May marks food truck month in Nashville

Irene Bradley

Irene Bradley

Nashville’s Food Truck Association recently kicked off its third annual Nashville Street Food Month.

The month starts with Street Food Thursdays where 18 food trucks will park on Deaderick Street near Fifth Avenue downtown to serve lunch.

Even non-restaurant food businesses that don’t require seating still need room to prep, package and store. On top of that, food-prep facilities must be regulated and licensed for health safety.

Isn’t that what food trucks are for, you ask?

But apparently there is more than meets the eye when it comes to food and trucks. Because even if you could cook, refrigerate, clean and inventory everything you need within the parameters of a small RV, where are you going to park your truck?

Irene Bradley, a former nurse, got to thinking about how to bring economies of scale to small businesses about four years ago, when she launched the first iteration of The Cooks’ Kitchen in SoBro. That’s when Kristie Holdren of My Veggie Chef first signed up. Her monthly membership plan gives her and her team unlimited access to the communal kitchen.

“I wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for Irene,” said Holdren, who comes to the kitchen three or four times a week to prepare meatless meal kits for 150 families. As Holdren talks, My Veggie Chef’s assembly line is ladling black beans and tomato sauce into freezer bags at large stainless-steel counters.

Nearby, Malapanes is weighing mounds of dried peppermint, green tea and lemongrass to blend into Positiffitea’s Geeky Green tea medley. Anna Linn Curry pops in from the neighboring kitchen where she is baking giant quantities of delicate French macarons. When Curry received a large last-minute order the night before, her monthly membership enabled her to book a small private kitchen where she would be guaranteed oven space and a stand mixer, but she also has access to the large central room and is part of the bustling industry and friendly conversation.

Even with all the entrepreneurial traffic of some 30 small businesses coming and going from The Cooks’ Kitchen, Bradley found herself with 10,000 square feet of unused warehouse space. She painted the cavernous room black and made it so the overhead doors could be opened to create an indoor-outdoor space for events, which she named The Platform.