A lot can happen in a year’s time.
Just ask Abilene resident Chris Krenzin.
Last year at this time, he had graduated from Abilene High School in May, was preparing to head off to college to study culinary arts and was operating a food stand at the fair.
This year, he’s still selling food at the Central Kansas Free Fair — but this time it’s out of his own food truck (well, it’s actually a trailer), he’s preparing to head off to a different college to study business and he’s lined up to attend several festivals and events where he will be serving his tasty eats.
Krenzin is the owner of CK Concessions, but his food business is “French Fry Frenzy.”
“The name kind of stuck from last year when we were in the building,” Krenzin explained. “I decided to do the fair last year to get my feet wet. To see if that’s really what I wanted to do.”
During the 2018 Central Kansas Free Fair, Krenzin made his fair debut when he rented one of the permanent food stands, but this year you can find him in his food truck on vendor row.
Grandmas inspired him
Chris said his interest in food service began at an early age while cooking with his mother, Becky, and grandmothers, Marion Drake and Cinda Krenzin.
“Before she passed away, my Grandma Cinda really inspired me,” he said. “But I liked helping both of them, getting that hands-on experience,” he said.
Krenzin’s interest in cooking grew while attending AHS where he participated in the culinary arts program all four years. Following the culinary pathway, he decided to enroll in the culinary program at Johnson County Community College. But at the end of the first year he realized French cuisine and upscale cooking weren’t for him.
“I don’t generally see myself working in a big restaurant serving the type of cuisine we were learning or any type of full big menu,” Krenzin explained.
“So I sat in my apartment in Johnson County pondering what to do. Do I finish out what I’m doing here or do I choose a big leap?” he said.
The big leap won.
Krenzin decided to buy a food trailer and switched colleges to follow a different educational track. He will attend Butler County Community College next year to study entrepreneurship and marketing management to “learn more of the business side, rather than running a kitchen and cooking.”
Finding a trailer
Krenzin found his trailer in Missouri, via Facebook marketplace, from a man who used it for shows.
“If you have a food truck, your vehicle and source of income are tied together. If your motor breaks down, you’re stuck on the side of the road and you can’t get to your show,” Krenzin explained. “But if you have a trailer, you just unhook and then rehook up with a different truck and you’re back on the road.”
Krenzin unveiled his food trailer to the Abilene community about a month ago, setting up at a temporary location on Northwest 14th Street just across from Pioneer Farm & Ranch.
“The real struggle we had was getting all the permits and trying to figure out what we had to get verses what we didn’t need. It was a real lesson for me,” he said.
For example, before you can get a permit from the city of Abilene, you must have a permit from the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
Once everything was in order, Krenzin put the word out on Facebook.
“A lot of people were kind of surprised to see us here,” Krenzin said, speaking of the temporary location. “A lot of people don’t know I’m local. I think it’s a nice addition to the town — something different, something cool, something kind of modern. Food trucks are starting to be a kind of normal for restaurants.”
French Fry Frenzy is located in the vendor area at the fairgrounds for the duration of the CKFF where Krenzin is offering pretty much the same menu he had last year when operating the food stand.
Like the name implies, loaded french fries are the mainstay of Krenzin’s menu. Offerings include melt-in-your-mouth loaded philly cheese steak french fries and pulled pork french fries. He also has a pulled pork sandwich and a quarter-pound all beef hotdog.
“I built my menu off two main items, the phillys and pulled pork,” Krenzin said.
He is also offering a third main item — loaded pepperoni pizza fries, according to a post made Monday night on French Fry Frenzy’s Facebook page.
Busy time ahead
After the CKFF, Krenzin will attend the Tall Corn Festival in Rossville then he has to move out of his apartment in Kansas City to relocate and start school in mid-August. Meanwhile, he has festivals and events to attend, including Chisholm Trail Days at Old Abilene Town, the Chapman Labor Day Celebration and Abilene’s Oktoberfest in September.
A couple weeks ago he took his food trailer to Oakley for a demolition derby where Krenzin heard a lot of good comments.
“It was the first time they had a food truck up there so the town and people that came the first night really didn’t know we were there, but the second night they found us and we had a really good night,” he said. “They told us they were glad we were there. The event was nice and we look forward to going back next year.”
While Krenzin is the only employee, he relies on family and friends to help him out. During the Oakley event, his father and grandmother helped, with Chris doing the cooking, his father running the register and and grandma serving as the “middleman.”
He credits his parents, Ryan and Becky Krenzin, with supporting him “all the way” and helping him start the business.
“They haven’t doubted me one bit and my friends have been really helpful and are happy for me,” he said with a smile. “They kind of work for food.”
Contact Kathy Hageman at email@example.com.