Heather Marie is allergic to peppers, which can make preparing spicy Vietnamese food a challenge.
But the chef of the new food truck coming to downtown Bozeman said she has a knack for knowing how spicy to make the food — even without being able to try it herself.
Marie is opening Sun Dial, a new food truck to be permanently parked in the LARK Hotel parking lot in downtown Bozeman, in the spot where a Genuine Ice Cream Co. truck once sat.
“I try all the recipes before I put chili peppers in so I get an idea of the flavor,” she said.
She knows how much peppers need to be added to achieve a certain level of heat, but will often have others try the food just in case.
“I know if I do four slices of jalapeno it’s going to be dangerously spicy,” she joked.
Sun Dial, housed in a 1954 vintage airstream trailer, had its grand opening Thursday. Regular hours will be Thursday to Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m., and the truck will be open year-round.
Through the month of August, the food truck will be holding giveaways and raffles for customers.
The truck serves Vietnamese food, like banh mi sandwiches, spring rolls and vermicelli noodle bowls and homemade sugar cane juice. Once the summer heat subsides, Marie plans to offer pho, too.
As much as possible, Marie has tried to source ingredients locally. Spices and a pickling blend came from The Spice and Tea Exchange, and EcoMontana is supplying the to-go containers.
The vintage trailer itself was converted to a commercial food truck by a company in Townsend.
In lieu of finding another local food truck, Tasha Starr, the LARK hotel manager, said they decided to open their own food truck to offer convenience for both staff and hotel guests.
Guests can charge purchases at the Sun Dial to their rooms, and hotel staff will get a discount at the food truck.
Eventually, Marie hopes to open the truck seven days a week.
Marie came onboard with the food truck, operated by the LARK Hotel, in June. She’s originally from Boise but came to Bozeman by way of the East Coast. Although a professional trained chef with experience in opening new restaurants, Marie had never really made Vietnamese food before.
She wanted to serve the East Asian cuisine in part because there are few offerings for the grub in the city.
“It was a good niche,” she said. Wanting to serve high quality Vietnamese food, Marie said she reached out to Vietnamese locals through social media to taste test her recipes and give suggestions on improving the food.
She also reached out to Vietnamese chefs for advice and is planning a trip to Salt Lake City to check out Vietnamese markets there.
“It’s been pretty fun,” she said.