For Chantal Lucas, food and camaraderie have always been synonymous.
“To see people genuinely love something like food — which is one thing that brings us together — I just thought that was amazing,” Lucas said. “I’m a festive person, so when the food’s good and the atmosphere is good, everything’s good.”
Good food and a good atmosphere have also made for good business at Luchal’s Gourmet Catering, which Lucas opened in the summer of 2018. She serves up her own spin on Southern-style cuisine — think catfish macaroni and cheese — out of a 28-foot trailer.
“We got the opportunity to go to Memorial Park, and we were doing a lot of the basketball leagues there. It was a pretty good situation — just pushing the word out and getting things going,” Lucas said. “That’s where the momentum came from.”
Lucas came to Colorado Springs three years ago by way of the Army. She and her husband decided to settle here after Lucas medically retired last year.
“This ended up being home,” she said.
Lucas had long known she wanted to cook — some of her best childhood memories involved large potlucks and cookouts at her family’s home in Compton, Calif. She started a catering and food delivery service while stationed at Fort Carson, which soon led to inquiries about a more permanent location.
“It was like, ‘When are you getting a food truck? Are you going to ever get a food truck?’” Lucas said. “I ended up being like, ‘OK well, let’s go give it a go.’”
It has been a hit. Luchal’s is open Wednesday and Friday — weekend hours depend on weather — and Lucas sometimes feeds as many as 60 customers in a single day. The trailer has become a fixture at events like Fountain’s Saturday at the Square, held year-round from noon to 4 p.m. at 161 Fontaine Blvd. Luchal’s also sets up most Sundays at Peaks N Pines Brewery, 4005 Tutt Blvd.
“I didn’t think it was going to be this big,” Lucas said. “I thought it was going to be something really small and simple, but it turned out to be bigger than what I imagined.”
Lucas hopes to purchase a food truck for her business, with the eventual goal of opening a brick-and-mortar store. For now, she said, a mobile location best suits the needs of her workers.
“A [trailer] was easier to maintain, and it’s easy for me since when I was cooking in the Army, we used to cook out of CKs — containerized kitchens,” Lucas said. “It’s pretty much the same concept. It’s like a trailer — you have to haul it, you have to break it down, you have to put it together — so it works perfectly. It just makes things a lot lighter for us.”
Strangely, Lucas herself doesn’t eat many Southern-style meals. But she saw a gap in the Colorado Springs culinary community and decided it was her niche to fill.
“They don’t have it here, really — it’s one of those things where it’s hit or miss,” Lucas said. “I try to appease a major crowd, so aside from the Southern food, we do wings and different stuff like that — just trying to give it a spin.”
As a professional chef — Lucas attended the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder — it was an adjustment, at first, to hear her work occasionally criticized by customers. But Lucas said that feedback ultimately makes her business better.
“That is a hard one for me, because going into culinary school it was: You have your chef, and you take [their criticism] and you run with it because that’s your teacher,” Lucas said. “But when someone outside comes and criticizes … that’s when it becomes a different beast because, as chefs, it’s hard for us to take it in and say, ‘OK, well, maybe they’re right.’
“At the end of the day, if we don’t get the criticism … we would not be here,” Lucas said. “It’s just a building block; it’s not a put-down. … Some people are really harsh but the majority of the time, if it’s legitimate, it’s something that we can use to help us grow. That’s what we do.”
In the meantime, Lucas is happy to keep serving up helpings of Southern comfort to her loyal customers.
“We have been able to see faithful customers all the time who say, ‘We come here on this day because this is our dinner,’ and that is like a blessing to me,” Lucas said. “It speaks volumes to us and it makes us feel good. It just lets us know that we’re on the right path.
“That’s what I live for, just being able to feed the people.”