Food trucks can be such a localized endeavor. They travel around the city delivering delicious, and usually hot, meals to local patrons of a particular business, but they don’t cross state lines, let alone city lines. So what’s a girl (or guy) to do when they flip on The Great Food Truck Race and see a style of cuisine they want to try…only to learn that truck is thousands of miles away in another city? Furthermore, what’s one of those food trucks to do when they start receiving Tweets and email inquiries about their food, intrigued by the show and wanting to taste for themselves? If you’re Sky’s Gourmet Tacos from right here in Los Angeles, you revel in the time you spent on-screen because that exposure was what it was all about.
Barbara Burrell has had a brick and mortar store for almost twenty years, and she expanded to include the food truck to her brand just last year. Going on The Great Food Truck Race for her, her son Victor, and their business partner Kevin Minor, the exposure being on the Food Network allowed will help them continue to expand.
“To expand, you know, it’s been about nineteen years because I wanted to have everything down pat. I know people do restaurants, and they get successful in two or three years, but that wasn’t my story,” Burrell told LA TV Insider Examiner when we sat down with her at her Pico Boulevard destination spot.
Burrell and Sky’s Gourmet Tacos is certainly a staple of Los Angeles; as we sat and chatted quite a few regular patrons popped over to say hello, and Burrell always spent a few minutes chatting about their health and their families; clearly her patrons have also become her friends. And it is these people who are helping Burrell get over her early elimination from the series.
“I’m very competitive. To me, losing? Losing! Not being able to stay in the race, frankly, it took me around a couple of months to get through it. And everybody said ‘But Barbara,’ and I never told anybody about it because I didn’t want anybody to see me lose,” she admitted, sharing that customers come in and before they order want to talk about the show now.
“The sentiment here seems to be ‘I wish you could have stayed on longer. We were pulling for you; we were rooting for you; that darn tire’!” Minor pointed out.
Though the gang from Sky’s Gourmet Tacos had seen the first season of The Great Food Truck Race, they pointed out that you can’t really know what an experience is like until you are in it. Though they were ultimately eliminated due to a factor beyond their control– a malfunctioning truck– there were a lot of added challenges to the show that they weren’t expecting. Cooking in a confined space of a truck is hard enough, but something that Sky’s Gourmet Tacos has gotten down to a science in the year and a half they have had their truck, but add in the time constaints, unknown locations, and cameras in their space, and it’s a whole other game!
“It was hard. I lost twelve pounds in ten days. No one’s thinking about eating; competitors compete! And we had no control; we checked the tire; everybody checked the tires!” Minor explained.
“It was cooking on the road in front of a camera. Not just the camera being in your face because you get used to it after a few minutes, and you’re okay with it, but when you’re living out reality on the show, you say something and they go ‘Oh, that was good. Say that again and then add this.’ So it’s the part where the camera kind of dictates the reality. And then you do a take, and a retake, and a retake.”
“In reality The Great Food Truck Race is really not about the food; it’s about, really, the race,” Burrell shared candidly. “Heading to different places, people come out for food, and having your crowd there, that’s the race. But it’s not who makes the best– it’s let’s get to the race.”
That means that though there was “a lot of talk” around their signature shrimp tacos, they didn’t get to show off the beauty and complexity of their dishes. Still Burrell said she would do the experience again because there was “nothing like it” in the moment.
“I love this more than anything,” Burrell said of her business. “I give it my whole heart. You know, my boyfriend, he has eighty percent, but this has everything. And some people don’t understand that, but I think it’s healthy.”
When you’re passionate about what you do, everyone you encounter becomes passionate about it, too, because they feed off of your energy and excitement. And now that Sky’s Gourmet Tacos has been featured on The Food Network, the excitement is coming from wider-spread places than they could have expected.
“We got a Tweet from a woman in Ohio, who said she watched us on the show and just wanted to be here to try some of our food,” Minor said. “So predominantly it’s the exposure like that– to new markets, to the media– that [means the most].”
While Minor focuses on getting food trucks in other cities, Burrell would also like to expand internationally, and she knows the best way to do that is to offer shipping of their products on their website.
“The roux we use, we could ship that; the shrimp, ship it frozen; and then all you need is tortillas,” she planned.
“It’s almost like you wake up one day, and you say– this happened to be October 13th; I was in Chicago last year, walking around Michigan Avenue– I’m ready. The idea had been there but all of a sudden it was the joining of the spirit, and I said ‘I’m ready’,” Burrell smiled.
The Great Food Truck Race still features one other truck from Los Angeles: Cafe Con Leche. You can see how they fare when the new episodes air every Sunday night at 9pm on The Food Network.