Red hot: inspiring food from the charcoal BBQ in the Mercedes-Benz 508 D.

Fresh from the charcoal BBQ – that's what Murray May's food trucks from the UK is all about. For their dream, Ewan 'Murray' and Thecla 'May' converted a Mercedes-Benz 508 D almost entirely by themselves.

Regional meets international.

It's a grey day in Bristol, England and it's raining. The clouds are hanging low over the picturesque city on the River Avon. But there's no time for gloom because it's Thursday – and thus also the day of the Temple Quay Market in the heart of the quarter bearing the same name. Local specialities, a range of different dishes and refreshing drinks draw in the residents each week. Also present each week for a while now is Murray May’s, a bright blue food truck with a real charcoal barbecue that sizzles and smokes. A spot of colour among all the grey, and not just visually but also in terms of taste too: Ewan Murray and Thecla May combine their seasonal, British products with spices, fragrances and aromas from the east before grilling them over the open fire. Great passion for food and a few trips to far-flung places were the inspiration for the young pair turning their dream into reality – in a classic Mercedes-Benz 508 D.

Many years of experience and entrepreneurial spirit.

A look back in time: Ewan earned his living as a chef and Thecla worked in restaurants and bars. Together, they wanted to make the next big step and set up their own business. But they both quickly came to the conclusion that they didn't want it to be a restaurant: seeing this idea as inflexible and too risky. After a lot of consideration, the idea came to them: "We spent winter in a ski resort in Japan," the pair recall. "Near the resort, there were loads of vans half-covered with snow with really nice wood-burning ovens. Then it occurred to us that it would be great to be able to park at different locations and serve up good, affordable food. And so our idea was born." Very quickly, we came to the question as to which van would be best suited for creating a food truck? "We wanted a vehicle with character, which would suit both us and our food," explains Ewan. They whittled the list down to an old army vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz 508 D – and just six months later, it was theirs.

An unknown route.

Before Ewan became a chef, he worked as an electrician and so a large part of the conversion work was carried out by him. He got some help from friends: "At the start of January 2017, we began working and at the beginning of April, our first event was already booked," explains the avid handyman. "It was a bit stressful, to put it lightly." The first work done on the vehicle was changing the tyres and batteries – but quickly things started getting tough: it would appear that no other van had previously been equipped with an open-fire barbecue or anything similar. The sparse information and feedback available made it impossible for Thecla and Ewan to use existing examples as an orientation. So it meant they had to get creative and develop their own solutions – and sometimes to simply use trial and error.

A bright blue 508 D in Bristol – here comes Murray May's.

A large part of their time was spent on the planning: "Ewan has a lot of experience as a chef in a small kitchen," says Thecla. "When he started thinking about how we would work, this experience was a major help in planning the interior." Every corner and every detail was measured, documented and included in the plans in order to make the equipment fit as precisely as possible during the installation work. But before that could take place, the van which the pair lovingly called "Nessie" was to receive a fresh lick of paint. "Choosing the colour was unimaginably difficult. We changed our minds on several occasions," explains Thecla with a laugh. "We had it painted by a team of very talented people at a paintshop in Yate. They really put their heart into their work. We were amazed by the result."

The conversion.

Three weeks and a bright blue painted body later, the major work could finally start. First things first: the interior was completely stripped. With a real charcoal barbecue in the van, a fireproof partition wall was, of course, unavoidable. This was supplemented by a stainless steel wall. A powerful roof-mounted extraction system was placed over the former ventilation shaft and then the beating heart was added: an authentic Turkish Mangal barbecue was installed on a stainless steel table which stretches the entire length of the partition wall. All that was missing were the technological aspects, insulation and panelling – for the latter, hygienic considerations led Thecla and Ewan to choose easy-to-clean PVC. Then it was on to the finishing touches: after installing the work surfaces and a sink, the sales counter was edged with copper to make it a truly special highlight of the truck. After installing a number of pipes and a sufficiently large water tank, the fridge and shelving were able to be fitted – and with them, the dream of their own food truck had become reality.

A resounding success.

"We wanted a vehicle with character, which would suit both us and our food."

Pleased with their creation.

"Some people thought we were mad, but everything worked!" explains Ewan proudly. The pair look back happily on the first event they visited once the conversion work was finished – right here on Bristol's Temple Quay Market. "Whilst we love the variety and excitement which a festival offers, the local markets remain our favourite type of event," Thecla and Ewan confirm. "It's a great feeling to be among the other traders and we love getting to know our customers." Despite the initial worry that their business model wouldn't allow them to actually earn a living, the young entrepreneurs were quickly able to cast aside their doubts: "Seeing people standing in front of our food truck and how impressed they are by us and our food is great," the pair enthuse, "and knowing that we created it ourselves just makes it even more worthwhile."

Going new ways.

Thecla and Ewan dared to make the next step – self-employment.

Delicacies from the truck.

Edged with copper, the front bar is a truly attractive feature of the food truck and makes for a great counter.

A new lick of paint for the 508 D. 

They found their Mercedes-Benz 508 D, a former vehicle from the Dutch army, on eBay.    

Big change.

What a difference a colour can make.

Photos:

Ewan Murray & Thecla May

More links to discover:

Murray May's - www.murraymays.co.uk, @Facebook

The conversions shown were made by independent third-party providers. The providers and the conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. The photos in no way serve as an evaluation by Mercedes-Benz of the provider and/or conversions in question.

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