What the FORK is up with food trucks?

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First Posted: 8/18/2014

If your guilty pleasure on a lazy Sunday involves lounging around in a bathrobe while binge-watching the Food Network then you are about to get served with a helping of great news. The fifth season of “The Great Food Truck Race” has returned and according to host Tyler Florence, this season is packed with contestants that fight like they’re being chased by a tiger.

The food truck phenomena is not only something that resonates with television viewers across the country, its roots are thriving right here in NEPA.

What the FORK is up with food trucks?

With an attention-grabbing marketing strategy that includes apparel warning “spooning leads to forking so use condiments,” a unique menu featuring Oreo Funnel Cake Fries (because what else would you top your funnel cake fries with), and a stamp of approval from LIVE! hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, it comes as little surprise that What the FORK Food Truck has garnered a social media following of more than 23,000 fans on Facebook.

Launched in 2012 by Mario Bevilacqua, the staff at What the FORK credit the popularity of food trucks on how they offer “a unique experience for people that are on the go!”

As for the opinion of “The Great Food Truck Race” host Tyler Florence,the rapid popularity can be attributed to the 2008 economic collapse.

“When discretionary income dries up, people aren’t going out to eat as often. Restaurants close and chefs who have a craft to perform every night lose their job,” Florence said.

“There’s this revolution of not choosing the distinctive model for raising money for a four wall restaurant. Young chefs are going ‘how about four wheels instead of four walls.’ You can get a food handler’s permit and start cooking next week,” Florence said.

With that hunger for success comes trial and error, where advice is often needed.

Passing the plate of knowledge

Credited as the 2nd Best Food Truck Nationwide in a contest held by LIVE! With Kelly & Michael, the NEPA rooted kitchen on wheels encompasses the validity to dish advice to those hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Three tips What the FORK offers those aspiring to get into the food truck industry include not to get in over your head, hire a finance person and “make it an experience.”

When it comes to making it an experience, the contestants of “The Great Food Truck Race” have the opportunity to do what only eight food trucks are able to do each season.

If you have never tuned in to the popular Food Network reality competition, here’s everything you need to know.

Eight teams compete against each other throughout a cross-country road trip. Throughout the course of the show, each team must display the cooking skills, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit necessary to run their own food truck business.

During the course of their road trip, each three-person team is given a pimped-out vehicle to use in the race. Only one team, however, will get to keep their food truck and earn a $50,000 cash prize.

It was a silly idea…

Host Tyler Florence recalls it was a silly idea when “The Great Food Truck Race” was first presented to him.

“I was getting so much push back,” Florence said.

“People were making fun of the show. Now five years later, I think we have really done our job to help create this phenomena in the industry from coast to coast. I’m blown away by it’s popularity,” Florence said.

The series, which premiered its fifth season on Aug. 17, is pretty special to Florence above other Food Network shows he has hosted, including “Food 911” and “Tyler’s Ultimate”.

“The spirit of the show means a lot to me because I am a self made guy,” Florence said, adding that he put himself through college.

“Everything I made happen I made happen for myself and I see the same spirit in food truck chefs because they have the backbone and determination to say they’re going to work for themselves and I share that,” Florence said.

Pink camo is ‘awesome’

Among the spirited contestants that decided they were going to work for themselves are Michele Bajakian, Carol Rosenberg and Wendy Newman, a.k.a. team Military Moms.

All with active duty husbands who are stationed with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in Northern New York, the mom’s came together with the leadership of Rosenberg, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, Florida.

“We twisted all the things you think of that your mom makes growing up,” Rosenberg said, explaining that Military Mom’s peanut-butter and jelly sandwich is made grilled cheese style, with fresh peanut butter inside and topped with berries.

“That’s what a french culinary background does to your sandwich,” Rosenberg said.

While Bajakian, Rosenberg and Newman want to make an impact with their unique twist to traditional snacks made by mothers around the country, they have a message that is equally important for them to get out there.

“I think the message we hope viewers will get out of watching our journey is that military moms are strong and resilient and do just as much as our husbands do. We have been in the fight alongside them. It is about time military moms are shown in a good light. We are resilient. We are dreamers. We take chances,” Rosenberg said.

“Plus our truck is pink camouflage and pink camo is awesome,” joked Bajakian. “We want people tuning in to see how awesome our truck is.”

The show appeals to more than mothers, or even your everyday food lovers, said to Florence.

“There’s a lot at stake. If you have ever had your back up against the wall, where you had everything to lose and put yourself out there and took a risk, you’re going to identify with this show,” Florence said.

“The Great Food Truck Race” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on the Food Network.

For a closer look inside the world of food trucks head to theweekender.com and watch our exclusive interview with What the FORK.