Growing up in small-town North Carolina, Deedee Mills' family made chicken salad for every occasion.
If someone died, was getting married, having a baby, coming home or laid up in the hospital, there was chicken salad. And the sandwiches always made an appearance at the beach, wrapped tight, kept cold and passed around with crackers.
Mills, of Charlotte, is hoping plenty of Hilton Head Island residents have the same idea. Through May, her food truck, Mayobird, will be parked at the entrance to the Sea Pines Beach Club, serving up seven varieties of chicken salad and other offerings until the Sea Pines facility opens.
"I was always hungry at the beach," Mills said.
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This is the Mayobird's first excursion to the sea, and away from Charlotte, where Mills and chef George DiPaolo primarily serve a rotation of office parks. However, the pair recently brought their menu to Hickory, N.C., where they competed on the Food Network's "Food Court Wars."
In the episode, which airs at 8 p.m. Sunday, Mills' Mayobird faces off against pizza and wings joint Wingzza for a shot at opening her own food court restaurant. Host Tyler Florence hands down a few challenges and then gives Mayobird and Wingzza their own cafeteria spots for a day. Whichever team earns more money will win.
Mills said her time behind the cameras has given her a new outlook on reality TV. In almost every interview -- and there were hours of them -- Mills had her 5-year-old son, Cannon, in mind.
"You really delve deep into why you're doing (the competition) to begin with and, for me, it was my son," she said. "I'm going to be the crying weirdo on the show."
The experience, however, was crucial for Mayobird, which is opening its first bricks-and-mortar restaurant in three weeks. While Mills prepares that Charlotte location, DiPaolo is holding down the food truck in Sea Pines, where one of his managers worked for several years.
Open outside the Beach Club since March 7, the Mayobird has served between 50 to 100 customers daily depending on the weather, DiPaolo said. While the "Loaded" chicken salad, mixed with bacon, sour cream, chives and cheddar, is most popular in Charlotte, DiPaolo said the apples, grapes and pecan-laden "Harvest" salad is outselling other varieties 3-to-1 in this area.
A sandwich with a side costs about $9.
On an overcast and cool Thursday afternoon, several people still stopped to pick up a menu or place an order. Mark Wise, a contractor building a deck for the Beach Club, said his "Heater" sandwich -- with roasted jalapenos -- was better than he expected from a food truck.
"When it gets warm, George's not going to be able to keep up," Wise said, turning to the chef. "You're really going to have to turn out some food."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.