Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Bama Flava: Bringing Southern cooking to campus

CW / Natalie Teat
Frederick Fitch, the owner of Bama Flava, standing by his food truck.

Along the side of Oliver-Barnard Hall, the bright red Bama Flava food truck’s engine sputtered as Frederick Fitch, its owner, parked the vehicle and stepped down onto the dewy concrete, ready to start another day of business in his second semester on campus.   

Fitch propped a long whiteboard, which featured the food truck’s specials for the day scrawled in marker along with the phrase “Smile somebody love you,” against the truck’s front tire and reentered the vehicle to continue preparing for opening in an hour at 10 a.m.   

From then, he and an employee would work until 2 p.m. in the truck, serving various Southern foods to the UA community, like smoked cut wings, slabs of ribs, pulled chicken nachos and what seemed to be some students’ favorite menu item, pulled pork sandwiches.   

“I had one person who told me, ‘Man, this here needs to be in the stadium.’ That was something to hear,” Fitch said. “That says a lot.”  

Often, Fitch likes to stand outside his truck and give people samples of the pulled pork so they can see what the fuss was all about.

Later, around noon, as students filed out of classes and onto the sidewalks, Ashanti Pointer, a junior majoring in kinesiology and returning customer, stood in line at Bama Flava waiting to order one of today’s specials, spaghetti.   

Usually, Pointer said, her go-to choice was the pulled pork nachos because the pulled pork reminded her of her grandfather’s cooking back home, but when she comes to the food truck, she likes trying out the different specials for the day.  

Fitch said it brings him joy to know he’s providing a good product to his customers.  

In a statement, Bruce McVeagh, Bama Dining’s district manager, wrote, “Bama Dining is extremely happy to partner with such a talented culinary professional as Bama Flava on the campus.” 

However, Fitch said he feels like he’s still getting a feel for the University since it’s been a long journey for Bama Flava to campus. 

Bama Flava started in July 2016 while Fitch was working at a plant in Cottondale. He saw a need for a restaurant nearby because employees were given only 30 minutes for lunch, which many found impossible if they didn’t bring something from home.   

“So, when I left the plant, I was already in transition with the business,” Fitch said.  

He returned to the plant not long after with a food trailer, and since then, Fitch has been serving his former co-workers and the surrounding Cottondale and Tuscaloosa community for almost eight years.  

Fitch said it’s always been a goal to get the food trailer on campus, but when he began doing research into it he realized that the University wouldn’t allow trailers, so he had to spend some time regrouping before he tried again.   

He said these past few years have been a roller coaster but a welcome journey because the challenges made meeting his goal feel even better.     

Essie Banks, one of Fitch’s employees, has been working with him for three years and said it’s been wonderful working on campus and meeting new people.   

“All the students out there are good people, and they always speak to me and smile. If I smile or say hello, they always respond,” Banks said.    

Banks said the positive response on campus has meant a lot to her because the Bama Flava team is like a family.  

This bond is also reflected in the food Bama Flava prepares. Not only did both Fitch and Banks learn to cook from their respective mothers when they were young, but many of the truck’s recipes are adapted from recipes Fitch’s and his employees’ families created.   

Fitch said his mother died before he started the business, but the recipes, like his banana pudding, are a part of his mother that is still with him.  

“She’d be, I think, overjoyed to see where her son has came from to where he is now,” he said.   

Along with the banana pudding, Fitch said one of his favorite things to make is the smoked turkey leg or “bam bam,” as he likes to call it. He said he likes smoked turkey when it’s cooked right, but if not, it’s like throwing money in the trash.  

“Over here at Bama Flava, I think I got it right,” Fitch said. “Most places, when you say you want some turkey, they think it’s dry, but no, not here. The turkey is very juicy — tender, really falling off the bone.”   

Fitch’s favorite part of running a food truck on campus is building relationships with customers. He said he’s proud to have return customers because it lets him know he’s doing a good job.  

“We are confident that this relationship will continue to bring both memorable moments and delicious offerings to our students, faculty/staff and campus visitors,” McVeagh wrote. “We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this partnership.” 

Fitch said every day is trial and error, so he strives to be better, and he’s thankful to customers old and new and anyone who’s offered support from the beginning to now.   

“Thank y’all from the bottom of my heart. It’s a dream come true,” Fitch said. “Be on the lookout for more; we’re coming with more, bigger and better.”   

To stay up to date with Bama Flava, interested patrons can follow the business on Instagram or find it on campus Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Its scheduled location can be found on the Bama Dining website.   

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