By Rebekah Monson, Sun Sentinel
“I am very excited,” said Jochen Esser, organizer of the Gourmet Food Truck Expo that packed 20 of South Florida’s mobile kitchens into the parking lot of Boomers in Boca Raton on Wednesday. “It’s even more successful than I hoped. I’m pretty sure we’re going to have more of these events soon.”
More than 2,000 South Florida gourmands waited in line as long as 45 minutes to sample upmarket eats ranging from Korean barbeque sliders, fried truffled macaroni and cheese and pork belly bahn mi to Michoacan-style carnitas tacos and street food favorites such as wings, hot dogs and burgers.
Today’s food trucks are more gourmet-to-go than the “roach coach” of old, and the number of trucks in cities across America has boomed in recent years.
“I fell in love with the trucks about eight or nine months ago, and I’ve been driving down to Miami to try new ones,” he said. “I thought we needed something up here, now that more trucks are in Palm Beach County. As far as I know, there hasn’t been [an event] like this here.”
The expo was a boon for the area’s burgeoning food-truck scene, said Marshall Goldberg, a partner at 4 Alarm Pizza, a Boca Raton-based fire truck kitted out as brick-oven pizza joint, complete with cappuccino bar, 46-inch 3-D TVs and gaming systems.
“It’s crazy in a great way, to see everyone and to get to try all the new food,” he said. “The creativity out here is amazing, and the quality of the food — it’s like a 5-star restaurant from these trucks.”
4 Alarm Pizza usually works private events and parties, but the crew was excited to get more exposure from the expo, Goldberg said.
Many attendees learned of the event from Facebook or Twitter, which have allowed chefs to set up shop with minimal overhead and maximum marketing exposure, said Craig Agranoff, a Boca Raton-based social-media consultant who attended the expo.
“Social media allows these truck owners to share their exact location, their specials, their menus directly with their customers when they’re somewhere different every day,” he said. “It’s almost like free marketing compared to what a bricks-and-mortar store might have to do to get someone in the door.”
The event was so successful that parking was scarce, and some trucks ran out of their most popular dishes. Many attendees said they were looking forward to the next gathering.
“It’s a phenomenal idea, and I think this is exactly what Palm Beach County and Boca needed,” said Ted Hecht, 65, as he sampled a shrimp dumpling. “They should take it to a bunch of different places all over town — downtown, the beach, wherever.”