Rachel Hawken was born and raised in the Milwaukee area. But, she’s a Kiwi at heart. And she’ll bring her love for New Zealand’s mobile cafe culture to Milwaukee next month when she launches her new food truck, Drift.
Hawken says she owes her love for the Pacific country, in part, to her husband Ryan, who is originally from Whakatane, New Zealand.
"We actually met in Wales while we were both studying abroad as seniors in college," notes Hawken. "From there, we moved to Minnesota, where I worked as an IT consultant for a year before we decided to spend some time traveling. First, we took a road trip around the U.S. on $50 a day in a two-door hatchback. And then we decided to take a leap and move to New Zealand."
In the six years they spent in Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand), Hawken says she fell in love with the mobile food scene.
"They have these really cute little open-air pillbox campers," she says. "And they’d set up at the beach where the surf clubs would gather. There are a lot of French-inspired trucks. There was one that served crumpets, and then a number of them serving savory pies and coffee."
A taste of New Zealand
When Hawken moved back to Milwaukee, she says the idea of starting a food cart began to take root.
"We’ve been obsessed with the idea of recreating a Kiwi food truck for so many years," she says. "But the timing just wasn’t right. Now that we’re settled in and raising our family, the flexibility of a food truck is appealing. It’s something we’re both passionate about, and we’ve had a lot of time to really think about how we want to do this. It’s going to be really fun to give people a little taste of New Zealand."
The truck itself, which is currently in production, will be modeled after the pillbox campers she remembers. It will feature an ordering counter on the side, along with four seats at an espresso bar on the back of the trailer.
As for the menu, Hawken says that Drift will feature a variety of New Zealand specialties, including savory pies, sausage rolls, Vegemite on toast, anzac biscuits and coffee.
"We really want to provide an authentic down-under experience," says Hawken as she describes the savory pies, which are made with a dough that’s similar to puff pastry. "There’s nothing like them here. They’re delicious and hearty, and just so good."
Flavors for the pies, which will be sourced through a collaboration with New Zealand bakers from Down-Under Bakery pies, will include mince (ground beef) & cheese, steak and cheese, chicken and vegetables, Thai chicken and curried vegetable. Each will cost $6-8.
Hawken, who notes that she’s worked off and on as a baker’s assistant, says she’ll be making the sweets served on the truck, which will include Anzac biscuits, cookies with a relative similarity to American oatmeal cookies; Afghan biscuits, crunchy chocolate biscuit with chocolate ganache and a walnut garnish; and Caramel Slice, sweet bar cookies with a granola and coconut base topped with caramel and chocolate.
Other offerings will include imported treats and sodas including L&P paeroa and lemon soda, ginger beer and Whittaker’s Chocolate.
Meanwhile, the truck will feature a full espresso bar, complete with a retro pull-down espresso machine. The coffee itself will be sourced from Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters, a Sacramento-based company owned by a family from New Zealand.
"We’ll offer espresso, lattes and drip coffee," Hawken explains. "But also the Flat White, which is a New Zealand drink with two shots of espresso and steamed milk."
Hawken, who says she expects the truck to debut sometime later in May with an official launch in June, says Drift is likely to make appearances around town during breakfast and lunch. However, they’ll also be open to serving at events, as well as taking on private catering contracts.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.