Food on the move

August 6, 2023

In an interview with The News on Sunday, entrepreneur Adeel Khan talks about a life-changing journey that led him to reinvent his life and discover a world of flavour and fulfilment after he traded his 9-5 job in Dubai for a food truck venture in Pakistan’s Northern Areas

Food on the move


he News on Sunday (TNS): What led you to start Chaltey Chaltey?

Adeel Khan (AK): I don’t recall the precise timeline, but it was when National Geographic used to air on cable TV. It was one of my favourite channels. Among its many programmes, I was particularly fascinated by a documentary about food trucks. The documentary featured a guy with a deep passion for cooking who travelled all over the United States with his food truck. Interestingly, some food truck owners gathered their trucks on an abandoned site and created a lively “food truck street.” Like a child eager to collect all the toys, I also dreamed of owning a food truck.

TNS: You left a 9-5 job to start this venture. Could you describe your experience of making that decision? Have you been satisfied with your choice?

AK: A decision as significant as this isn’t made in an instant; a series of events led to it. For me, it started with a food truck documentary during my childhood, as I have mentioned. In our society, many choices are influenced by our parents and elders. It has been no different in my case. Like many middle-class kids, I went through the usual stages: matriculation, FSc (choosing between looking like an engineer and a doctor; I thought I looked like a doctor, so I pursued pre-medical) studies. However, that path didn’t work out for me. So I did a BCom and an MBA in supply chain management.

Seeking a better career, I went to the UAE, where I struggled for three years before finally landing a job as a procurement manager in a leading firm. Throughout my time there, I never stopped cooking. It was more of a necessity than a choice. I discovered that I was good at it.

I firmly believe that our ideas shape our life choices. Spending 8 to 9 hours a day behind a desk didn’t provide the satisfaction I sought. During this time, I read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad and realised that most of my decisions so far had been influenced by the values of the Poor Dad character in the book. It dawned on me that it was time to take control of my life. On January 1, 2022, I decided to resign.

TNS: You mentioned making pakoras at the age of five and later experimenting with seekh kebabs. Did those experiences in the kitchen lead to a lifelong love of cooking?

AK: Of course, they did. The first pakoras I made were bad. I had forgotten salt. God only knows what else I had missed, but they had held their shape, which was good enough for me. Years later, the seekh kebab I made on a barbecue night was decent enough to receive favourable feedback. I could at least put food on the table.

TNS: You mention seeing a food truck in the background of a recent Netflix series as well as a food truck documentary on National Geographic in your early years. What aspects of those inspired you to start a food truck business?

AK: The National Geographic documentary was my original inspiration. It led to a childhood dream of owning a food truck. The food truck featured in a Netflix series became a meaningful sign as I yearned to break free from the rat race I then felt my job was turning into. In the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, this refers to a situation where a person earns enough to get by and ends up living solely to make money. I aspired to do something more significant than just that.

Food on the move

“A food truck should not be a stationary cart. It should provide food where finding good food is challenging.

TNS: Your choice of Northern Areas instead of some big city is interesting. What motivated you to opt for this location? Do you face any challenges operating a food truck in the mountainous regions?

AK: In my opinion, a food truck should be mobile and not a stationary cart. It should also provide food where finding good food is challenging.

In line with my vision of a food truck, the North appeared to be the ideal starting point. While there are certain operational requirements, such as road permits, food licences, and permissions from local authorities, along with the occasional need to seek permission from the landowners where we intend to park, these challenges are manageable. The people and the authorities in the North have been quite supportive.

Other challenges – like constantly being on the road, sleeping in the truck, being away from family and facing network issues that sometimes lead to days without communication with them – are more daunting.

TNS: Operating a food truck in constantly changing locations comes with a specific set of challenges. How do you find the right spots and attract customers?

AK: So far, I have parked my truck in locations around Naran, such as the Green Belt, Rafting Area, Zipline Area, Batakuindi, Doonga Katha of Batakundi, Baser and Babusar Top. Among these, Babusar Top has proven the most successful.

To discover the ideal spot, one must think from a tourist’s mind. Along the route between Naran and Babusar Top, there are several picnic points where people pause to take selfies, paying little attention to food. I have attracted more customers through my social media posts than by waiting for them.

TNS: Could you describe the menu of Chaltey Chaltey? How have the locals and tourists responded to your food truck?

AK: The name, Chaltey Chaltey, is the moniker for my food truck. It also reflects the essence of my menu. The concept behind the name is to ensure that tourists relish their food while on the move. My menu includes mini burgers, pizzas, wings, shwarmas and loaded fries. It’s all about relishing food on the go, always on the move – Chaltey Chaltey.

TNS: What sets Chaltey Chaltey apart from other food trucks? Is there a story behind the name?

AK: I believe Chaltey Chaltey is a unique concept in Pakistan. It is a mobile kitchen equipped with all the modern accessories a kitchen should have, such as fryers, a hot plate, stoves, a grill, a sink, a breading table, a pizza oven, a freezer, and ample storage space. It has solar panels on the roof and large batteries for backup power. All we need to do is fill up the gas, and we are good to go.

TNS: Based on your experience, what is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to start a food truck or venture into the food industry?

AK: When you want something with all your heart, life does give you a chance. Seize it. Do not hesitate and do what feels right.

The interviewer is a freelance contributor

Food on the move