Authors Posts by Hannah Ashor

Hannah Ashor

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Hannah Ashor is a marketing professional turned co-founder and contributing author to Mobile Cuisine Magazine. She is proud to be a part of this new and exciting sector of the food service industry. She is fueled by the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in those she meets regularly. Using her event planning background, she organized Chicago’s first food truck event series; the first of it’s kind in the city. Since that summer, Hannah has met with folks on all sides of the industry and shared it online with the Mobile Cuisine readers.Hannah’s enthusiasm, coupled with her event marketing background makes her editorial contribution a vital part of the organization.

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national senior citizens day

“For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute.  We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older,” said President Ronald Reagan as he signed his Presidential Proclamation officially declaring August 21 National Senior Citizens Day.

Do you have any seniors in your daily lives?  Your parents, grandparents, neighbors, customers?  What do you really know about their lives?  On a personal note, I knew my grandfather worked for one of the Big 3 auto companies in Detroit.  What I didn’t know was that he was a part of the sit-down strikes to unionize the factories.  I learned this one random night and regret not learning more.  The twinkle in his eyes and the excitement in his voice were palpable.  Before that, he was my grandpa.  After that night, he was a man that was a part of history, a designer, a builder and had this whole life outside of the family.

National Senior Citizens Day is supposed to remind us to spend time with senior citizens, show our appreciation, and do volunteer work in support of the elderly.

get to know your customersMobile Cuisine has partnered with the GiveNetwork to promote the Fighting Hunger In America Food Truck Initiative.  Food trucks register in the Initiative and encourage their customers to scan the unique QR code where their tax-exempt donation goes to Convoy of Hope and Meals On Wheels.  There’s a bit more to it, but not much.

Today, this Initiative is even more relevant.  The mission of Meals On Wheels is elderly care and nutrition.  1 in 6 Americans over the age of 60 face the threat of hunger.  That’s 9.3 million people!  2.5 million seniors receive home-delivered or congregate meals via Meals On Wheels programs.  That’s incredible, but doing the math, nearly 7 million seniors are still in need of nutrition.

On this day especially, we encourage all food trucks to register to Fight Hunger In America.  For all those that register by the end of this month, you’ll be entered to win a $500 gas card.

Don’t forget to celebrate today – with a friend, a parent, a grandparent, a neighbor or a customer.  Remember, there are many out there that need a little bit extra and food trucks and your customers can make a difference!

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Wingmen logo

Corey Simmons and Ramone Dickerson have been friends since grade school.  Now a days, they run the first food truck to hit Columbia, South Carolina, 2 Fat 2 Fly – the un-clucking-believably good stuffed chicken wings.  Stuffed?  Aw yeah!

The Wingmen cometh…  2 Fat 2 Fly was first introduced to the world in Season 2 of Eat St…  and everyone took notice, especially, the producers at Paperny Entertainment and the Oprah Winfrey Network.  The first episode of Wingmen finds the 2 Fat 2 Fly team in the middle of the question that all food truck owners face: How do we take our business to the next level?

This first episode follows Ramone and Corey to a wing festival that offers them exposure to a bunch of new customers and possibly some investors.  While on their journey, we’ll meet their families and friends.

Ramone and Corey have big plans for the future of their stuffed wings.  If their plans for world wing domination are fulfilled, you’ll see a nationwide fleet of trucks and their wings in every grocer.  We can only hope! 

Wingmen airs this Saturday, August 16 at 10pm/9c on the Oprah Winfrey Network.  Check your local listings.  Support the ever-growing food truck community!

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wingmen tv logo

You know that feeling when you look out your service window and realize there’s something more?  Best friends Corey Simmons and Ramone Dickerson, the owners of the 2 Fat 2 Fly Stuffed Wing food truck, felt that way as they searched for another parking space in their home of Columbia, South Carolina.

A couple of years earlier, Eat St. paid them a visit during Season 2.  Asked how they prepared for such an occasion, both joked, “No different than any other night.  Maybe a little more sleep than usual.”  They were excited and had no idea what to expect.  The experience was fantastic and gave them additional recognition, but ultimately didn’t translate into higher sales.

Lynne Kirby, Executive Vice President of Programming of Paperny Entertainment in New York “fell in love” with Ramone and Corey.  Honestly, it’s difficult not to.  The two kept in touch since the Eat St. filming looking for the right opportunity to work together again.  Wingmen was created.  Wingmen follows these two culinary creative yet not-so-savvy businessmen through their journey to build 2 Fat 2 Fly into a household name.

Their stuffed wings create new fans with every bite.  Many have asked about their stuffing method, myself included.  This magical stuffing method remains in the confines of their secret Willy Wonka-style factory, although they claim they MIGHT unlock this secret if the show is picked up for a full season.  I imagine that Oprah has that sort of power… and we really want to see their “BBQ sauce pond!”

Spending more than a few minutes with Ramone and Corey will bring you to tears with laughter.  “How can you not fall in love with them?” said Kirby.  We couldn’t agree more.  You end up rooting for this stuffed-wing flavor-making team to go big!

These guys are always together.  I asked how they handle everyday conflicts.  Corey replied, “When we disagree, we take time to hear each other out.  We continue to learn about each other every day.”  Ramone concurred, “Arguing is a lost art form.  Most of the time pride gets in the way of seeing each other’s side.”  Corey chimed in, “It’s hard to stay mad at someone that makes delicious butter pecan ice cream.”  You can’t really argue with that.

The exclusive sneak peek of Wingmen on the OWN site suggests they’re not business-savvy, which is not uncommon for first-time food truck owners.  Wingmen shows “our lives, our happiness, and our sadness.  It’s all of it.  On and off the truck,” explained Ramone.  This is not a “business rescue” or “investor” type show.  There aren’t any guest experts or surprise cash offerings.  It’ll be the “adventures” of Corey and Ramone as they make decisions that will change and expand their fledgling business.  “We’re still stumbling through solving the biggest questions of ‘how,’” said Corey.

When they’re not in the truck, which is not often, you can find Ramone teaching cooking classes at Charleston Cooks.  He’s met many accomplished chefs… although none of them have created THE stuffed wing!  Sometimes you’ll find Ramone splurging on a new guitar while Corey sings along.  One night, after a large event they even decided to “get the band back together” and got a bunch of equipment and jammed.  Sometimes they’ll visit clubs while on the road with Sean and Joey, who have been with them since the beginning.  “We take care of truck demand, then we run wild,” joked Ramone.

When asked WHY these guys, Kirby replied that they represent the “great American dream.”  Corey and Ramone started this venture with a crazy culinary idea believing, like so many entrepreneurs, they will make it big.  It’s been a few years and they’re ready to take their business to the next level.  They are thinking franchises, fleets of trucks, and their signature stuffed wings in every grocer.  Kirby wanted to share their inspiring story.  “They’re at a crossroads in their business and we want to share their experience – the good, bad and everything in between.  You’ll feel good about rooting for them,” commented Kirby.

Wingmen is a new kind of food truck show.  It’ll show you how two guys with a dream of world wing domination stumble through the trappings of business expansion without outside help.  It’s just them, their culinary spirit of adventure and the challenges all business owners face.

Tune in to Wingmen on the Oprah Winfrey Network this Saturday, August 16 at 10pm/9c.

Be sure to join us on Twitter as we LIVE tweet during the show. Track us down @FoodTruckChat or join the conversation with #foodtruckchat.

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william kellogg

For this week’s 5 on Friday we spoke with the owner of the Maryland based food truck, L’iL Mack’s Barbecue. We wanted to learn more about him, his food and why he decided to join the mobile food industry – and share it with our readers.

Name: William Kellogg

Age: 56

Food Truck Name: L’iL Mack’s Barbecue

Twitter:  n/a

Website:  www.festivalnet.com/lil_mack

Location: Maryland

Year started in the mobile food industry: 2005

Mobile Cuisine:  Why did you become a food truck owner/chef?  

William Kellogg: To carry on the tradition started by my father-in-law.

MC: What was the inspiration for your menu and how did you settle on your food offerings?  

WK: My menu selection was based on the items my father-in-law sold in his restaurant for over 50 years.   It worked well for him & I knew that I wanted to follow in his footsteps by making the best eastern north Carolina minced pork barbecue and starting a new tradition of offering minced turkey barbecue.

MC: Do you have a favorite moment since opening your food truck?

WK: Yes.  I have to say my favorite moment occurs each time I open up the windows of the trailer at each event I vend.  It’s my “aha” moment.

MC: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself and your food truck in 2 and 5 years?

WK: Right now my wife, son & I are vending on a seasonal basis as my son & I have permanent full time jobs.  I plan to retire in 2015 and devote my time to traveling across the northeastern US to vend festivals and continue spreading the food truck fighting hunger initiative.

MC: What one tip or piece of advice do you wish you had been given before opening your food truck?

WK: If it’s not broke don’t fix it.   Stick with what has been successful over the years.  Change may be inevitable, but not always in your best interest.  Wise advice passed down from my father-in-law.

BONUS:  Why did you choose to join the food truck initiative Fighting Hunger In America?  How do you plan to encourage donations?

WK: My family & I wanted to give back and the food truck initiative allows us to present the idea to a new wave of future donors.  We have printed flyers that gives a brief overview of the Fighting Hunger in America goal & mission and we hope this will encourage folks to participate and donate.  In addition, we have also incorporated the info & website on our customer receipts.

If you’d like more information about joining the Give Network Food Truck Fights Against Hunger, check out this article.

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get to know your customers

It’s Get To Know Your Customers Day tomorrow.  This official day is occurs on the third Thursday at the beginning of every quarter.  Rather than “celebrating” an official day, we have a feeling that this is more of a daily mantra for food truck owners and operators.

Many of you know your customers already.  You see them at every Abbot Kinney First Fridays in Venice Beach, every Thursday at lunch in front of the Milwaukee County Courthouse, or every Tuesday evening at Heritage Park in Plantation, Florida. They stand in the beating sun and bitter cold to eat your tacos, burgers, grilled cheese, cupcakes and lobster rolls.  You and your staff greet them, share some quick pleasantries and say good-bye until the next time.

get to know your customersWhat do you know about them?  How could you know more about them?  It’s not about knowing their favorite movie, but more so why they choose your food truck over others, what they purchase, how often and their total spend.

Large companies have huge departments of people tracking and studying the purchasing habits of their customers and those of their competitors.  For smaller companies, there is software and different POS systems that are adding those features.  Those are viable options.

We’ve been promoting our partnership with the GiveNetwork in the Fighting Hunger In America Food Truck Initiative.  Now this isn’t a complete customer data tracking system, however, it allows you to know the customers that are actively engaging with your brand’s belief of raising donations for Convoy of Hope and Meals On Wheels to fight hunger.

After a quick registration and small annual fee of $45, at the end of every month you’ll receive a customer list of those that donated using your unique ‘QR Donation Portal.’  Since these are already your customers, you can further engage with them to encourage repeat purchases…and donations.  The goal is, of course, to raise as much funding for these two great non-profit organizations.  All trucks registered by August 30 are entered to win a $500 gas card.

This Initiative actively engages your customers.  Most fund raising efforts require minimal effort on your customers by purchasing something they already planned on buying and donating a portion of the sale.  It’s nice for the customers and affects the truck’s bottom line.

This new and innovative way to engage your customers in actively participating in the donation process builds a sense of community.  Food trucks can offer interesting incentives (not just money or food) to top monthly donors.  Trucks will be able to track what locations have the largest donations.  The marketing communications and donation promotional options are limitless.  We believe this new mobile platform is the tip of the iceberg in the future of the fund-raising industry.

So, get out there and get to know your customers – however you do it.  If you don’t someone else will…

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Off the Grill El Paso

Before you dive into your veggies, get to know the winner of Mobile Cuisine’s 2014 Food Truck BBQ Of The Year Off The Grill of El Paso, Texas!

This young entrepreneur is taking El Paso by storm.  Adrian Padilla’s passion is fueling his every move.  I asked why start this business while you’re still in high school.  This young man of faith answered, “Once God put this plan in my heart, it just didn’t make sense to wait.”

off the grill“The business itself was inspired by a vision my Grandpa kind of planted,” he explained.  Adrian’s close relationship with his Grandfather taught him a lot about business, who had run his own business successfully for 30 years.  His Grandfather saw the spark in Adrian and encouraged him to start out on his own.  When his Grandfather passed away, Adrian shared his plans with his family and supported him without hesitation.  It was a way to honor his Grandfather and continue his legacy.

Every entrepreneur has that spark, but why grilling?  Adrian said he had fun experimenting with rubs, spices and online recipes on his favorite food – MEAT.  For a city known for “insanely good” Mexican food, he wanted to “do something (else) Texas is known for and felt there was a need for more BBQ.”

Off The Grill was conceived as a prelude to a restaurant, and of course, his love for grilling.  Adrian wanted the name to translate well from a truck to a brick’n mortar.  The name got family approval.  Once he had the name, he partnered with Rigo’s graphics to fulfill his vision giving El Paso something that hadn’t seen before.

Adrian’s favorite part of running the truck is having a close relationship with his customers.  He loves meeting new people, getting out and shaking hands (when time allows), sharing food and telling his customers “Have a great day and maintain!”  After a local media outlet profiled him, an unfamiliar woman contacted him.  She and her family were long-time neighbors of his Grandfather.  They came to the truck, enjoyed some food and stuck around to share priceless stories of his Grandparents.  It’s that interaction that keeps him excited and driven.

With all of his success, the lines might be long at the truck.  His favorite dish is the BBQ Taco, infusing his culture into this pulled pork, pico de gallo salsa and a little bit of lime creation.  Oddly, this best seller wasn’t even on his original menu.

off the grill bbqWe asked him where he sees himself in the future.  Joking around he replied, “Ellen!  Ellen!  Ellen!!”  Realistically, he wants to open a brick’n mortar restaurant, but his immediate plans are to “help the food truck industry here in El Paso.  There are so many wonderful, delicious trucks our here.  I’d really like to change that ‘lunch truck’ stigma that most are familiar with.”  With Off The Grill on the streets delivering mouth-watering dishes, we are confident that change will happen.

In his spare time, which we imagine is quite scarce, Adrian likes to DJ.  He loves all genres of music and has been known to bring his DJ equipment along and add to your food trucking experience.  We like the idea of hitting all of your senses with Off The Grill flavor!

Off The Grill was created in the hopes of building on his Grandpa’s family legacy.  “I wanted to be a blessing to my family just as he was to his,” stated Adrian.  We can feel the passion in every move of this young man.  His faith, family and the memory of his Grandfather inspire all that he does.

On his first day at a Food Truck Circus event Adrian exclaimed to his mother, “This is going to be awesome!”  In the short time Off The Grill has been on the road, it certainly has been awesome!  Congratulations on winning!  We’ll be waiting in lines for those awesome pork tacos too!

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Shark Awareness Day

July has a lot of fun “awareness” days.  In fact, today is “International Nude Day” and “Shark Awareness Day.”  International Nude Day may not necessarily apply to any food trucks unless you get a random streaker.

Shark Awareness Day is something altogether different.  Most food truck owners are known to be scratch-made localvores that try to use organic and sustainable products.  That being said, we can’t always know where our seafood is caught or harvested.  Hopefully, the information presented here will give you additional tools to use when selecting the seafood that appears on your menu.

Sharks, shark attacks specifically, are gracing the news more frequently.  Most recently, the attack on the surfer in Manhattan Beach, California brought to light several ocean safety concerns including, but not limited to shark fishing close to shore and the effects of changing ocean temperatures on shark behaviors.

When you buy local produce or meats and poultry, you can usually connect the dots between farmer and distributor and your kitchen.  With seafood, unless you’re fishing for your own food or know the captain directly, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to connect the dots.

Our focus relating to Shark Awareness Day is awareness about how your seafood is caught.  According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium research and conservation site, SeafoodWatch.org, you should always ask your seafood provider, “Do you sell sustainable seafood?”  Does the catching method produce large amounts of bycatch?

What is bycatch?  “Bycatch” is marine life caught unintentionally in a fishery that is targeting other fish.  Worldwide fisheries discard an estimated 38.5 million tons of marine life comprising of 40% of the estimated total catch.

shark awareness dayWhat does this have to do with sharks?  According to Shark Savers, most shark bycatch comes from open ocean fishing fleets that target valuable fish, such as, tuna.  Until recently, shark bycatch was considered a nuisance and sharks were cut loose to swim away.  Now that shark fins are so valuable, fleets have little incentive to reduce shark bycatch.  Where sharks used to be released alive are now “finned” with their bodies dumped at sea.  An estimated 50 million sharks are caught unintentionally.

Fishing methods that produce the most shark bycatch are longlines, bottom trawling, and gillnetting.  We don’t need to fully educate you on fishing methods, just give you a tool to buy your seafood responsibly and sustainably.

We found the Monterey Bay Aquarium Buyer’s Guide a valuable resource for chefs, seafood professionals and consumers alike.  This reference guide lists the best choices to items to avoid.  The list is updated monthly and is also available in an app – great to use while at the store or when you’re dining out.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium and countless other organizations encourage you to make your buying decisions responsibly.  Together we can save the oceans…one meal at a time.

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Cheer Up The Lonely

Cheer Up The LonelyToday is Cheer Up The Lonely Day!  You may wonder why we’d cover a “holiday” like this?  Well, that’s an easy response.  Mobile Cuisine, along with the GiveNetwork and GiveMobi, has been promoting Fighting Hunger In America where the donations are donated to Convoy of Hope and Meals On Wheels.

As you know, Meals On Wheels is instrumental in feeding America’s elderly that are on a fixed-income, homebound, and without a network of friends and family to help them out.  Meals are delivered directly to their homes.  Sometimes that contact is all they have with the outside world with any regularity.

By registering here or clicking on the link in our homepage, you’ll enable your customers to donate to these two great organizations that not only cheer up the lonely, but also provide food and services to people in need around the country.

Join other food trucks that have already registered to make a difference, like Dogs On Wheels, The Grilled Cheese Truck and Baba’s Big Bite.  Register your truck by August 30 and get entered to win a $500 gas card.  The drawing will be held on September 1.  That’ll be a nice way to end the summer food truck season!  It’s easy to register and lets your customers actively engage with your brand with every donation.

Take a moment to cheer up a lonely person today.  Whether it’s a grandparent, neighbor or distant friend, you can always brighten someone’s day.  By registering your truck in Fighting Hunger In America, you’ll be cheering up lonely people on an ongoing basis… and feeding them with every customer donation!

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Off the Grill El Paso

Congratulations to the Off The Grill food truck of El Paso, Texas!  They are the winner of Mobile Cuisine’s 2014 Food Truck BBQ of the Year!  We’re very excited for this young entrepreneur.

Every story leads with owner Adrian Padilla’s age, but we want to learn more about what drives him and his passion for award-winning BBQ.  He’s only been on the streets since November and all we see is an upward trajectory for him.

We’ll learn more about Adrian, his BBQ, his future plans and the smoky, saucy goodness that put him on top.

Rounding out our top 5 BBQ Food Trucks for 2014 are:

2. B Daddy BBQ – San Antonio, TX
3. Gotta Q – Providence, RI
4. Pigs Eatin’ Ribs – Charlevoix, MI
5. Kosmos Q – Oklahoma City, OK

We would also like to thank all of the competitors as well as to all of our readers who voted.

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Eat St Season 5

Season 5 of The Cooking Channel’s Eat St. premieres tonight, so we sat down with James Cunningham to get his thoughts on hosting the show and the state of the mobile food industry.

“Food trucks are not a trend,” declared James Cunningham, host of Cooking Channel’s Eat St.  As Season 5 premieres today, Thursday, July 3, we’re inclined to believe him.

From the moment I said “hello,” James bubbled over with enthusiasm for food trucks.  We’re honored that James took time out of his busy schedule and “sat down” with us to talk about Season 5 of East St., his experiences and the current state and future of food truck industry as he sees it.  This season the Eat St. team visits 27 cities and eats at over 100 trucks.  It’s tough work, but someone’s got to do it.  “Yeah, my job sucks.  I get to travel and eat good food,” he mused sarcastically.  We’re envious.

Without spoiling the season, they visit many expected cities:  Austin, NYC, Denver, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Philadelphia.   Some unexpected places on the list are Knoxville, Portland, Maine, Hamilton, Ontario, and Lafayette, Louisiana.  “Food trucks aren’t just in the major cities anymore.  They’re thriving in smaller cities and suburbs all over the country,” said James.  Eat St. wants to make sure those trucks spotlighted too.

James Cunningham Eat StIt was difficult to name some of this season’s standouts, but he gave it a shot.  One is the Denver-based, kick-a$$ Pink Tank Truck traveling with their own pyrotechnics.  They’re rock’n roll and their bold food is in your face.  Hot sauce ice cream?  Wha??  Hell yeah!  Le Eiffel Burger off of the Mainely Burgers Truck in Portland, Maine was a definite standout to James.  The tower of housemade crispy onion strings must’ve sent him over the edge.  When we read the description of Orlando’s Swede Dish Truck’s Viking Dog – Swedish thin bread stuffed with an all-beef hotdog, homemade mashed potatoes with Swedish spices and fresh crab salad – we were captivated.  I could almost hear James drool re-living his first bite.

We asked James how he gears up for a grueling (read sarcasm) schedule of 27 cities and over 100 trucks.  We were relieved to find out that filming is stretched out over the year.  We wondered how many burgers, tacos and super-spicy dishes he’s consumed for our viewing pleasure.  He doesn’t remember, but he always keeps a stash of antacid tablets close by for those habanero and jalapeno-laced dishes.

It takes a day of filming per truck and there are 2-3 crews filming at any given time.  “There are a lot of moving parts” involved in the filming and editing process.  A typical shoot starts at a truck’s commissary or kitchen to film their prep for the day.  They’ll film a lunch service and capture feedback from customers.  They strive to be fair to the food trucks and their owners.  “It’s all about the food truck owners, not me,” James said.  His infectious enthusiasm and adventurous eating makes him a great ambassador for this industry.

“Every city has its own food truck personality,” said James of his travels throughout the US and Canada.  “The LA food truck scene is so mobile,” he commented.  While the carts and trucks of Portland, Oregon are primarily stationary and located in pods.  He’s experienced how some cities welcome these food entrepreneurs with arms wide open, while other cities are restrictive in their legislation.  It all depends on the background of the local politicians and how powerful the local restaurant association is in that particular city.

The fighting between the brick’n mortar restaurants and food trucks amazes him.  He reasoned, “So many food trucks have expanded into brick’n mortar restaurants and the restaurants have expanded into food trucks.  There is so much overlap and blending, the animosity between the two groups seems silly.”

Since many of the food trucks they once visited have grown into brick’n mortar restaurants, Eat St. may visit them in future seasons to see how they’ve grown and evolved.  This is a great opportunity to show how these food truck entrepreneurs continue to grow and contribute to their local communities.

James has seen the industry evolve over the years.  He’s excited to see the next generation of mobile food – more ethnic influences and pop-up kitchens.  “Pop-up kitchens are really cool!” exclaimed James, but knows that will probably create a whole new set of licensing challenges.

James Cunningham Food Truck

During James’ off-season, he’s still on the road and never stops exploring the local food truck scenes throughout North America.  I asked if he ever gets recognized.  “Sometimes,” he recalled.  You’ll never hear him say, “Do you know who I am?!”  I thought I could provoke his “diva” side, but he kindly reminded me that Canadians aren’t divas.  With a chuckle, I knew he didn’t have a diva bone in his body.  He just loves the food and the people he gets to meet along the way – with or without the camera crew.

Since James has been doing this for a while now and has seen nearly everything, we asked him what type of truck he’d open, if he could.  Surprisingly, no one had ever asked him.  He mulled over for a moment and dug into his Canadian heritage…  He answered, “A gourmet bannock truck.”  Bannock is deep fried flat yeast dough that can be eaten alone or with sweet or savory toppings.  That sounds good to us!  I’m sure it’s a recipe for success, but we prefer him traveling, tasting and sharing with us all of the great mobile food out there on Eat St.

Don’t miss the Season 5 premier of Eat St. airing tonight and every Thursday at 8/7c on the Cooking Channel.  It’s going to be another season of passionate, creative people sharing their mouth-watering food.

Join Mobile Cuisine for a live Twitter chat during the show with #FoodTruckChat.

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