One of the success stories of the recent Food Truck Friday in Bega is Leayra Thornton and Valley Katering.
The line up at Leayra’s counter said it all as did the smile on Leayra’s face as orders for her increasingly famous arancini balls made their way into the mouths of foodie fans.
Around 400 people attended the event – the start of something new for the Bega Valley.
Leayra is a local super mum who has built a successful business based on family, education, and taking a punt.
Her journey started in 2007 when as a fresh-faced first-year apprentice chef at the Commercial Cookery School at Bega TAFE.
Two years later, life intervened, Leayra put her career and studies on hold with the arrival of her first child.
After growing her family, two years later she was back, determined to finish the TAFE course she had started.
“My teachers were accessible anytime to help and having flexibility in study allowed me to work around the balance of study and family life,” she says.
“They do far more than deliver training courses, they recognise the potential in students and really mentor them.”
Five years after enrolling she graduated with her Certificate III, later adding a Certificate IV in Hospitality and a certificate in Food Safety Supervision to her CV. Leayra’s journey through Bega TAFE also included time in the campus canteen where the Valley Katering brand was tested and launched.
Leayra then put wheels under her skills and business sense and invested in the food truck that drew such a big crowd last Friday and can also be found at some of the region’s largest events, including Eat Merimbula, Band Together and regularly at the Bega Civic Centre.
“The Certificate IV really empowered me to make wise business decisions and this was one of them.”
Juggling her kitchen on wheels and a catering business headed into a busy tourist season on the Sapphire Coast, Leayra has also found time to take on work back where it all started.
“I also work part-time as a Kitchen Preparation Assistant [at Bega TAFE], so now I’m helping other TAFE students.”
As for Food Truck Friday, expect bigger and better next winter.
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all those that came out and supported the Food Truck Friday events held over the three months of winter in Eden, Merimbula and Bega,” says Clair Mudaliar of the Food Truck Collective and mobile bar Peisley’s.
“The success of these events has been beyond my wildest dreams. It’s an awesome thing when you have a little idea, a spark, and you get to see it come to life!
“The thing that really stopped me in my tracks has been seeing the community come together. A lot of events held in our shire are aimed at tourists, but this one truly is for the community, and it was really amazing to see how it was embraced.
“Food Truck Friday will definitely be back next winter with a few added venues, and more of those cool winter vibes. In the meantime, enjoy the summer sun, and keep supporting your local food truckers!”
Good stuff happens when good people see an opportunity and come together – it’s a magnet, what Leayra and Clair have achieved for themselves and the community is the proof.