Fresh Start

Revival food truck returns to the streets with new owner

By Andy Meek

Years ago, after leaving the 9-to-5 of the corporate world, Cathy McKee decided she wanted to get more serious about cooking.

New owner Cathy McKee took over the Revival Southern Food Co. truck that has been dormant for months. McKee parks the truck at lunchtime between Triad Centre III and SunTrust building at Poplar and Ridgeway in East Memphis.

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

She had once done some catering, back when her children were in school. Cooking was a passion she was ready to return to. And after a confluence of events – starting a food trailer, then taking a few months off to care for her parents when they got sick, then the arrival of the summer heat underscoring the need for a trailer that had air conditioning, which hers didn’t have, she started putting out word to friends.

If you know of any trucks coming up for sale, she told them, let me know. And one of her friends did just that, showing her that Revival Southern Food Co.’s food truck had gone up for sale.

“She showed me on the Internet where it was for sale,” McKee said of her friend. “And I was like, I don’t know, it’s huge. I don’t know if I could handle it myself.”

Her friend persisted. You can do it, she encouraged McKee.

“So I went and looked at it,” McKee said. “I saw it and decided I’ve got to have it.”

That was about a month ago. She picked the truck up on Mother’s Day, and one of her daughters helped her clean the truck and get it ready.

McKee said she’s not trying to replace Revival’s previous chef, “Crash” Hethcox, but that she brings plenty of respect for what he did while at the same time pushing her own style of cuisine.

Like many food trucks, Revival’s menu changes a bit from time to time to keep the selection fresh. It has included items like BLTs, breakfast parfaits, hot ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled chicken clubs, hamburgers and milkshakes.

Cathy McKee prepares an Asian spicy chicken lettuce wrap alongside Emily Sacharczyk in the Revival Southern Food Co. truck. A friend encouraged McKee to revive the dormant food truck.

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

Revival’s return to the food truck scene comes at a time when Memphis is seeing a burgeoning and robust community of food truckers, one that is comprised of more than a dozen operators that include Fuel Food Truck, Tamale Trolley and Stickem Food Truck.

New participants put up a lot of cash to start one. Earlier this year on the question-and-answer website Quora, prominent Memphis restaurateur Taylor Berger detailed some of what goes into the process in a general sense.

For example, he wrote that a brand new, built-from-scratch custom food truck can cost more than $150,000 after buying the truck, a generator, equipment and building it to code. A new, fully equipped and built-out food trailer runs around $60,000 – not counting the truck needed to pull it.

Food trucks have to apply for and obtain a permit and be open to surprise inspection by the Memphis Shelby County Health Department. Among the other local requirements, food trucks can’t park within 300 feet of a restaurant without the restaurant’s permission. In Downtown Memphis, the permitted distance is 50 feet.

Also, they can’t park in the same spot for less than 30 minutes or more than six hours.

McKee, meanwhile, said she’s doing this because she wants to spend her time doing the things she loves.

“I love to socialize and make food for people,” she said. “This also gives me the flexibility with my schedule to do the things I need to do.”

She ended a recent post on Revival’s Facebook page this way:

“God bless you and your family, and I will continue to improve my menu and services for you. See ya tomorrow!”