Its 10:45 a.m. Wednesday and already the temperature hovers in the humid 80s.
By KIMBERLY WINTER STERN
I hoist myself up into the Beauty of the Bistros gleaming, steaming interior, apron strings trailing behind me, notebook in one hand, phone clutched in the other.
My initiation in working on a food truck is a lunch shift. Rumor has it we could serve nearly 180 people in the next four hours.
Removing my sunglasses I encounter the inner sanctum of one of Johnson Countys most popular lunch-on-wheels spots. Its dollhouse-small and a quick visual sweep confirms organized military precision of the accouterments necessary to serve the crowd about to descend.
Half a foot literally, I mean, half of my foot was inside the food truck I run into owner Sidney Fish.
The ponytailed caterer-food trucker who launched the on-wheels portion of her business in 2012 is decked out in stylish jeans and a Beauty of the Bistro T-shirt.
Welcome aboard! Sidney is bustling you really can shake it in a tiny space with last-minute preparations. She opens the refrigerator to reveal shelves of neatly stacked homemade sauces, boxes of fresh produce and handmade burgers.
This is my son Shawn, she says, nodding toward the young man who I later learn is the Keeper of the Orders and the operations gregarious front man.
Shawns iPad sits on the counter, fired up for the hundreds of credit cards hell swipe. Within an arms reach of Shawn is a pile of Sidneys famous desserts. Today its a fudgy ganache-covered brownie with a peach-mango filling.
Behind Shawn is fellow K-Stater Mike Schonwetter.
Five inches from Mike is Rachel Price, ready for action, food-service gloves on, game plan in place.
Everything I need is here, Rachel points to pans heaped with ingredients for salads, sandwiches and burgers and then opens the door to a small cooler stuffed with plastic boxes. Chicken salad sandwiches to get started with.
Oops, sorry, I apologize for stepping on Sidneys foot someones foot, at least. It wont be the last time I make amends for body-bumping a co-worker.
From the outside, Beauty of the Bistros food truck looks sexy-rock-and-roll hip, like its the kitchen on wheels for a well-heeled traveling band.
Today the vehicle is parked in its regular weekly temporary 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. storefront, on a patch of gravel at 199th Street and Metcalf Avenue.
Thats the Stilwell community in southern Johnson County for the uninitiated of the pleasures way beyond the state line. Its not exactly the heart of Johnson Countys bustling suburbs in fact, it looks pretty quiet.
Peering out the food trucks expansive front window I see a four-way stop monitored by a traffic light. On one corner is a gas station/convenience store and on the opposite is Beauty of the Bistro.
Park it and they will come?
At exactly 11 a.m. the first customer John Munz, who lives down the road in Bucyrus, Kan., appears at the window.
Yep, Im a regular, he offers, waiting for his roast beef and provolone on marble rye with a smear of artichoke spread.
Soon diehard Beauty of the Bistro-ites, fans of Sidneys from-scratch food and desserts many even travel through the snow for Wednesday lunch trickle into the parking lot, along with lots of newcomers.
Some study the chalkboard menu propped on the ground, others fire off orders to Shawn with confidence.
Lots of people get the same thing every week, he says. But people like to change it up, too.
The line is constant, never overwhelming, and the mood is festive both inside and outside the truck as Shawn takes orders and handles the money, Sidney flips burgers on the flattop and Mike assembles boxes of freshly made Crawfish Mac-n-Cheese, a truck specialty.
Rachel multitasks: two market salads, four Boom Boom Burgers, two orders of Boom Boom Tacos with pulled pork and three chicken salad sandwiches are laid out on her pristine work surface.
Youre a clean-as-you-go chef, huh? I ask.
Rachel acknowledges the question with a smile, never missing a beat as she scoops slaw onto burgers and arranges toasted Farm To Market buns on top, snapping the to-go boxes shut before handing them off to Mike.
Shawn slips an order in front of Rachel.
Your grandma is here, he says, and today she wants two Boom Boom Tacos.
Grandma comes every Wednesday, says Rachel. And so does my mom.
Like clockwork, Rachels mom approaches the window and orders tacos.
The truck gently sways, cruise-ship style, and the music pumped on speakers outside through Sidneys iPad creates a party-like vibe.
Patrons of Beauty of the Bistro are a diverse bunch.
There are moms who set up picnics for their kids in the back of SUVs, clusters of construction workers, groups of nurses and a couple of camp leaders.
Steve Chick, EMS chief for Johnson County Fire District #2, ponies up to the window and a tattooed man on a Harley packs his Boom Boom Burger in a side bag and heads back to work.
Becky Carney of the Blue Valley School District Parents as Teachers program places an order for colleagues and Jennifer Becker and her three children queue up for tacos and burgers.
A Little Debbie distributors truck rumbles in and the driver jumps out to order lunch and dessert.
At the end of the four-hour lunch rush Sidney tallies up the dishes she and her crew so deftly executed.
We had 168 orders, she says, ticking off the selections. There were 48 burgers, 52 tacos two in each order 20 chicken salads, 10 market salads, 14 roast beef and 24 crawfish mac-and-cheese.
And that doesnt include the chocolate brownies, I remark.
Sidney, Shawn, Mike and Rachel slap high-fives, sweat trickling down faces, satisfied smiles all around.
I stumble out of the truck, stepping on multiple feet, resisting one of the brownies left on the counter.
My experience leaves me grateful for pros like Sidney Fish, an integral part of Kansas Citys vibrant food truck scene.
She makes it look so darned easy.
Its all in a days work, grins the Beauty, still looking model-fresh even after toiling four hours behind the griddle. Come back again, okay?
You betcha. Im a regular but next week, Ill be ordering at the window.
For more information on Beauty of the Bistro, visit its website www.beautyofthebistro.com .
Kimberly Winter Sternalso known as Kim Dishesis an award-winning freelance writer and national blogger from Overland Park and co-host with Chef Jasper Mirabile on LIVE! From Jasper's Kitchen each Saturday on KCMO 710/103.7FM. She is inspired by the passion, creativity and innovation of chefs, restaurateurs and food artisans who make Kansas City a vibrant center of locavore cuisine.