Suzy Salwa Phillips got her beginning in war-torn Lebanon. She spent a lot of time cooking in shelters and learning from her mom. When she moved to the United States in 1989, she used those skills to her advantage and began working in the restaurant industry.
Already working two cooking jobs, Suzy has a dream. She wants to open her own food truck. Unfortunately, the city has not been very forthcoming with the permission she needs, reports Ashville Citizen-Times.
Her truck, a 1986 model she calls “Spartacus,” has a full kitchen on board, and it’s clean and well-kept. She and her husband, local artist Gabriel Shaffer, who’s worked diligently on the project with her, are ready to go.
But the city is not.
Phillips has run into the kabob grinder of city government bureaucracy, as well as concerns from brick and mortar restaurants and the machinations of such organizations as the Asheville Downtown Commission, which only meets monthly and has a key role in the new food truck ordinance the city is writing.
Phillips understands the city has to have some regulations in place so the town is not overrun with food trucks. And she understands that restaurants that pay property taxes and rent want to ensure they don’t take a financial hit.
“But it’s a free market, too,” Phillips said. “People like me, who are poor or come from a poor family but have ambition and drive, we need a chance in life.”
“It’s looking like another six months to a year before I can do this,” Phillips said. “You do feel like you’re running around in the same circle, chasing your tail.”
Phillips, who admits to being tenacious like “a bull,” said she’s in it for the long haul. I asked her why she hasn’t quit.
“Because I have no other choice — I don’t want to wait tables all my life, and I don’t see myself getting a $250,000 loan anytime soon (for a brick and mortar restaurant),” she said. “And I’m not a quitter.”
Photo by Steven Depolo