Seminole, MI: Food Truck Wars Back, to Continue Mobile Trend

Food truck patrons line up for some tasty goodies while others eat their food on makeshift tables made from ironing boards.

By Steven Ryzewski |  Seminole Chronicle

Food truck patrons line up for some tasty goodies while others eat their food on makeshift tables made from ironing boards.
Food truck patrons line up for some tasty goodies while others eat their food on makeshift tables made from ironing boards.

It’s a movement that is trending upward and one that doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

The explosion of food truck culture during the past few years has been hard not to notice, and that culture will be front and center at the Oviedo Mall once again for the second annual Oviedo edition of Food Truck Wars on March 23.

Forty food trucks from across the state will compete at the event, which is free to the public, for five awards. Liz Otts of Food Truck Crazy, which puts on Food Truck Wars events across the state, says the scene has exploded in part because it’s a mutually beneficial situation for both consumer and seller.

“It’s a less expensive way for people to enjoy eating out,” Otts said. “It’s helping the economy by virtue of the fact that it’s an inexpensive way for people to create a business.

“The advantage is all the way around.”

Keith Esbin, an executive chef at Bar Harbor Seafood who will be a judge at this year’s event, said a lot of the success of food trucks in recent years boils down to one of the business world’s simplest principles: location.

“The crucial point in any business is location, location, location,” Esbin said. “What happens if you pull up to a crappy spot? Let’s pull up and go somewhere else – that’s the beauty of a food truck.”

Esbin, who holds an annual charity event in Maitland to raise money for retired racing greyhounds called Greyt Plates, traces the movement back to Los Angeles.

“The food trucks, years ago, everybody called them roach coaches – pretty much late-night, stick-to-your-ribs food,” Esbin said. “There was a guy in Los Angeles named Roy Choi and he started doing Kogi barbecue and Korean tacos … it took a while for it to catch on, but once it did, it just spread east like wildfire.”

Part of the success of Choi’s venture in California and the subsequent success of the industry has been rooted in the usage of social media. Esbin credits Choi as one of the first to send out updates via Twitter and Facebook of where his truck would be, acknowledging that that ability to create an online following is crucial to some of the more successful trucks.

“I think [social media] makes a big impact – some of these [food trucks] have 20 to 30 thousand followers,” Esbin said. “It’s the best form of advertising that’s practically free.”

This year’s event in Oviedo won’t be limited to just food trucks. Entertainment will be ongoing throughout the day from noon to 6 p.m., with singer/songwriters Jordyn Kane (American Idol Season 11) and Bailey Callahan performing, as well as the Oviedo School of Rock.

The judging panel will also include a familiar face to some, with celebrity chef Paul Joachim helping to sort out the winners.

For those who want to get in on the competition, a Battle of the Bellies will be open to the public for a $10 entrance fee. The contest will pit competitors against one another in a race to finish a massive pie. The winner will be awarded $200 to be donated to a charity of his or her choice, in addition to receiving Orlando Predators tickets and a Food Truck Wars T-shirt.

This year’s event will also feature a Beer Garden run by the Oviedo-Winter Springs Optimist Club. All in all, Otts said, the goal is to improve upon the surprising success of last year’s event.

“What we’re hoping to do is give people a reason to stay longer,” Otts said. “It’s more of a festival than your average food truck event.”