are several Louisiana staples on the truck’s menu, but Carter said you can’t come to the truck without at least trying the seafood gumbo – a stew made with veggies, three sizes of shrimp, lump crab meat and sausage served over rice – or any of its toasted po’ boy sandwiches. Carter said she always has both delicacies ready for sampling.
The cuisine’s spicy flavors are new to many customers, Carter said, which makes offering free samples by way of introduction a regular part of her job. In fact, she said that seeing customers light up after trying something new helped her realize that cooking was the gift she needed to share.
“Cooking has been something in our blood,” she said. “Our food might be different from what people have tried here, but good food is universal.”