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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

INTERESTING FOLKS: Hope’s Carolyn Vanheteren Serves Up Delicious Comradery at Popular Lunch Cart

When told by Vanheteren that she wanted to operate a lunch truck, Chefs LLC’s owner, Lisa McLaughlin, happened to have one discarded behind her new restaurant, Serendipity. Photo by Ridge View Echo staff for article, “Chefs LLC, Brings Delicious and Innovative..” 11/2022

The new lunch cart chef and pastry chef at Chefs Catering and Events, 411 Route 94, Columbia, just outside of Blairstown, is operated by Hope resident, Carolyn Vanheteren. She’s been happily serving up a varied menu to regulars from near and far. The gourmet food and affordability bring steady lunchtime crowds every weekday.

Vanheteren hails from Hope with a degree in culinary arts from Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York, with a concentration in baking.

She credits her family with taking her often when she was young to the Adirondack Mountains, plus both her parents worked for a recreation camp near where Paul Smith is located. Her mom was a naturalist and her dad was the chef.

This exposure fostered in her a lifelong appreciation of the outdoors, as well as cooking. And outdoors is where she enjoys working in the locally infamous, retro-looking, steel lunch truck from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a view of the Kittatinny Ridge framing Knowlton.

As the restaurant’s pastry chef, she’s up early baking delectables and often features them at the lunch cart. Getting an exquisite carrot cake in a sample cup for a mere $2 seems like the perfect ending to a gourmet lunch.

Like a lifesized “Barbie” play camper, the cart is complete with at least two grills, many shelves, cubbies, an American flag and peekaboo coolers in front to hold beverages. She is in radio communication, as needed, with the inside restaurant staff to bring her cold supplies.

Long view of trailer off Route 94. Photo by D.L. Dunn. 5/2023
Vanheteren expertly grills chicken. Photo by D.L. Dunn, 5/2023
Vanheteren checks on the buns and sides toasting on the grill behind her. Photo by D.L.Dunn, 5/2023

Vanheteren bakes all of the confections offered. She produces small desserts like the delicious carrot cake in a cup, chocolate marshmallow cake pops, $4 raspberry lemon tarts and the decadent $5 brown derby cake. She said her most popular menu choice by far has been the “pickled chicken” sandwiches and burgers of all kinds, freshly grilled.

Even her hotdogs defy the stereotypical variety expected from a lunch cart, said Vanheteren, and indeed they are grilled and can sport sauteed and lightly seasoned onions, instead of the hotly debated New York style red-sauced or West Jersey style raw alliums.

Easy to read choices. Photo by D.L. Dunn, 5/2023
More choices. Photo by D.L. Dunn. 5/2023

“Some poeple, seeing this old-fashioned food truck, expect me to have just ‘dirty water’ (a derogatory descriptive used in New York City) hotdogs but are pleasantly surprised to have choices from a full restaurant menu available,” said Vanheteren.

With plenty of outdoor table seating available nearby, the comradery is infectious as patrons from near and far happily share stories and favorites. Much like the famed bar on the old TV show “Cheers,” master pastry chef and cook Vanheteren offers pleasant food and conversation, bringing people back, again and again.

Rob, a proud regular, waits whille his cowboy cheeseburger wrap is made. Photo by D.L. Dunn, 5/2023

Desiree Dunn
Desi L. Dunn, Managing Editor
Managing Editor at Desiree L. Dunn, LLC

Born & educated in NY with an Environmental Science degree from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Desi's family resides in Hardwick with a young teen and several spoiled pets. Considering northwest Jersey to be a true gem, her commitment to the people and environs is exemplified by the many different jobs she's had - municipal & county official, election clerk, open space plan writer, newspaper & radio journalist, grant writer, events coordinator and farm market manager as well as retail, waitressing, archaeological digger and once for a short while in a very huge warehouse.

Her favorite was as a reporter for many years with the Recorder newspapers, Blairstown Press, Paulinskill Chronicle, Gannett publications plus WNTI Public Radio producing public affairs and human interest stories on-air.

She often has her camera ready to capture interesting people and events. She's thrilled to now serve as RVE's Managing Editor, helping fellow writers hone their skills and show you the issues as well as treasures that exist in North Warren, through their eyes.