Food Truck Championship of Texas draws crowds

Food Truck Championship of Texas draws crowds

Copy courtesy of Graham Leader and Visit Graham

With 49 food trucks and thousands of visitors fighting the Texas summer heat on the Graham downtown square Saturday, the ninth annual Food Truck Championship of Texas continued its reign as the city’s top event.

The day of events Saturday, June 1 took off with the Possum Pedal, a bike ride which began at Third Street and Oak Street and had routes of 6, 27, 42, 50, 61 and 74 miles through Young County. It wasn’t long before crowds were drawn to the smell on the downtown square and began to line up for food trucks downtown.

A total of $16,000 in prizes were given to food trucks at the event in 10 categories. The $10,000 grand champion prize and belt this year went to Insurgent., a new truck to the event that serves seasonal, locally produced food. 

Food truck dishes at the event were judged by three professional chefs who brought their culinary expertise downtown. Visit Graham, who hosts the event with volunteers, was looking to make the judging a more involved experience this year and introduced judges Levi Gardner, Stefon Rishel and Sarah Castillo to the audience before the announcement of the awards.

“I’m just more and more impressed every time I try something coming out of these food trucks,” Gardner said. “Really big, big props to all the trucks that came out here and all the food that y’all made. It was amazing. I had a bunch of good bites and really appreciate Graham and everybody who put their foot into this and made it happen.”

Visit Graham CEO Cathy Partridge asked the judges what criteria they used for judging the dishes presented by each truck this year. Rishel said he is looking for something all-encompassing.

“I’m always looking for everything to hit the full palette, so sweet, salty, sour, spicy all together and see if it’s rounded out and nothing really takes over the other,” he said.

Gardner agreed with Rishel and said he judges dishes on hitting all the senses. He said if it is something traditional, he wants an interesting spin to make it unique.

“If it’s a classic, I want it to be a classic done really, really good. If it’s something different, I want it to be refreshing and different. I feel like there were a lot of both of those today,” he said. “There were some different dishes that were really good, done right and they made sense. There’s a couple of dishes I have in mind that the components really worked and you can tell there’s a lot of thought put into that dish.”

With 49 food trucks having dishes presented to the judges, Castillo said the complexity of the dishes was surprising. Having worked out of a food truck in the past, she said she understood the conditions the food truck workers were under.

“If it’s 100 degrees outside in Texas, it’s 120 inside the trailer. There’s so many dishes and you’re just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I know the pain and sweat, heart and tears that went into that dish.’ ...Sometimes it’s nine foot by seven feet. You’re tight with three other cooks in there,” she said.

Rishel said not only were the trucks submitting for the judges but serving for sometimes huge crowds.

“I mean, you saw some of these trucks had 100 people in line today. So it’s a grind, and they’re just sweating it out, literally. What they can put out with a quality product is mind blowing to a lot of people, ourselves included,” he said.

The night of fun ended at the Young County Arena with a concert featuring Reckless Kelly and Shane Smith and the Saints. 
Partridge said in a previous interview that the Visit Graham organization always looks to make the event a showcase of Graham and a standing tradition.

“It’s an event that we would love for people to want to do every year that live away... (and) to be something that’s a marker on (their) calendar that (they) really want to do because it just sounds fun,” she said.