Progress, Pain, Repeat

Hello, friends! I’m reporting to you live, from the trenches of kitchen-building. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently in the middle of two big projects.

1. Rehabbing a trailer so that I have an efficient way to serve pies from a mobile unit, and
2. Renovating a building to house a brick-and-mortar commissary.

These are exciting projects, to be sure. But now and then, they can be overwhelming.

Let’s start with the trailer. Remember last week that I said I was going to pick up the trailer and that it was going to be finished?

Guess what?

It totally wasn’t finished.

Or rather, it was “finished,” but the work was sloppy and wasn’t going to pass inspection by the Health Department. The walls showed gaps between the plywood and the FRP cleanable surface. (Yuck!) The warmer I bought to keep the pies warm didn’t open all the way because there wasn’t enough room between where it was placed and the wall. (D’oh!) There were bolts sticking out of the wall where the service counter had been mounted on the outside of the trailer. (Ouch!)


Once again, I thought I’d clearly communicated my needs to the folks doing the work, and what I got back was miles from what we had talked about .

I reached out to some friends who built their own food truck from scratch. My original plans for frying my pies on the truck had morphed into using the trailer solely for service. Now my friends helped me see that I would no longer need the three-compartment sink and grease trap required by the utility board. Once I take those out, I’ll have plenty of counter space for service.

Obviously, my friends know what they’re doing. There was another step I needed to take, and that was to ask for their skilled help in overseeing this trailer’s completion. In exchange, I offered them free pie for life.

That step was one I hadn’t hesitated to take when it came to the commissary kitchen. My husband and I co-own the building—the future home of the Central Collective—and knew to hire contractors for the project so that we wouldn’t be overseeing the building, wiring, plumbing, and equipment installation on our own.

Sure enough, much of our time these days is spent at the building, approving the placement of outlets or watching concrete being poured. Last week, we ordered our hood from KaTom. It should be here in about 10 days. I’m so relieved to have that process underway.

Here again, I’m seeing the value of leaving things to the experts. In the months leading up to our hood order, I had been increasingly anxious about equipment. I’d made so many mistakes with the trailer, I couldn’t help but worry that we were ordering the wrong things, and that we were going to waste money building a space that, like my trailer, was going to have to be rebuilt over and over again.


When life hands you a commercial hood quote, make pies. And call the contractor.

Letting the folks at KaTom hash out the finer points of our equipment with our contractors has given me a great deal of comfort.

As I watch these spaces take shape, I hope you’ll keep watching and reading along. I’m excited to be moving forward, and to be sharing my leaps and stumbles with you along the way.

(Photo at top by Shawn Poynter)

Dale Mackey
Dale Mackey

Dale Mackey is a Chicago native who moved to Knoxville in 2007 and has no plans of leaving. She spends most of her time making and selling fried pies, but when she finds a free moment, she enjoys writing, eating, playing with her cats, playing with her husband, and going on adventures. She's named after cowgirl Dale Evans, and hopes she does her namesake justice.

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