After a very sobering first week, the five remaining The Great Food Truck Race teams took to the road once again, heading up the coast of California to Oxnard. Why Oxnard? It’s the home of the California Strawberry Festival which just happened to be taking place while the show was filming (I know, I know, it wasn’t just a happy accident).
This week’s stop required everyone to create two dishes using strawberries purchased at the festival — one sweet, one savory. Sweet is easy, but coming up with a savory dish containing strawberries is a bit of a challenge. The teams had $200 to get started, and the only real, possibly game changing twist this week was that the Strawberry Festival spokeswoman would judge each dish and the winner would receive an extra $300 in their till at the end of the weekend. Thankfully, that happened on the first day and host Tyler Florence did not throw any other twists at the teams on their second day.
Of course, when it comes to selling from a food truck, it’s just like real estate — location, location,location. And knowing the flavor profiles of food. Poor Vinny from Carretto Siciliano had no idea what savory meant, but luckily he doesn’t actually do the cooking. In fact, his team may have a distinct advantage over the others because of his “celebrity” status. It’s been a couple of years since Jersey Shore was on the air, but he’s still able to leverage that notoriety to his team’s advantage.
But fame apparently isn’t the only thing that can help drive your sales as the Lei-Away Leidies found out. While trying to find a spot with heavy foot traffic, they encountered a man who said he would take them to the perfect spot. And then they promptly lost him in traffic and had no idea where they were going. And also, is it a good idea to follow a perfect stranger anywhere? They finally caught up with him again, and it turned out … his wife was related to the Leidies! Completely unexpected, but that family connection was put to good use as the man got on his phone, amusingly referred to as the “coconut wireless” by Autumn, and hordes of extended family members descended on the truck. This may have been an even bigger help than Vinny’s faded reality TV star status.
But things got heated as Sweet Southern Soul found a spot at the beach, and Carretto and BigMista’s Fatty Wagon joined them. But competition always draws more people, so instead of getting angry, the teams need to focus on their dishes. The Grilled Cheese All-Stars found a popular shopping area to park their truck.
The teams were mostly successful with their sweet strawberry dishes, but some struggled with the savory. BigMista’s Fatty Wagon made a pineapple strawberry salsa, but erred by putting the salsa on their fried chips rendering most of them soggy and unappetizing. The Leidies made a strawberry poke, but the judge could not taste the strawberries. Carretto infused a tomato sauce with the strawberries, and the taste was mild but sweet.
In the end it came down to two teams: Grilled Cheese All-Stars and Sweet Southern Soul. The Cheese guys had a hit with their waffle-style grilled cheese (which was sweet creamed cheese with strawberry puree) and their savory grilled cheese chicken sandwich with strawberry barbecue sauce. The judge felt it was fresh and different. The Soul ladies turned out a strawberry cheesecake chimichanga which was crisp and flaky with a nice balance of berries and cheese, followed by the savory strawberry salsa with shrimp which had an excellent balance of sweet, salty and cinnamon spice. The winners of the extra $300 was … Sweet Southern Soul, giving them a huge advantage going into day two.
While they were celebrating, BigMista’s Phyllis was getting very heated about the other trucks parking near them, blaming teammate Eric for picking the spot. The poor guy was really getting berated like he went out and lead the other trucks to their spot. Their revenge was to make dishes based on what the other trucks were selling like a deep fried hot dog smothered in country gravy (yack!), a grilled cheese dog and a Sicilian dog. Meanwhile, the Grilled Cheese guys were not having a good day, thinking their prices were way too high so they cut them in half, hoping a volume of sales would make up for the price point.
On Day Two, BigMista’s Fatty Wagon again was joined by other trucks — Grilled Cheese, Southern Soul and Carretto — so Eric decided to act, and it may have backfired. It’s not cool, at all, to go up to people in line at a competitor’s food truck and tell them to come to yours. Yes, it’s a competition but the lines weren’t really long enough to start poaching customers and he may have really ruffled some feathers in the process. But the Fatty Wagon had other issues to contend with as Eric apparently had over-filled the propane tank so they were not able to start cooking anything until some of the pressure was released, putting them seriously behind the others (which was why Eric was trying to poach business).
With four hours left in the day, Grilled Cheese went back to their shopping center spot from the first day and discovered Carretto was there as well. With a ton of strawberries left on the truck, the guys decided to make a strawberry aqua fresca beverage and sell it for $3.00, again hoping for a volume of sales to boost their totals. BigMista’s and Southern Soul also moved to new locations but found little foot traffic either downtown or at the beach. It was so bad that the Fatty Wagon closed up shop early and called it a day. Probably not the best decision on their part.
On Elimination Day, some of the teams learned their bad decisions impacted their totals. On the plus side, everyone turned a profit on their $200 seed but when it came down to the winning team, not even a $300 advantage could help Sweet Southern Soul overcome the “coconut wireless” as the Lei-Away Leidies took first place with $1,198.00. Vinny’s fame helped Carretto Siciliano ride into second place with $878.00, and the $300 advantage took Sweet Southern Soul to third place with $731.00.
Unfortunately, it was not revealed how much the bottom two teams earned, so we don’t know if that $300 was the reason Southern Soul made it to third place. All we do know is that cutting prices to half of what the competition was selling, and closing early on the second day put Grilled Cheese All-Stars and BigMista’s Fatty Wagon in the bottom two, separated by only $125.00. In the end volume won over an early closure, sending the Cheese guys on to the next stop and the Fatty Wagon on their way home.
Next stop — California wine country in the city of Solvang. It’s beginning to look like this season is going to be exclusive to the West Coast.
Catch up on past seasons of The Great Food Truck Race on Amazon.