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United through competition: Food trucks excited for Canalside showdown - INTERVIEWS

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Buffalo’s growing group of mobile food vendors has united for a cause over the last two years: the plea for just legislation in Buffalo despite a wide variety of national precedents.

Saturday afternoon’s Canalside Food Fight doesn’t represent division, but a friendly competition among new-wave businesses to compete for a prize. Five trucks will compete against each other to create a dish based off an “inspiration” determined by the organizers, the same group that puts on Buffalo Soup-Fest each year.

According to Matt Carlucci, one of the organizers of both Soup-Fest and the Food Truck Fight, the decision to use an “inspiration” was to create a level playing field for the participants.

“We’ve given the trucks a few hints in regard to the inspiration,” Carlucci said, “so they’ll be able to go shopping and stock supplies. [With an inspiration instead of a secret ingredient,] It’ll be a level playing field, because, for example, you can’t judge a cupcake from the Sweet Hearth against a BLT from the Black Market Food Truck.”

The Whole Hog, RnR Barbeque Truck, The Roaming Buffalo, Black Market Food Truck and the Sweet Hearth will officially compete for the first three points of the four-part competition, while the House of Munch and Lloyd Taco Truck will serve but not take part in the competition. Each of these trucks will be stationed along Prime Street—just feet away from the location of Buffalo Place’s Thursday at Canalside concert series.

The Canalside Food Fight has been woven into the Canalside Open House’s schedule, which you can find here.

Here’s the time rundown of Saturday’s activities:

Noon— The seven food trucks will start serving the public as usual—most of the menus are typical, and prices will be the same as always.
12:15— Carlucci will announce the official “inspiration,” an intangible theme that is markedly different than a secret ingredient. Examples could be “snow,” “the Buffalo Sabres” or “Barney.”
12:20 until 2:15—Competing trucks must juggle regular service and creating an “inspired” dish for five celebrity judges that in some way portrays Carlucci’s announcement.
2:15—Judges Mitch Simon, Donnie Burtless, Paul Tsouflidis, Christa Glennie Seychew, Ed Drantch and Peter Gallivan will taste each dish and judge several categories.
3:00—Carlucci will head back to the mic to announce the winner of first place (three points), second place (two points) and third place (one point.) These totals will carry over to the ensuing battles this summer.
3:00 until 4:00—Food truck service continues through conclusion of the Canalside Open House.

Over the last few days, I was able to catch up with four of the five competing food trucks—I’m still waiting to hear back from RnR Barbeque Truck—to hear about their views on “the competition,” their ideal inspirations and why they’ll win the first three points of the four-part challenge:

Black Market Food Truck
Interviewee: Michael Dimmer, co-owner of @TheBMFT

Fun or competition?: “I don’t think anyone will have ill will,” Dimmer said, dropping a rhyme. “For the competition aspect, it’s more fun than anything else. There’s definitely more of a lighthearted feel to it.”

Ideal inspiration: On Winging It! Buffalo Style Thursday morning, the Roaming Buffalo and the BMFT tied in a sample challenge with the Buffalo Sabres as the inspiration. Dimmer hopes Saturday’s inspiration revolves around our city’s legendary architecture—largely because he has a degree in that field.“Music, art, architecture and food are all kind of tied together,” he said. “Those are really in our wheelhouse, and I think we could really stomp that.”

Why the BMFT will win: “I don’t know that we are going to win,” Dimmer admitted humbly. “For as many truck haters as there are, every person involved is so talented. For instance, the Roaming Buffalo’s Christopher Taylor has a wealth of knowledge that scares and surprises me.”


The Roaming Buffalo
Interviewee: Christopher Taylor, co-owner of @RoamingBuffalo1

Fun or competition?: Taylor harkened back to his experience at the Buffalo Powderkeg Festival two years ago, where he was crowned the city’s healthiest food truck in a one-day competition against Lloyd Taco Truck and RnR Barbeque Truck. For Saturday, Taylor said: “It’s a friendly competition, but it makes you feel better about your truck if you win.”

Ideal inspiration: “I expect it’ll be about the City of Buffalo,” Taylor said, “and I think that’s in our favor. We do everything Buffalo and know a little bit about the history of the city.”

Why the Roaming Buffalo will win: “We have the most expensive truck and the most equipment on our truck,” Taylor said. “Also, we’re not limited to one menu—we’re not stuck on grilled cheese or tacos. We offer different menu specials every week.”


The Sweet Hearth
Interviewee: Kelly Brewer, owner of @SweetHearthNY

Fun or competition?: Brewer said she didn’t think Saturday’s festivities will be at all about competition—just another opportunity for a bunch of mobile food vendors to serve together at a popular Buffalo site.

Ideal inspiration: “I’ve had some thoughts for “snow” related themes, but that would probably be too easy—I doubt we’ll see that one,” Brewer admitted. “No, I haven’t done any preparation yet, waiting for the great idea to come to me. I hope it gets here soon!”

Why the Sweet Hearth will win: “We’re hoping the judges all have a sweet-tooth,” Brewer said. 


The Whole Hog
Interview: Brenden Haggerty, former chef at Tabree and new owner of @TheWholeHog

Fun or competition?: Haggerty, the nephew of previous Whole Hog owner Kathleen Haggerty, is hoping to use Saturday’s event to return to the public eye, as he’s added his own flair to the food truck. “Canalside is something Buffalonians have a close eye on, especially now that realistic changes are happening,” Haggerty said. “Food trucks are still relatively new to Buffalo, and customers are excited to have these new choices.”

Ideal inspiration: “I hope it’s a special building in Buffalo or something like Lafayette Square,” Haggerty speculated. “Since Buffalo’s going through a renaissance, it would be cool to have an inspiration from Buffalo’s history—like steel, for example.”

Why The Whole Hog will win: “I trust my culinary ability,” Haggerty said. “I think we have integrity, the ability to be creative, and I’ll be able to draw from my restaurant experience—especially making a new special menu each week [at Tabree].”


Saturday’s Food Truck Fight will be a solid test for these five trucks—even though it’s a little disappointing that Buffalo’s most popular truck, Lloyd Taco Truck, won’t compete—as it won’t be an easy task to juggle regular service while brainstorming and creating an inspired special dish. Who do you think will reign supreme?

TAGGED: black market food truck, brenden haggerty, canalside, christopher taylor, food trucks, rnr barbecue food truck, roaming buffalo, soup fest, the whole hog

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