The contestants on “Chopped” and “The Next Food Network Star” have nothing on Tom Kyrk.
At least they cook in fully equipped kitchens with stocked pantries. Kyrk cooks in the cab of his 2015 Freightliner Cascadia with ingredients brought from home or found at a supermarket within walking distance of where he parks for the night.
TV chefs might sneer at his mobile kitchen, but Kyrk not only turns out tasty, healthy food under those conditions, he helps other drivers eat better as well.
“I’m motivated to help other people and put a priority on that,” he said.
Kyrk, a member of RoadPro Family of Brands Pro Driver Council, operates Road Tested Living, a website that offers recipes, product reviews, exercise tips and other material for truckers wanting a healthy lifestyle. He gets help from other drivers and Bob Perry of Rolling Strong, a fitness program for professional drivers.
His passion for cab cooking was born from his own struggle. He began driving about 10 years ago for a Texas-based refrigerated carrier and quickly learned that a sedentary occupation and truck stop food are a toxic combination. He ballooned from 250 pounds to more than 300 pounds. A doctor’s warning scared him into losing weight.
He added workouts, but knew he’d have to eat better if he wanted to lose enough weight. He wasn’t the first trucker to cook in his cab, but he was so pleased by the results that he decided to spread the word with help from trucker trainer Perry.
The son of a minister, Kyrk, 39, takes naturally to proselytizing, though he’s not sure how many drivers he’s reaching through the website and demonstrations at trucking shows. “I could care less about the total number, but if I just help one driver to have a better quality of life, I’ve reached my goal,” he said.
His mobile kitchen is more elaborate than most, but there are no six-burner ranges or convection ovens here. He has two setups: a 12-volt kitchen consisting of two 12-volt portable stoves, two 1.5 quart slow cookers, a frying pan, a sauce pan/popcorn cooker and a coffeemaker, all by RoadPro; and a 110-volt kitchen with an electric grille, a larger crock pot and a rice cooker.
His culinary skills were on display at August’s Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. Kyrk cooked everything from egg muffins to pumpkin cheesecake using the same equipment he carries in his truck. While he showed travel center operators the possibilities of mobile cooking, he was struck by the concern they had for truckers.
“They told me that they often see drivers, especially those new to the field, who have trouble affording food to eat. They’ve been recommending to them that they get some 12-volt appliances and start cooking in their trucks,” he said. “I left the show with a new appreciation of the concern travel center operators have for drivers.”
There are no solid numbers about how many over-the-road drivers cook in their trucks. Kyrk said only a few do it exclusively, while a larger number mix cooking in their cabs, heating up meals brought from home and eating in restaurants. The longer drivers are away from home, the more likely they are to cook, he said.
The biggest obstacles to truck cooking are the driver’s lack of know-how, preparation and cooking time and the desire, at the end of a long day behind the wheel, to get out of the truck and spend time with other people, Kyrk said.
He is making it easier for drivers to cook with the Rolling Kitchen Cookbook, an e-book that can be downloaded for free from the Road Tested Living website.
The cookbook is not all broccoli and Brussels sprouts. There are recipes for staples like meatloaf and mustard-coated pork chops, as well as desserts and snacks. Kyrk said he doesn’t expect to convert truckers to health food immediately.
“I just want them to start cooking for themselves. That’s the first step,” he said.
About the Author: This article was written by veteran journalist James Sweeney and provided by RoadPro Family of Brands.