I haven’t had a free moment to write the final GFTR4 blog post yet, but this is a great interview from Food Network’s website:
There could be only one winner of The Great Food Truck Race, Season 4. Three teams made it into the finale, but halfway through, one was eliminated, leaving two teams to duke it out in Arlington, Va., and Washington, D.C. As the finish line drew closer, the challenges got even more difficult. But by the end, one of them won the final challenge and earned a cash prize. The other team had to hope their sales were good enough to get them a lead. FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the runner-up from the race. Read the winner’s interview here.
In the end, Aloha Plate’s persistence at selling won them the race and the team of Tikka Tikka Taco came in second place. It came down to which team could secure the best location, and Aloha Plate lucked out. Tikka Tikka Taco struggled to secure locations in their last cities and lost precious time. They also couldn’t meet Tyler’s final challenge of selling their competitor’s signature dish. In front of the nation’s Capitol, Aloha Plate won their truck and the $50,000, but that doesn’t mean it’s over for Tikka Tikka Taco. FN Dish caught up with the guys to chat about their win. Read the interview below.
Throughout the show you guys put out fusion food that people loved. Was there any point during the competition where you thought fusion might not work in a certain city? Did you ever second-guess a dish?
We definitely guessed and second-guessed every decision; it was a strength of our team! We let all opinions out in the open and worked through them until there was a clear winner of an idea. At the end of it, our biggest regret was not adding more Tikka spice to the crab dish. Mike made the decision to scale back not because we were afraid of them not liking it, but because crab is usually not served with heavy flavoring. It’s naturally delicious. It turned out to be a $3,000 mistake.
How did you guys come up with your menu of Tikka tacos, naanchos and other unique dishes?
Evolution, baby! I ate a lot of Indo-Pak food growing up, and everyone has their own way of eating it. Since I also loved Mexican food, I got used to just throwing the meat and vegetables I wanted into the naan and topping it with the yogurt — fajita style. From there, I just started trying it different ways, and our concept evolved into what it is now. Pretty amazing!
What was going through your minds when Tyler announced that Chicago would be the beginning of the finale? Did it change your strategy at all?
Two things immediately popped into my mind: 1. Thank God we are starting with a $1,000 lead in the finale, and 2. Shoot, that means we aren’t narrowing the competition here in Chicago. As much as we love those boys from Philly, we didn’t want them heading east with us and getting closer to home.
You guys had a great plan for selling the Ditka sausages, offering a discount on the other menu items if customers purchased the special. Do you think that’s what got you ahead of everyone else, securing you the Truck Stop win?
Yes, absolutely! People really wanted our food, too, so when they ordered it we cross-sold the Ditkas. It made it so low-risk they couldn’t help but try it. I think that was a solid plan.
You had a really strong day in Annapolis, making more than $5,000, but when it came to Arlington and D.C., you guys had a hard time getting customers. You ended up not being able to sell all 50 of your specials to meet the final challenge. Why do you think there was that big of a difference among the locations?
The difference was simple: We knew we were heading to Annapolis as soon as Tyler told us. So, we had an entire 700-mile drive in which we could do our homework, come up with a solid plan, attract attention in advance, and then execute upon arrival. With Arlington and D.C., it was literally “head there now and sell!” With no advance time to plan, it was pretty much all luck from there. We had to make quick decisions, and we made the wrong ones. We competed hard, cooked and planned well, but lost in the end — no shame in that. And we are proud of what we accomplished.
Shaun and Michael, what did it mean for you guys to take this journey together with your uncle? Has the competition changed your relationship?
You know, it’s interesting. I would say our relationship didn’t change, it changed back! Growing up, we always lived a short drive away from Amoo and would spend every precious minute we could with him. As adults, we live farther away from him and aren’t lucky enough to see him as often. Being on the road for two months together felt like old times. We have learned so much from Amoo, our sense of style, music, cooking ability — so much of who we are! We are forever grateful to him and love him even more than we can possibly show in a quick interview.
At elimination, Tyler informed you that the Fallen Patriot Fund would be getting a donation to honor your fallen friend. What did that mean to you, Shaun?
Shaun: I thought it was pretty awesome! It’s nice to hear his name spoken on a national stage and know that he is remembered not just by his family and also everyone he served with, but by America too. He deserves that recognition and for America to know what he sacrificed for this country.
Is there a future for Tikka Tikka Taco in St. Louis or elsewhere? What’s next for you?
You better believe it. In fact, people can help us get launched! We are going to attempt a crowd funding campaign, so please look us up on social media and follow us through our journey. The food and the concept is too good to let go of. Look out for updates on how you can help us get started!
Well, that was different!
Chicago proved to be an INTENSE weekend, and for the first time, we left a city feeling like we had a good chance of winning this whole thing. There were a lot of surprises, a lot of stress, and a LOT of traffic. On camera, it looked like Philly was the only team to struggle with Chicago traffic, but the rest of us spent almost our entire off camera time wading through it as well. Thankfully, that taught us the lesson to avoid it during game hours at all cost. We took great care to plan in advance and to mitigate risks like that. Often, that’s what I would spend my entire off day doing!
Inserting shameless t-Shirt plug here. How can you not want to dress like us after Tikka Tikka Taco impressed both the Chicago Mayor (and former White House Chief of Staff) AND legendary Mike Ditka. Yeah, I just went there. Your turn: gotikka.com
Anywho, back to the behind the scenes stuff you can’t see by watching. We owe Amy from Revolution Brewing, Aaron from the Wagyu Wagon and Shanna from Fischman Liquors a HUGE thank you. They each worked very hard to be great partners. It may look like we just show up and have success, but let me tell you, we won with our prep work in Chicago (along with some pretty sweet business savvy!). Also, we had a LOT of friends and family come out to support us (as all the teams did), so we are very grateful.
Now, for something I almost forgot. Throughout the competition, teams had some great ideas on locations and partnerships. Some worked out, some never came to fruition, and some were THIS CLOSE to blowing the game wide open. We had an idea that almost won us the race before even leaving Chicago. We tried, and were successful, in getting in touch with Living Social. They were having an event featuring dozens of local breweries and vendors at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Living Social invited us to serve food to the 10,000 beer drinking patrons, but at the end of the day the Zoo just wasn’t comfortable with allowing us to film the event. No filming, no show, so we had to pass. Imagine if instead of making $700 at the roller derby, we could have made $5000 at the event? On the bright side, that would have stolen the drama from the finale. As it stands, there will PLENTY OF DRAMA in this finale, so DO NOT MISS IT.
My favorite part of the episode was Joe from Philly starting out by saying that Chicago was all about pizza, hot dogs, and Mike Ditka. Then the episode proceeding to consist of pizza, hot dogs, and Mike Ditka. He really called it in advance! Those guys were genuinely awestruck by Iron Mike, and for good reason. He’s a genuine football icon, and a pretty damn funny guy in real life. On that note, so was Rahm Emanuel. He also had a great sense of humor and was a lot of fun to meet.
And yes, the pizza was as delicious as it looked. If only you could see how scared we were that we ruined it, and how hard we worked for that damage control. That was some real life excitement and surprise on our faces when we won that challenge!
Now, things are about to get crazy. Don’t let Philly fool you, they haven’t quit, and those crafty Hawaiians have plenty of tricks left up their sleeves. Wish us luck.….
Well, there’s the answer to the question I have heard over 100 times since the Great Food Truck Race began airing five weeks ago:
“When are you going to get out of 3rd place, man?!?”
Hey now, I was honestly quite proud of our consistency up to this point, so I didn’t mind. Even now, leaving Minnesota, we are the ONLY team that can say that they reported above average sales in every single elimination and never once ranked below 3rd in any episode. We are hoping slow and steady can win the race! Guess we’ll find out soon enough, huh? Only 2 episodes remain, and they promise to be action packed, I can tell you that much.
What the Race can’t possibly show you in 44 minutes of air time is how much work went into the success you saw in this episode, and how many great people helped us along the way. Our first move heading into the Twin Cities—a place none of us had ever visited—proved to be a smart one. Why reinvent the wheel? If there are already food trucks succeeding there, why not make friends, and partners, and mutually benefit from the competition? Our first saving grace was a woman named Megan from the MN Food Truck Association. She was kind enough to share some do’s and don’ts and put us in touch with several other trucks. We used our day off to go and visit a few of them. We ate a delicious lunch at the Chef Shack and went on to meet Handsome Phil (our own nickname for him) at the Mid-Nord Empanada Truck. Phil proved to be an incredibly valuable partner in helping us get in touch with 612 Brew, where Robert set us up to succeed at his brewery (and more importantly gave us free delicious beer). Robert and company, if you didn’t notice in the episode, actually let me climb on his bar 3 times and harass customers to come eat at the truck! Something I never thought I’d do in a million years, but hey, we all had to operate outside of our comfort zones. We also got a great meal, some great advice, some great twitter support, and a great shopping connection from visiting Saffron owner Saed at his restaurant.
On Sunday, we got major help from J.J., the owner of the Slider Squad, and made the connection with the supermarket at which we parked. Also turned out to be a good idea, as we were not heavily dependent on foot traffic as it poured down rain. Once we received the Aloha challenge (um, I mean Spam challenge) we contemplated going back there, but Shaun convinced the team we needed to be near the other trucks on Grand, which worked out!
One thing I wish they could show more of in this show is how HUGE military support was for us in both Rapid City and Minneapolis. While we didn’t get floods of people (not quite as advanced of a network as “Coconut Wireless”, which was a hilarious reference from Lanai to describe the Polynesian network they continually tapped into), the military families that did come and support us were extremely loyal and very helpful. We owe them the biggest debt of gratitude. For Minnesota, yes, we are talking about you Andrea Zenner! And we wouldn’t have met Andrea had it not been for the great people we met in Rapid City (another shout out for Robyn, Amanda and Amy!). It’s crazy how things work out, and none of it would have happened if not for Shaun giving 4 years of his life to the U.S. Army. Good Karma?
At the elimination ceremony, we found out we were $1 shy of overtaking 1st place for the 1st time, and that we took 2nd and finally broke our 3rd place streak. Did you get all that? Afterward, we partied hard by going to the Mall of America and riding roller coasters! Don’t judge; it was pretty awesome stress relief. If you haven’t seen those awesome pictures on Facebook yet, check it out.
We are now down to the stiffest of competition, and no that’s not a reference to the field being reduced to all men. These last two teams will be very hard to beat. Thank goodness we are headed back to the mid-west for now! We tip our cap to Slideshow, who had a great run, and who were true professionals and amazing chefs. Pretty darn fun to kick it with too. We miss y’all!
Aloha, Philly and Tikka head to Chicago. Watch us this Sunday night at 8PM CDT. You’re not going to want to miss this one! And now you can actually watch while wearing your very own Tikka gear. Click on the Tikka Online Store link at the top left of the screen or visit http://tikkatikkataco.hostedbywebstore.com. We received so many requests for these while we were on the road and since we have been back that I had to enlist someone to fulfill orders for us, so I am hoping you all come through and purchase them now that we have them available! Come on now, you know you want to look as sharp as we do!
I’ll never forget the producer’s first words to me after informing us we had been selected for the competition and show, The Great Food Truck Race for Food Network: “Mike, I don’t want you thinking this is going to be a nice vacation. With the exception of Shaun’s military service, this will be the hardest thing that any of you have ever done in your life!” Well, we have all lived through difficult times in our lives, and faced difficult challenges, but truth be told this particular challenge was grueling as promised. We fought hard through those first four cities, faced incredible competition, and earned every victory. The four teams—Murphy’s, Boardwalk, Frankfootas and Bowled—that were sent packing were no slouches, and we often pondered what right we had to be beating such professionals. Bowled and Beautiful were our early pick to win the Race, so their elimination stunned us. Those ladies were sharp and they worked hard. The show has its lighter moments, and there is ample humor, but believe me…the competition was very real!
When I run into friends and acquaintances that I haven’t spoken to since before we left for filming, the first question they always ask is: “was it sooo much fun?!” I smile, reflect back at that first warning, and say, “Yeah, there was some fun, but man was it a lot of work!”. The “fun” was had because of the awesome people we met along the way. You can tell from the show that we had good rapport with the Philly boys, and that was very much true off camera as well. Good dudes, and they were almost as funny as we think we are ourselves! What you don’t see, however (and very much by design) is how much fun we had with our crew. The slew of cameramen (and women), sound techs, assistants and producers were great people, highly supportive and a ton of fun to hang out with. So, in our very limited free time, yes—we had some fun!
We also were blessed to keep very good company along the way! From our extensive friends and family that live in San Francisco and Portland, to the fellow truck operators we partnered with, to the new friends we made in Pocatello and Rapid City (especially the military families at Ellsworth AFB, whom we could never thank enough), we were well taken care of on the road.
I hope you are enjoying the show as we reach the halfway point! 4 weeks down, 3 episodes to go, although I can’t tell you if many more will feature Tikka Tikka Taco. With only FOUR teams left, the competition is about to extremely fierce, that much I can guarantee. Slideshow are trained chefs and veteran restaurateurs, Aloha are Hawaiian celebrities with a huge built in following AND a trained chef to boot, and Philly—well, those boys represent their city well: loud, fun-loving, personable, hard-working and hate to lose.
I’ll update you all again soon, but let me leave you with this quick FAQ, based on things I get asked on a regular basis:
Q: Did Tyler really call all of you at once like it looks like on T.V.?
A: Wouldn’t you like to know, muahaha. Sorry, I can’t give away any show secrets!
Q: Was that your own car on the show? And did you really drive it AND the truck everywhere you went?
A: No, the production team was kind enough to rent us a car and wrap it for us. However, YES, we really put about 9,000 miles OURSELVES on that truck and car. No one drove either one but us.
Q: How was the geoduck?
A: I actually have no idea! You’d have to ask one of the 20 people that tried it. We were barely given enough to fulfill the necessary 20 orders, plus we rarely EVER got to eat our own food. Actually, I rarely even ate anything! Any time we spent eating was time wasted and not working, and I wanted to win. There were times a literally ate 2 meals per weekend. Shaun on the other hand….
Q: How was the buffalo?
A: Ok, this was the exception to the above. I love buffalo meat and we butchered plenty (which was a blast by the way) so I tasted a taco. It was incredible. We lightly seasoned using our blend, added a touch more salt, and basically let the natural flavor blend with the raita. The result was DELICIOUS!
Any other burning questions? Tweet or Facebook us!
Incredible news, if you haven’t heard. Tikka Tikka Taco will be featured on the Food Network, in a hit series. Check out the press release here.
You can also check out the promo video they made for an intense rundown of clips from the show. Pretty cool feature, and it also contains a photo gallery. Click here for this media.
Finally, you can cast a vote for your favorite team (ahem, meaning T3!). You can do this 10x per day. Have at it! Click here to vote for Tikka Tikka Taco!
The show premiers on August 18th at 8PM CST. Tune in!
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