When Allyson Howse and Brad Gover started seeing one another, they quickly discovered a mutual love and appreciation for two things: great food and trips around the bay — colloquially dubbed in this province as baycations.
“We did a lot of baycationing,” says Howse. “When we’d go, we’d always try to find restaurants and unfortunately it’s a lot of brown food when you’re going to more rural Newfoundland.”
But on the Bonavista Peninsula, the duo from St. John’s found an eclectic culinary scene taking shape and enjoying incredible success, including the Oh My Cheeses food truck in Port Rexton, which is owned and operated by their friend Lisa LeShane.
Last summer, Gover and Phil Goodland — his business partner in two small food operations called Flip Out: The Best Little Apple Flip Company in the World and Sneaky BBQ — were offered the chance to work out of LeShane’s food truck two days a week.
The results were tantalizing.
“We were thinking, is this something we could do here? Actually have a food truck here that’s doing what other food trucks in other urban centres are doing?”
Early next month, Howse and Gover will do just that when they bring their Saucy Mouth food truck to Bonavista.
“With a food truck, it’s accessible for everyone and we can still do some more gourmet, creative items and people not have that feeling like they don’t fit in,” Howse says.
The Saucy Mouth menu, while not the traditional fare one expects from a chip truck, is meant to be offer familiar options to the thousands of tourists who flock to the peninsula every summer, while still serving as a jumping off point for those with a less adventurous palate.
For example, the menu will feature their spin on chips, dressing and gravy alongside Korean street fries, a dish consisting of fresh carrots and cucumber, homemade Newfoundland kimchi and a fried egg atop a bed of sweet potato fries.
“We’re going to have a couple of accessible points, but we’re convinced that once they have those they’re going to want to try the other ones,” explains Gover.
“It might open their eyes to maybe trying the Korean street fries next time or maybe trying a bibimbap bowl.”
Another staple on the menu is homemade soda, similar to Italian soda. So far, they’ve tested a strawberry shortcake lemonade and a blueberry cream soda — “They’re absolutely delicious,” says Gover — but the plan is to connect with local growers so they can experiment with other locally grown berries.
The same plan extends to other produce grown in the region and, eventually, seafood products.
“We really want to keep a small menu and if things aren’t selling, we’ll change it. We want to focus on having cool specials, things that people want to try, so that way we can keep it exciting for people living in the area,” says Howse.
As for the name Saucy Mouth, she says it’s their nod to Newfoundland culture, but it’s also meant to disarm people who may be apprehensive about the cuisine.
“It really is about what’s going to bring people to our truck, because we’re not serving your traditional chip truck fare, so we need a way to welcome people in and make them feel comfortable and not afraid to try a Korean street fry or a blueberry basil homemade soda.”
Both Gover and Howse have experience in the restaurant world, but the endeavor isn’t exactly a lateral move from their current careers.
Howse comes from the community work sector, having worked most recently for the John Howard Home for Youth and the Tommy Sexton Centre. Gover, meanwhile, is a filmmaker who has done a little bit of everything in that line of work.
Both industries, while rewarding over the years, come with a “burnout factor,” and both Gover and Howse say they had started to reach that point.
Still, it begs the question: why Bonavista and not St. John’s?
Primarily, it’s because they fell in love with the area last summer, but it’s also because of the challenges involved with getting a small business off the ground in the metro region.
“We decided it’s hard enough starting a small business generally, and once we found how helpful John Norman and the rest of the council there was and how supportive they were, we were like, ‘Why would we do it this way when we can make it so much easier,’ and the fact that so many people from outside the province visit there, we decided that was the better equation for our potential success,” says Gover.
Norman being Bonavista’s mayor and CEO of Bonavista Living and Bonavista Creative, the company he founded to restore the town’s built heritage and foster new businesses in the community.
Over the last couple of years, more than two dozen new businesses — most owned and operated by a younger generation of entrepreneurs — have set up shop in one of the province’s oldest, most historic communities.
As part of the lease agreement, Norman’s company is setting up a permanent home for Saucy Mouth, complete with custom-made furniture at cost and a three-tiered deck.
“It’s incredibly supportive,” says Gover. “It’s definitely, without a doubt, the best place to start a small business in Newfoundland.”
Adds Howse, “It’s just too beautiful and everyone’s so welcoming and friendly. I just think, you can’t get that in a big urban centre. You lose that connection to people and place.”
For the foodies who want to check out Saucy Mouth but don’t have the means or time to get to Bonavista this summer, Howse and Gover will hitt the road for some of the summer’s major events — such as the 200th Royal St. John’s Regatta — and this fall and winter they’ll be available for weddings, anniversaries, corporate events and other festivities.
Support for Saucy Mouth
While the Saucy Mouth team got some help from the Community Business Development Corp., along with private investors, to purchase the truck, starting a small business of this nature isn’t cheap.
To help outfit their rig with some pricey equipment like a commercial rice cooker, soda machine and a proper generator for when they take the show on the road, Howse and Gover launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $10,000. (As of Friday afternoon, they had raised nearly $2,400.)
Like similar crowdfunding platforms, individuals are rewarded based on how much they donate, from $5 to as much as $5,0000.
“We’re trying to incentivize,” explains Howse. “Support us and we’ll give you something in return.”
A $25 donation, for example, earns something dubbed Saucy Supper, which includes a branded sticker, a solo bowl and soda, as well as shoutout and some “sass” on Saucy Mouth’s social media channels, all of which can be found by searching @SaucyMouthTruck.