Running a crêpe van is flipping fantastic. . .
Pancakes shouldn’t just be reserved for one day a year – that’s the belief of crêpe extraordinaire Sarah Cox.
She travels around the country tempting tastebuds with an array of sweet and savoury delights all cooked on-board her mobile crêperie – a vintage French Citroen HY van named Chantilly.
Her repertoire includes delicious combinations such as Nutella with marshmallows, lemon curd with crumbed meringue and white chocolate with jam
While those without a sweet tooth can try a galette with a choice of fillings such as smoked gammon, chorizo, chutney, garlic creamed mushrooms and melted cheese.
Is your mouth watering yet?
“What’s great about crêpes is that you can put almost anything sweet in them and it tastes good.
“They are really versatile and once you’ve learned how to do it, they are fairly easy and very fast to make,” says Sarah.
The former primary school teacher, who lives in Burntwood, started her business in 2013 after decided she needed a change of direction.
Running a crêperie seemed like an ideal way to combine her love of France with her passion for cooking.
“I was looking to do something a bit quirky and different. I love France and the French way of life.
“I also like French people’s attitude to food and they are so enthusiastic about it even in its simplest forms.
It’s not all about eating to be full, it’s about the quality and freshness of the ingredients and this is the same with crêpes,” says Sarah.
Once she knew what kind of business she wanted, she started looking around for a set of wheels.
“I looked at all sorts of vans but the Citroen HY van really caught my eye because it’s very classic and cute,” says the 51-year-old.
Sarah attends around 60 to 70 weddings and other special occasions, catering for guests and also sells to revellers at fetes and small festivals around the country.
The business – The Little Camion – proved such a success that in 2015 she was joined by her son Dan after purchasing a second 1976 HY van, named Hugo.
“It just kept growing and growing and I was finding that I was turning down bookings so that’s when I purchased the second van and Dan joined me to manage that one,” says Sarah.
Her freshly made batter mix for sweet pancakes is inspired by a traditional crêpe recipe from Brittany while the savoury crêpes are based upon a French recipe for galettes, using a combination of buckwheat and spelt flour.
The crêpes are cooked on a cast iron burner with the batter spread out using a spatula so that it it is even and remains thin.
It doesn’t take very long to cook as they can be ready for their filling in less than two minutes.
People can chose from suggested combinations on the menu which include the classic lemon juice and sugar or create their own by picking from a list of items such as honey, chocolate sauce, maple syrup and peanut butter.
“A few of the combinations have been inspired by desserts like lemon meringue pie. Nutella and marshmallows is still the most popular one on the menu especially with children.
“Although I did have a bride once who didn’t want a crêpe but asked for some Nutella in a tub with a spoon,” says Sarah who gets through at least 100kg of Nutella every year.
“We still find that most people choose a sweet crêpe rather than a savoury one. I think people expect the savoury one to be sweet as well but it’s not. We do vegetarian ones as well as the meat ones,” she adds.
The vans are also a huge hit, attracting attention whenever they hit the road
But they don’t travel so fast with a maximum speed of around 42mph and don’t tend to mix well with muddy fields.
“They weren’t really built for this, they are more used to pottering around the mountains.
“We have got stuck a few times and had the groom, best man and other wedding guests help to dig us out.
“The vans have become even more popular, people like them almost as much as VW campervans,” Dan tells us.
Sarah says they get a lot of bookings for weddings especially with more couples opting for a vintage theme.
“People want to offer something different to their guests and make their wedding stand out and the van because it’s old-fashioned fits in well with the vintage look,” she adds.
The mother and son team both enjoy the variety their unusual job brings – they’ve even appeared as extras in the latest instalment of the Bourne film series starring Matt Damon.
“Out of the blue I had a call and we went down to the set in Paddington Basin where they were filming.
“It was a great experience being on set and we are in the film for about 15 seconds – there is Matt Damon and us with the van in the background,” says Sarah.
“That’s what so great about what we do. November is usually a quiet month but then we get a call from Warner Brothers booking us for two weeks.
“Every time we turn up somewhere – we know what we will be doing because we know the food we will be serving but we never know who we are going to meet and the stories we are going to come away with,” explains 32-year-old Dan, who also serves a range of gourmet burgers from on-board Hugo.
“We may be in London one week and then Leeds the next. We’ve been to some lovely places, places that we wouldn’t see otherwise,” adds Sarah.
But it doesn’t matter where they go, they always find people have one thing in common – they find it hard to resist a crêpe.
“It’s quite a classy dessert and I think as well as the taste, it’s the theatre of watching it being cooked and being able to smell it,” says Sarah.
And as Dan reveals: “It doesn’t matter how much people have already eaten or drunk, they always have room for a crêpe!”
So, with Shrove Tuesday just around the corner, it’s time to get busy with the frying pan and take inspiration from The Little Camion!
Follow The Little Camion on Twitter @TheLittleCamion