“When there’s great food and a good vibe, it’s a recipe for success,” says Food Truck Collective co-founder Maggie Gray.
Winter isn’t the time of year Maggie Gray usually looks forward to, but this year the co-founder of the Food Truck Collective and the phenomenally popular Auckland Fried Chicken Festival is counting down the days until July – and Elemental AKL 2022.
She reckons it’s a genius idea to organise a midwinter festival focused on arts, beats and eats, which tempts us away from hibernating at home by offering the sorts of experiences that her years in the events industry have taught her that we love.
“When there’s great food and a good vibe, it’s a recipe for success.”
There’s no escaping the fact that the past two years have been tough for those working in live events and hospitality, but Maggie says since the Food Truck Collective was able to restart feeding crowds, it’s demonstrated to her just how much we hanker for food, friends and connection.
A natural-born organiser who started arranging events at school, Maggie came to New Zealand from the UK to work during the 2011 Rugby World Cup and originally intended to stay for just a year.
“We kept saying, ‘One more year, one more year’, and we’re still here!”
In 2015, Maggie started a mobile smoothie business – and became aware of the trials and tribulations of trying to run a food truck. She joined forces with business partner Tim van der Werff to start the Food Truck Collective, a community of street-food vendors. She says the aim was to change the way New Zealanders saw mobile eateries – more gourmet rather than low- quality hot chips and hot dogs – and create more opportunities for the food vendors themselves.
To keep vendors busy, especially through winter, the duo started organising their own events, which is how they came to launch the Auckland Fried Chicken Festival. Maggie admits it was an idea she didn’t think would fly.
“We were running events outside the French Market in Parnell, which was quite a small space. When Tim suggested a fried chicken festival, I didn’t think anyone would go with it, but when we put it online, the interest was so strong I immediately started thinking about health and safety with crowd control! We sold 1500 tickets [$5 each] in 14 minutes.”
Subsequent events have been held at Shed 10 on Auckland’s waterfront, the venue for this year’s festival, which is part of Elemental AKL. Meanwhile, the Collective is central to the “hotly anticipated” Winterfest events at Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa and Te Atatū Community Centre. Each will have up to a dozen food trucks as well as the collective’s mobile bar.
“We’re doing mulled wine, which goes down a treat. Even just the smell of it entices people.”
This content was made in partnership with Auckland Unlimited.