Find LA Food Trucks Blog Blogging LA's twittering food truck scene

12Aug/102

Grill 'Em All: Food Truck Racers

The Grill 'Em All Truck

Want to see seven trucks from around the US - well, 6 trucks from Cali and one from Texas - battle it out to see who can cook the best noms under pressure? You're in luck. "The Great Food Truck Race," a new reality show which is like "The Amazing Race" but with food and trucks (go figure), premiers on August 15 on the Food Network. Tyler Florence hosts the show, which features seven truck-riding teams: Austin Daily Press, based in - you guessed it - Austin; Crepes Bonaparte, from Fullerton, Orange County, California; Ragin' Cajun, another OC truck, from Hermosa Beach; Spencer on the Go, out of San Francisco; and three LA-area trucks - Nana Queen's, Nom Nom Truck, and my personal favorite, Grill 'Em All. The trucks and their crews race across the US, stopping in cities and scrambling to prepare the most delicious food they can, as fast as they can. The show's tagline is "There will be breakdowns." Of the truck variety - and of the emotional variety.

We caught up with Matt and Ryan from Grill 'Em All as they recovered from their "Great Food Truck Race" experience. Joel Brown is the third man on their truck (each "Race" team has three contestants). We tried to get them to give away juicy show spoilers, but to no avail.

Find LA Food Trucks: You’ve said you often work 16-18-hour days. Can you describe an average day in the life of the Grill 'Em All truck and its resident dudes?

Ryan: Wake up, get to the truck, see what prep we have to do, roll out, do service, prep more, maybe another service, prep more, then prep more. We are a really prep heavy truck, everything on the beast is made from scratch, no frozen or pre-made stuff.

Matt: A day in the life? More like "Welcome to our Nightmare." Let's see...wake up, prep, drive, serve, drive, prep, drive, serve, go home...drink away the stress.

FLAFT: The Dee Snider is an insane creation, with peanut butter, jelly, bacon and sriracha. Who came up with it, and was it a gamble for you to put it on the menu?

Ryan: I come up with all the burgs on the truck. Its simple, I love peanut butter and jelly. I love it so much that it's tattooed on my right arm, with a jug of milk on my left! It wasn’t much of a gamble, the flavors work, and they make for a really intense, amazing burger! Don’t be scared, try one...

Matt: Our resident burger genius is Ryan W. Harkins. He came up with the Dee and, no, it was not a gamble, because gambling does not always pay off, but eating burgers always does.

Matt, Ryan and Jeff outside their truck, "The Beast"

FLAFT: "The Great Food Truck Race," the Food Network show you’re taking part in, sounds a lot like "The Amazing Race." Did you guys (the three of you on the truck) fight because of the pressure of the competition, or did it bring you closer?

Ryan: Not really. The three of us have all been in touring bands before, so we know the stress of the road and we know each other so well we know what buttons not to push. We had an amazing time and made some really incredible friends out of this show!

Matt: I've always been a loner, a nomad, a stranger in the night. That said, I have never felt closer to two weird-looking men before. Blame it on the road or Bon Jovi songs, but, in the end, I feel like we've all been bonded by buns.

FLAFT: Did you get to mingle with the other food-truck teams on the road, and if so, who did you get along best with?

Ryan: We got along with everyone really well, we love all those guys. but especially the Austin Daily Press gang, those dudes were long-lost brothers and sisters! We even got ADP tattoos and they got Grill ‘Em All tats! Pretty rad!

Matt: Ready for a cliche? Well, here she is: after the dust settled, everyone was just so great. The kids from Austin Daily Press and the lovely gentlemen from Spencer on the Go will remain some of our best food truck buddies for years to come. Drinking beers on treadmills in random hotels across America? Ohhh, the priceless memories.

FLAFT: Give us a little sneak peek at one Truck Stop Challenge that was particularly memorable for you.

Ryan: I wish I could. They were tough, but it would give away the show!

Matt: The truck stop challenges were nothing short of nerve-wracking and annoying, but they could, truly, make or break a team. That said, I don't remember any of them.

FLAFT: There are basketball groupies, hockey groupies, police groupies – have you ever, uh, “encountered” any food truck groupies?

Matt: Groupies? Um, we sell really big burgers, dude. The taste is the best groupie because it sticks around.

Ryan: We get a lot of people who love our truck, and how could you not? I mean, it rules! We have loyal fans we dubbed "ghouls" (in honor of the late/great Ghoulardi [a Cleveland legend]) and we love our ghouls!

FLAFT: Do you have a Number One Fan? If so, describe him or her.

Ryan: Every customer is our #1 fan. We love everyone who comes to our truck and hopefully that love is reciprocated!

Matt: My mom, Barb, is my biggest fan. She came all the way to Los Angeles from Cleveland to eat our food AND she did our taxes.

Catch "The Great Food Truck Race" beginning Sunday, August 15 at 10pm/9c on the Food Network.

For those about to cook... we salute you

21Jul/100

India Jones Chow Truck's Sumant Pardal

India Jones Chow Truck's Sumant Pardal

Most days, Sumant Pardal can be found sitting at a small, folding wooden table outside the India Jones Chow Truck, hanging out with his customers and watching them enjoy his amazing Indian street food. We ordered up some butter chicken ($7), a gobhi (cauliflower) paratha ($3.50) and some samosa spring rolls ($3), and sat down with the chef and owner of the mobile Indian street-food joint for an enlightening conversation.

Pardal has been in the restaurant business for 33 years: he founded the East India Grill chain of restaurants, which he's since sold. Now, at India Jones, he specializes in Punjabi food, particularly frankies: a roti is wrapped around fillings like lamb, paneer and mushrooms to form what the Zagat Guide's blog calls "the Indian equivalent of a burrito." His butter chicken, a mild curry with rice, is also a staple of the India Jones menu.

Pardal likes to talk with his customers. Topics we touched on included the Miracle Mile food-truck parking situation; the bigger, better new India Jones truck; and the possible expansion of the India Jones brand.

If you've visited a food truck on the Miracle Mile, you've probably heard at least a little bit about the precarious parking situation on Wilshire Boulevard. If not, here are the basics: Brick-and-mortar restaurants feel the trucks are taking their business. They unsuccessfully lobby the city to stop the trucks from parking on the Miracle Mile. Even though parking on the strip is now limited to one hour instead of two, the trucks continue to draw the lunchtime crowd. So, Pardal tells us (and LAist has also reported), Museum Square management and employees have allegedly begun employing a new tactic: they're parking (either their own cars, or, according to another LAist report, junkers) at all the Miracle Mile meters, and letting their business eat the cost of the tickets they're getting. Pardal doesn't think this approach will be viable for long.

Pardal is an active member of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, and regularly advocates for food trucks' presence in the city. He and fellow members of the SoCal MFVA recently sat down with Councilmember Tom LaBonge to talk about an alternative parking arrangement for the trucks. It's been proposed that the trucks could use the side streets, and that the city would charge them a flat parking fee. That way, the restaurants would feel less threatened, and the trucks could keep on doing business. As we talk about this, we shake our heads ruefully at the plight of the Shrimp Guys truck, which takes up two parking spaces, and so must be getting twice the tickets that the other trucks are getting.

Pardal recently switched to a bigger truck: his new ride is two feet wider and a foot longer, but - thankfully - still only occupies one parking spot. It has more kitchen space, two extra burners on the stove, and a double-door fridge that can hold around $6000 worth of food. It isn't your standard-issue Road Stoves truck: it's a private lease. Road Stoves, in fact, wouldn't lease to Pardal, he tells us - they told him they already had the Dosa Truck, and they didn't want to have two Indian food trucks out on the road. Pardal turned fellow trucks Kabob n' Roll and Louks on to his private company, and they now also lease their trucks through them.

Pardal will soon launch another truck, which he's planning to call China Jones: it'll feature Chinese street food. What's on the menu? Pardal says it's all in his head; he's made the dishes many times. "Give me a bowl of water, a chicken, and some cornstarch, and I'll make you something great," he says. He's planning to expand his Jones brand even further - Jakarta Jones (Indonesian street food) is just one of the potential variations he mentions.

Even if the trucks don't succeed in winning over LaBonge and the City of LA, India Jones has already converted one of the enemy - the meter maid who's tasked with ticketing the trucks up and down Miracle Mile. After completing her windshield-papering jaunt along Wilshire, she often stops at the India Jones truck to get some grub.