Metro-East Living

Food trucks star at Cathedral parish festival

Oscar Farina sells Argentinian dishes from his food truck, Los Gauchos Argentinian Grill. The truck, regularly outside Scott Air Force Base, will be at St. Peter Cathedral parish’s Food Truck Fest on Saturday.
Oscar Farina sells Argentinian dishes from his food truck, Los Gauchos Argentinian Grill. The truck, regularly outside Scott Air Force Base, will be at St. Peter Cathedral parish’s Food Truck Fest on Saturday.

If you like food trucks, St. Peter’s Cathedral parish grounds is where you’ll want to be from 4-9 p.m. Saturday.

The parish picnic has turned into Cathedral Food Truck Fest.

“They pull up with their trucks, bring their own products, open their windows, put out their menu and they’re ready to go,” said Josie Weiler, who is coordinating the event.

It was her idea.

“My husband (Wayne) and I have gone to food truck events and enjoyed them,” she said. “It’s something new for us, something out there in the world nowadays that’s popular. We concentrated on local food trucks. Hicks BBQ is bringing a smoker. The Weingarten, it’s the first time they are stepping outside their facility (on Illinois 15).

“We also have an Argentinian food truck that serves traditional Argentinian food. Empanadas, food from scratch. They are immigrants trying to get the American dream going.”

Other food trucks include General Sherman’s from Swansea, Joe’s Asian From Scott Air Force Base and Washington Kettle Corn from Troy. Seoul Taco, STL BLT, Zia’s, Destination Desserts and Kona Ice are coming from St. Louis. Items range from traditional beef and Italian foods to Asian tacos and gourmet cupcakes.

Msgr. John Myler looked into the history of the food truck phenomenon that his parish has embraced.

“They started in the Wild West — to feed the gold miners — and spread to New York, Chicago and other big cities,” he said in the church bulletin. “Now, they are all the rage.”

Music, kids’ games, face painting, inflatables and a wine garden are part of the fun. A violin group from Tinge Studio in O’Fallon will perform at 5:15 p.m., followed by Big Mike Aguirre, of Belleville, from 6-9 and a balloon twister from Red Bud from 4-8.

Admission is free. Food trucks will make a donation to the parish, based on their sales.

The food truck event has a side bonus for parish workers like Josie.

“For the chicken dinner at the picnic, I’ve been working in the dining room years and years and years,” she said. “By the time it’s cleaned up, we never get out to the outdoor activities. It’s a chance to get together and doesn’t take as many volunteers.”

One of the folks who will be working is Oscar Farina.

He and wife Ainara own Los Gauchos Argentinian Grill, a sleek silver food truck with a small commercial kitchen. (Their Facebook page is losgauchos618). During the week, his truck is just outside the Scott Air Force Base entrance off Illinois 158. He sells Empanadas (Latin American turnovers with either beef or guava and cream cheese fillings), sausage sandwiches with chimichurra sauce, pork steaks with Spanish black rice, beef short ribs and more. His hours there are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Oscar explained that the chimichurra sauce is made with parsley, onions, vinegar, olive oil and other spices.

“We eat it with everything — rice, pasta, meat,” he said. “Meat is a big thing in Argentina. We had meat with every meal. We make everything fresh. The only reason I have to buy the meat is I don’t own cows.”

Oscar, who hails from the La Pampa state, or province, moved to Miami when he was 15.

“I was raised by my grandmother. My mother was here for years. She went and brought us — me and two brothers — with her in 1998 when I was 15. It was hard at the beginning. I knew I had to learn English. I speak some German and Italian. I tell my kids, ‘Learn what you can now. When you are older, it’s more difficult.’

“I married my wife in high school. She’s from Spain. From there, we both joined the military. We ended up in Germany, then back to the U.S.”

He got out of the service after 12 years in the U.S. Army, but she stayed in the service, changing from Army to Coast Guard.

“After trying to find jobs all the time, we decided to purchase the food truck since I always liked food. My family comes from a background of restaurants and bakeries.

“I am following her around. When we move, I can have a job all the time.”

The Farinas and their three sons — Kristoffer,14, Aleckzander, 9, and Zebastian, 6 — live in Caseyville.

“The boys love it,” said Oscar. “The middle one wants to come and cook with me. At the event, they are going to be with us. The oldest is certified to handle food. It’s a family business.”

Jeremy Baldridge, 36, of Millstadt, ordered a sausage sandwich from Los Gauchos on Tuesday.

“I’m always looking for new places,” said the consultant with the telecom branch of government. “I love food trucks, the different menus that you get. I saw this one, and thought, ‘Man, I need to stop.’”

Cathedral Food Truck Fest

When: 4-9 p.m. Saturday

Where: St. Peter Cathedral playground, 200 W. Harrison St., Belleville

What: 12 food trucks, plus beer and wine garden, music, inflatables, kids’ games, face painting and more

Admission: Free