How do you improve on a killer grilled pastrami with cheddar and horseradish mayo? Or a gyro sandwich with Israeli salad and Tabasco tzatziki? Austin Daily Press knows how. Wrap the sammy in The Onion newsprint and sell it at a bargain to late-night downtown revelers. Oh, and add a catchy little motto to the side of your trailer: “As toasted as you are.” But we aren’t the only ones to notice this budding enterprise. Austin Daily Press is one of the seven groups competing on the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race for a $50,000 prize. The show, which premiers on Sunday, August 15, at 9 p.m. CST/10 p.m. EST, features the businesses as they race across the country “to convince American to step outside their culinary comfort zones and try something new—from a truck.” I sat down with Amy Hildenbrand of the Press (the other team members are Cory Nunez and Melani Feinberg) to talk about the sandwiches, the show, and the industry’s secrets. How did you get started with the truck? Is it something you’ve always seen yourself doing, or is it a new passion? The truck itself is a new passion, but I’ve always been interested in cooking. I learned a lot from my grannie and just watching how she did things. I always liked it from a scientific point of view, where you take these random cold ingredients and you make something completely different from them. The main idea we had for Austin Daily Press was something that could be easily delivered, because we do deliveries out of the cart, and grilled sandwiches came up. A lot of the recipes are based on what Cory said he used to eat when he was a kid. Do you have a philosophy behind your food truck? Just to have fun with it. I mean, neither of us are chefs. Cory has a background in cooking for a living, and I still cook as a hobby. But we’re not trying to pass ourselves off as high-end Top Chef–type people. We blast eighties music and serve a lot of food to drunk people, mainly. I bet the late-night crowd can be pretty rowdy. What drives you to keep serving such high-quality food to them? We know that ultimately they’ll appreciate it. They might not be aware that they’re appreciating it, but certainly their bodies are aware that they’re getting real food. It’s like we’re helping take care of them a little bit, which is nice. And I don’t know if they just drunkenly keep the wadded-up wax paper in their pocket or something, but they remember us when they’re sober and come back. What would you say is your favorite street food in Austin? Kebabalicious is great. I like Best Wurst as well. I think they’re the oldest food cart in Austin, and it’s just a solid dog. Is there a community of food trailer vendors in Austin, or even nationally? There’s definitely a community in Austin. I think it’s the city with the second-largest population of food trucks, right after Portland, Oregon. The restrictions down here are certainly not lax, but it’s less strict than it is in other areas, like Los Angeles. So it’s a little bit easier to get into this business. Tell us about being on The Great Food Truck Race. The Food Network approached us at the end of March. We later came to learn that we were not just the only ones from Texas but the only ones from outside of California, period. First of all, we’re not even a truck, we’re a trailer. We were always the odd man out on everything. It was cool to see if this concept could actually work outside of our home base, outside of the streets and the people that we knew. And on top of that, seeing if it could work during the day, during the morning, instead of late-night. The show became sort of a lesson on how to set up a franchise in the span of a weekend. What you’d need to do to get the word out and learn if your product could sell in a completely new town. Do you think the trailer trend is impacting the food industry in general? Definitely. You’ve got big corporate brick-and-mortar restaurants that are putting out trucks now. A lot of people got into the trucks because it’s a much cheaper way of getting into the food industry. It doesn’t cost a quarter of a million dollars to open a food truck like it would a restaurant. But now the big restaurants are paying attention and they’re scaling back and trying to catch the public’s eye with trucks as well. It’s not just roach coaches anymore. There are actual full kitchens on wheels. Most kitchens in restaurants are relatively small to begin with, so if you just kinda tighten it down, put, like, a submarine aspect to the organization of it, then you can do a lot in a really small space.
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