Among the plethora of food trucks starting up in the D.C. area, one alumna is taking an innovative approach to serving a popular French treat-harnessing the power of the sun.
Camille Dierksheide, a 1995 graduate, has made a name for herself in Virginia for her environment-friendly solar-powered crepe truck business.
Dierksheide, 38, started Solar Crepes with her business partner in last July after spending time studying and working at GW.
“I wanted to do something that would celebrate local food, and the power of food that is grown sustainably, and its healing power on the body,” Dierksheide said.
Dierksheide was a Presidential Arts Scholar and studied international affairs with a concentration on Russian and Eastern European studies. After graduation, Dierksheide spent time working for the U.S.-Baltic Foundation in D.C. but returned to GW in 1997 to work as a dean’s assistant.
She started her own special events company in 2000, and began working in the Elliott School Graduate Student Career Development center in 2005.
Dierksheide worked under Lisa Stephenson, then director of Graduate Student Career Development, and now the assistant dean for Academic Programs.
“She was very encouraging to me as I explored the possibility of attending culinary school,” Dierksheide said. “She and my other GW colleagues continue to be supportive to this day of my career choices. They’re some of my biggest cheerleaders.”
In 2006, Dierksheide enrolled in L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md., for a one-year professional culinary program, where she met her business partner, Danna Andrews. Dierksheide started a boutique catering company called The Beehive, which did small up-scale events, before creating Solar Crepes.
“The catering business is usually customer-driven, but I wanted to do something that was more menu-driven where I could dictate [my business] more depending on the seasons and the local bounty of the area,” Dierksheide said.
All of the products Solar Crepes uses are 98 percent organic, and sourced from local farms.
For Dierksheide, a typical day starts at 6 a.m. She gets to the kitchen around 7:30 a.m. in order to make the specials for the day and load up the cart.
The business is run out of a commercial kitchen at a local church in Arlington, Va. The truck hits the street between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., usually in Welburn Square on the corner of 9th and Stuart streets. Customers can find out where the truck is Mondays through Thursdays by following the business’s website and Twitter account.
The Solar Crepes cart itself is unique-23 years old and purchased off of Craigslist. Dierksheide will have two 90-watt solar panels installed in the next few weeks-one to be permanently fixed onto the roof, and the other to be removable and installed on the cart’s umbrella stand.
When the solar panels are installed, they will generate 520 watt-hours of electricity, which will power the lights and exhaust fan on the cart, meaning Dierksheide won’t have to charge the cart’s battery every night.
Despite some limitations, the business has caught on. Solar Crepes recently took second place out of 32 food trucks in the Washingtonian Food Truck Fight, an NCAA-style bracket for the top food trucks in D.C. Patrons voted online for their favorite truck, and Solar Crepes fell just behind Red Hook Lobster truck.
In the future, Dierksheide said she hopes to have more crepe carts, more employees, and more days open.