Cooking on the highway
ONE Aussie invention, made by a truckie for truckies is out to bust both hunger and budgets on the road.
Top End Camp Kitchens, a brainchild of life-long driver Jim Crawford manufactures kitchens fit to travel from the urban freeways of Melbourne to the corrugated back road of the Northern Territory.
The camp kitchen inspiration has been a work in progress since Jim first fell in love with camp cooking in the early 70s.
He learnt the trade when he scored a stint as the camp cook fresh out of school while mustering on a Territory cattle station, after the real cook "disappeared”.
After then buying a truck in 1975 Jim spent 40 years crisscrossing the nation driving semis, road-trains and low loaders, often cooking for himself while on a run.
Jim's partner Janet said the first kitchen was developed out of necessity.
"He found he was often unable to stop to purchase meals at certain times of the day, road houses were either too far away or too expensive,” she said.
"So Jim found a way to be self-sufficient, building the first kitchen set-up out of ply wood and steel.”
Over the years Jim continued to build a dozen different versions of a portable kitchen set-up as he developed a way to conveniently store everything he needed to prepare, cook, serve and clean up after meals and prevent destructive rattles of the gas burner and cooking gear.
He eventually mounted the unit outside the truck allowing him to pull up anywhere and prepare and cook meals.
His food bills were drastically reduced as a consequence.
Today the kitchen is engineered from aluminium and finished in a powder coat is dust proof and lined with carpet so rattles are muffled or non-existent.
However despite making a few models for friends, it wasn't until he was off the road for good that Jim decided to pursue his idea further
"He always wanted to do it, and I thought, yeah why not let's just do this,” Janet said.
"We both gave up work. We have only been going since October last year, only just really sort of starting to produce in a quantity.
"Truckies don't just use them. We have people who put them on the back of harvesters, utes, horse floats or campervans in the bush.
"There isn't any application they can't be mounted on. "After it is all said and done what he has really tried to engineer is something simple and convenient to save money as being a truck driver working throughout Australia can be very costly.
"My hope is that everyone who owns one of these kitchens gets the same enjoyment from using theirs as we do from ours.”
Despite no longer driving professionally, Jim and Janet have taken the kitchen to shows across Australia, stopping along the way for a meal, of course.
"He is the best bush cook ever. He does bread and butter pudding, casseroles and Asian recipes. His kitchen has its own spice rack,” she laughed.
So for those with the time, this is a new way to travel and eat up the miles on the long highway.