Chameleon - Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Chameleon – Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

Back in February 2012, the 32-foot Culinary Chameleon food truck was unveiled, receiving mostly positive feedback from the student population. For many students, the truck provided another alternative to grab a quick bite to eat as they rushed to class.

“Using a delicious mixture of your input and the expertise of our dining staff, we bring the food you crave to campus,” states the dining administration’s website.

However, in the two years that the food truck has been in operation, the Mexican-styled cuisine has remained the same. Menu options were supposed to change based on customer feedback and popular options trending in the food truck industry.

The truck’s menu options were intended to have a wide variety of items to choose from to draw more customers. Food items such as burritos, salad bowls, quesadillas and tacos (with grilled chicken, shredded beef, pork carnitas, kogi pork and a vegetarian option as the core ingredients) remained on the menu, year after year.

Current and former students have gone as far as criticizing the Culinary Chameleon on the business search engine Yelp. Comments that go back as far as 2012 express discontent at the quality of the food. “Sucky tacos, expensive and not filling at all,” complained one Yelp reviewer.

Fourth-year computer science students Brady Leong and John Candelaria said the tacos and burritos served by the Chameleon made a good impression on them.

“The food is pretty good,” said Leong. “The service is fine. I don’t really have any complaints.”

Leong, who recently ate at the Culinary Chameleon for the first time in six months, also said he noticed no significant change in the menu, as originally promised by Dining Services.

“We thought it’d be a great opportunity to actually rotate the menu,” explained Executive Director of Dining Services Cheryl Garner, “but what we discovered … was a lot of people got attached to the menu and didn’t want to see the menu go.”

After receiving input from individual customers and student representatives on campus, UCR Dining Services decided to keep the food truck cuisine unchanged, but hopes to continue spurring community interest by featuring new menu items.

“I think, at the end of the day, the rotating menu makes as many people unhappy as it makes happy,” Garner furthered about switching out classic menu items that were potentially favored by returning customers.

As of now, the truck also temporarily acts as a concession stand, serving products such as hot dogs and candy, at athletics events. UCR Dining Services does not show signs of changing the face of the Culinary Chameleon anytime in the near future.

The Culinary Chameleon runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Physics 2000 courtyard and from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday at Parking Lot 22.