Mar 19, 2014
Kim Rivers

Food Truck Queen Jolene Mannina Relishes Her Next Challenge

Photo by Zack W.

Photo by Zack W.

Last year was a big one for Jolene Mannina. The former waitress who had previously revolutionized the local food scene with her pop-up dinners, food-truck gatherings and cooking competitions was put in charge of the culinary lineup for the inaugural Life Is Beautiful festival.

“Life Is Beautiful was really rewarding,” she says. “I met so many people and so many amazing chefs, and really got to experience something I’d never seen. The production was massive.”

So why won’t she be on board for the festival’s second year?

“My end goal,” she says, “is to be able to spread my wings and do a bunch of different things over the entire year as opposed to working on one event for 12 months. I’m definitely a person who likes to run around and be a part of things and constantly move.”

To do that, Mannina has launched her own company, Relish. And the name has nothing to do with the condiment.

“It’s a reference to the things that I love,” she explains. “I relish life. I relish food. I relish booze. I relish food trucks. I relish Vegas. I relish chefs.”

Relish, the company, will be an umbrella concept that will handle all of the smaller projects that Mannina loves. She’ll be managing events, hosting dinners, consulting for other restaurateurs and providing food for various festivals.

And, of course, it’s impossible to think of Mannina without thinking of food trucks, and her famed Back of the House Brawl cooking competitions held late Saturday nights in the parking lot of Tommy Rockers. Every two weeks or so during the warmer months, chefs from top Strip restaurants climb on board food trucks and try to create the best dish using an often bizarre basket of mystery ingredients.

“It’s the complete opposite [of Life Is Beautiful],” she says of the event. “Because it’s tiny and it’s raw. But I’ve gained so much from that—the relationships and everything.”

The Brawl’s third season will kick off March 22, and Mannina has already secured a new trophy. (The famed Pabst Blue Ribbon cup, which is decorated by each winning chef, is retired at the end of each season.) And chefs such as Wes Holton of Rose.Rabbit.Lie. are clamoring to sign up.

“The Back of the House Brawl, whether I make money or not, there’s a purpose behind it, and I always want it to succeed,” she says. And she may soon see it succeed on a larger scale than she ever imagined: On March 2, AE shot a pilot for a show based on the competition, and Mannina is “super fucking excited” with how it played out. “The producers loved it.”

Hopefully, if the network loves it as well, Las Vegas will soon be home to another reality TV show. But regardless of how any single project develops, Mannina is determined to give local foodies more things to relish.

“Every time I do anything, I ask the question: ‘Is this something that I would want to go to?’” she says. “So if I can create those experiences for myself, I figure there’s got to be some other people who would enjoy them as well.”

Given her track record, that seems like a pretty safe bet.

Follow Al Mancini via RSS.

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Mar 19, 2014
Kim Rivers

Number of Food Truck Thursdays to increase

Posted by
on March 18, 2014.

Last year, the Dunwoody Homeowners Association sponsored 22 Food Truck Thursday events in Brook Run Park. This year, DHA board member Bill Grossman said, the group is thinking of increasing the number to 27.

Grossman told members of the DHA board on March 2 that he planned to start Food Truck Thursdays this year on May 1 and continue weekly through Oct. 30. The events, which feature food trucks and local musicians in concert, attracted from 500 to 1,500 people last year, Grossman said.

Grossman said he is looking for sponsors for the concerts. He said a sponsorship for a single concert would cost about $1,000.

“Any support I can get from the city or from corporate sponsors, I look forward to,” he said.


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Mar 19, 2014
Kim Rivers

Food Truck Responds to One-Star Yelp Review by Singing Sorry

By Stefanie Tuder

Amy Black could have just stopped with just a comment response, as restaurateurs are able to do, to the first negative Yelp review of her food truck in a year and a half. “Wholy [sic] waste of $30,” Yelper Vero P. wrote, “and an hour to get my food.”

Instead, Black teamed up with her musician friends Sage and Jared to create an original song to address Vero P.’s one-star dismissal of The Supper Truck in Albuquerque, N.M.

“I tried to reach out to this customer on Yelp and wrote her a letter probably six or seven months ago, and I never heard anything back, which was a bummer,” Black said. “So I was just thinking, ‘How can I win this person back?’ And we try to be creative and have fun.”

What resulted is the above video, with light-hearted lyrics such as, “You came in for supper on a really busy night and we didn’t do things quite right. So we wrote you a letter to tell you we’d do better. … Take back your one-star review. Vero P., can’t you see how much we love you?”

Despite the repeated and increasingly public attempts at reconciliation, Black has yet to hear from the reviewer.


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Mar 18, 2014
Kim Rivers

Harrisburg Food Truck Feast to make return to 3rd in the Burg

Once again, local food trucks and trailers will gather during 3rd in the Burg in Harrisburg.

This year, the event has a new name but will remain in the same location in midtown Harrisburg. The Harrisburg Food Truck Feast will kick off the season 5-9 p.m. April 18.

It will run every third Friday through October at 1601 N. Third St.

Last year the food truck gathering was called MashUp Food Truck Festival. It was modeled after similar al fresco events held around the country.

However, the organizer of the MashUp moved to State College. To the rescue came Olivia Madrigal, who operates MAD Sandwiches food truck in Harrisburg with her husband, Rodrigo.

She said she didn’t want the event to fade away.

“It was just a great event,” she said. I think events like this just make the community run better. It brings out the people in the community.”

Vendors throughout the season will include Madd Sandwiches with their Philly style cheese steaks and Cuban sandwiches; Baron Von Schwein with sweet and sour pork buns and pulled pork; Up in Smoke BBQ with ribs, pork, chicken and brisket; Ice Cream Express with soft serve ice cream; Bountiful Feast with healthy foods; The Chicken Truck with chicken tenders, grilled chicken and fried pickles; and Forno Inferno with wood-fired artisan pizza.

The first feast on April 18 will feature live music by The Groove with Marissa Elise.

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Mar 18, 2014
Kim Rivers

City delays action on food truck rules

A Sacramento City Council subcommittee delayed taking action today on an ordinance that would allow food trucks to create permanent “pods.”

Council members on the city’s Law and Legislation Committee asked that city staff explore an ordinance that might prohibit the food truck pods from opening on the J-K-L street corridor downtown and apply different regulations for groups seeking to set up shop outside the central city.

Some food truck vendors have already expressed concern about the cost and timing of the proposed ordinance, which would require groups of food truck vendors to apply for a $3,710 conditional use permit. That process would take at least four months.

Members of the council committee also wanted clarity from city staff on how the proposed ordinance would affect existing food truck vendors.

The Law and Legislation Committee will hear a new version of the ordinance on April 17. If approved, it would then be passed to the full City Council.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at

• Read more articles by Ryan Lillis

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Mar 18, 2014
Tim Lester

Vendy Awards return to New Orleans April 3

  It took a while for food trucks to take off in New Orleans compared to other American cities, but mobile food vending has captured the love of Big Easy diners. Nothing proves this more than the Vendy Awards, which celebrates food trucks and event caterers at an event at the French Market April 3.

  The Vendy Awards, a nonprofit event established in support of the Street Vendor Project ( and the Urban Justice Center (, holds street food events in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. This event marks its second year in New Orleans.

  Last year, the food truck Foodie Call took home the Vendy Cup, but there was stiff competition from Empanada Intifada, Fat Falafel, Hot Tamale Mama, La Cocinita, Ms. Linda’s Soul Food Catering Company, Taceaux Loceaux, Vaucresson Sausage Co. and Woody’s Fish Tacos.

  ”We’re so happy to come back to New Orleans,” says Vendy Awards managing director Zeina Muna. “It has such a rich food history, and that’s one of the reasons we picked it as a place we wanted to expand. There’s a great culture of street fairs and parades and of course there’s always food, so we’re just hoping to celebrate that and be a part of it.”

  All sorts of mobile vendors are encouraged to get in the ring. “We like to call them ‘sidewalk chefs,’ which encompasses all the mobile vendors, whether they have a truck, a cart, or a catering company,” Muna says.

  The list of competing vendors is growing, but confirmed participants include Foodie Call, 2013 finalists La Cocinita and Empanada Intifada, and Linda Green, aka The Ya-Ka-Mein Lady. A list of finalists and their bios will be posted on

  A panel of judges will select the Vendy Cup winner, which comes with title, glory and a silver medal. Attendees can vote for the People’s Choice award.

  The Vendy Awards are from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at the French Market. Tickets are available online for $6 for a basic ticket, which includes a drink ticket and allows attendees to pay as they go, or $36 premium admission, which includes four beers and a sample from each vendor. The “date night” special includes two premium tickets for $65.

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Mar 18, 2014
Kim Rivers

NJ’s most popular food truck? Voting ends midnight Friday; make your voice be … – The Star

You’ve read our Ultimate Jersey Food Truck Showdown series (if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?), about all the great food trucks scattered around the state.

Now’s the time to see who wins our coveted Silver Spatula Award for Most Popular Food Truck in New Jersey. Voting ends this Friday at midnight; the winner will be announced on Monday.

More than 3,500 votes have been cast so far, and it’s a close race, with the Cinnamon Snail, The Taco Truck and Oink and Moo BBQ the top three vote-getters to date.

But anyone can win the award, so it’s time to cast your vote — and tell your favorite truck to get the word out to all its fans through Twitter and Facebook.

To vote, go here.

Did you miss the mouth-watering stories in the food truck series, including profiles of the top trucks, a list of the best truck dishes, and a won’t-find-anywhere-else directory of Jersey food trucks? Here is the complete series.

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Mar 18, 2014
Jim Benson

Eat around the world at Portland food carts

PORTLAND, Ore. — The many accolades earned by chefs in this city are rooted in what the land offers. They succeed by adaptation to their environment.

That’s especially true with the city’s bustling food cart scene, which has become an incubator for great restaurants. Whether inspired by Norwegian comfort food, Peace Corps missions to the Republic of Georgia, or Thai “chaos in a bowl,” the menus reinvigorate and challenge both customer and chef to think harder and dream bigger.

The culture of Portland food carts — cheaper than restaurants and meriting just a couple-dollars tip (and sales-tax free, to boot) — allows diners to assemble their own multicourse tasting menu, provided they don’t mind a moderate walk or a quick bike ride. Luckily, most food trucks are assembled in pods scattered across the city, making it easy to visit multiple trucks at each stop.

Start in southeast Portland, where Viking Soul Food does one thing and does it well. The simple, steel-bodied trailer is adorned only with a red umbrella. A sign promises “marvelous handcrafted edibles,” and the menu is as stripped down as the cart itself.

Here you will find lefse, and not much else.

Like crepes without the milk and eggs, these Norwegian potato-flatbread wraps serve as a versatile bed for sweet and savory entrees that co-owner Megan Walhood’s great-grandmother put on the Christmas table every year. The fillings can include heavy-duty pork-and-beef meatballs or a local grab of mushrooms and Oregon-grown hazelnut patties.

The seasonal winter lefse presented a well-balanced mix of goat cheese, pears and walnuts under sherry-sugar reduction — fresh, elegant and simple. Another lefse of house- (er, cart)-cured salmon with pickled shallots and crunchy watercress presented a slightly lighter take.

The real star, though, may be the $3 appetizer of pickled herring and onions, meaty fillets that manage to be bright and salty without overbearing fishiness.

As a bonus, pop by the Brazilian House cart next door for the coxinha, a ball of shredded chicken and spices fried in dough into the shape of a drumstick.

Go Thai

Then walk (or hop on a rental bike) to a rising star of the culinary scene, Carte Blanche, where “Supreme Dictator for Life” Jessie Aron is willing admit to Thai influences from her days in the kitchen at the bicoastal sensation Pok Pok, but says her chief culinary driver is avoiding repetition.

“Usually when I explain the cart, the looks I get back are confusion,” Aron said. “We’ve gotten used to confusing the customer. Until they try the food. Then they’re just happy.”

Here you’ll get mysteriously-named bowls like “Mischief” and “Rum Tum Tugger.” Layered in a way that makes each bite genuinely different from the last are a fruit salad with diced pineapples, snap peas and corn in a sesame-miso crema, and a small heap of prawns.

Oh! The prawns! Crusted with coconut, cashew and Kaffir lime, they are a revelation — sweet and citrusy, firm but yielding, the combination balances perfectly against a bed of jasmine rice. The eggplant in the vegetarian version was similarly impressive, glazed in a Thai lime-chili reduction and crisped to a satisfying crunch.

Before your next stop, consider one of Aron’s compost cookies. Don’t worry, this isn’t “Portlandia” gone rogue; it’s just the compilation of what they had hanging around. One winter evening, potato chips and raisins joined pretzels and chocolate chips in a salty-sweet, straight-from-the-oven collaboration.

Georgian-style street food

Have you had enough yet? You have not. Because across the river is a slightly different take on international cuisine, borne of two former Peace Corps volunteers who met in the Republic of Georgia and decided to bring what they ate there back with them.

Behold, Kargi Gogo (roughly translated to “good girl”) and a carb-laden end to one night in town. Here you can go vegetarian and not miss the meat.

Start with the $8 pick-three combination, from which you can sample dumplings, a garlic-walnut purée wrapped in eggplant and khachapuri, a gooey blend of feta and a local sour pickled curd called sulguni inside a thin crust that doubles as perhaps the best grilled cheese in town.

The dumplings, khinkali, come with a brief introduction from co-owner McKinze Cook, who advises diners to lift them from the doughy knot at the top, flip them and eat them from the bottom. It’s an elegant solution to keeping the juices evenly layered over the filling. Eating the dough knot, she says, is optional.

Whether you take it all in one go or parcel it out over a couple days, Portland’s international cuisine remains on the fringes while the sun shines brightly on the stuff of more traditional childhood comforts: carts starring grilled peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, homemade marshmallows and gourmet BLTs.

So you’ll have to look. But for those with an open mind and a curious palate, an exciting reward awaits.

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Mar 18, 2014
Tim Lester

More Street Food On The Way In Scilly

town hall rear 2013There’s potential for more street food in Scilly, to offer choice and value for locals and visitors. That’s the view of  two islands’ businesspeople who will be operating mobile food stalls in town this summer.

The latest trader to be licensed by the Council, Carrie Graham, says she has been inspired by her outdoor eating experiences during 9 years of travelling, especially from the time when she lived in Laos and Cambodia.

Carrie won’t be selling hot food but intends to provide homemade sandwiches from 11am to 3pm at Little Porth, Town Beach, The Strand and Well Cross. She’ll operate throughout the season, starting from gig weekend.

Pete Reynolds started a successful mobile crepe business last year. He says he welcomes more competition and says it will help keep the restaurants on their toes, too. Pete sells his pancakes from a bicycle-drawn stand and says the vehicle itself attracts interest and adds to the experience.

Carrie shares that view. She says she couldn’t find a suitable stall off-the-shelf, so she’s commissioned a bespoke wooden stall from the mainland, which she hopes will create a ‘beach food’ vibe.

Now she says she’s hoping that a local artist or artists will offer to help her personalise it and make it look distinctly local.

The pair could be joined by additional food vendors soon.

St Mary’s pasty maker Traci Badcock has also applied for a licence to trade for four hours a day in the Mermaid car park and Silver Street.

But Pete feels that a space, like the square behind the Town Hall, could provide a perfect base  for both food and craft stalls. That, he says, could widen the islands’ food and activity choices.

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Mar 18, 2014
Tim Lester

Chuck sniffs out street food

Chef Chuck Hughes discovers tasty treasures and more in famed cities of the United States in his latest food show, writes Aref Omar

CANADIAN chef and restaurateur Chuck Hughes of AFC’s popular cooking show Chuck’s Day Off is back with another mouthwatering offering. This time the 37-year-old explores the streets of San Francisco, New Orleans and other famous areas across the US in the new series, Chuck’s Eat The Street.

In each episode he uncovers the food, history and legends behind these famous roads, from Mission Street to Magazine Street and more. The Montreal-born chef began by attending culinary school before working at the hottest kitchens around town. Driven by his undying passion for food, Hughes opened his own restaurant, Garde Manger, with two best friends in 2006.

Four years later, the popular joint’s kitchen became the regular setting for his TV show, Chuck’s Day Off, which showcased his cooking skills in preparing delectable delights for friends, family and suppliers on the day his restaurant was closed. A defining moment was when he became the youngest Canadian chef to win on Iron Chef America, and the only Canadian chef to beat the legendary Bobby Flay.  

Hughes, who sports a host of tattoos of his favourite foods on his arms, talks about his appetising adventures:

What were some of the interesting things that you discovered in San Francisco and New Orleans while doing this show?

In New Orleans, I was surprised at how deep French influence ran, well beyond the image of the Fleur de Lys. And in San Francisco, we filmed quite close to the Golden Gate Bridge and I knew it was a great US landmark but thought “big bridge in sunny, calm California, big deal.” But when I got close to the water it surprised me how turbulent it was and how the bridge and the straits had this raw and rugged feeling with this element of danger. It was eerie instead of a dreamy Californian feeling and that surprised me.

Best food moments there?

One of the best moments in New Orleans was going to a crawfish festival. I don’t think it made the show as it was a last minute place we checked out, but it had the biggest crawfish steamer I had ever seen! It was at least 3.6 by 1.8 metres and there was this mechanism that enabled it to tip over and spill all these perfectly cooked crawfish onto this giant metal table. Everyone would then just head for this giant table and dig in. It was delicious!

In San Francisco it was another moment that didn’t make it into the show. I got to fulfil one of my life long dreams of eating at The Swan Oyster Depot. I had been waiting my entire life to eat there! It’s a small place, only 20 or so seats, and it has not changed in 100 years. The wait is long (one to two hours) but well worth it as the seafood is amazing and the staff are terrific. Sometimes, when you finally experience something you’ve been waiting your whole life to experience, it’s actually a let down, but this was better than I had ever expected.

What are the differences in terms of food and cuisine between the two cities?

In New Orleans there is a heavy underscore of French influence in their techniques, but then they have their own unique twists, as well as ingredients and a cooking style which makes for some mouth watering dishes.
In San Francisco the influences tend to be Asian and Mexican reflecting its history. I would also say that San Fran has some of the best seafood in the world.

How would you describe food in Montreal?

Twenty years ago we were really influenced by French cuisine. Now it’s much different. Chefs here are travelling more and not just to France. They are bringing back different techniques and unique ways to use ingredients. Montreal is the city with the best 40-seat restaurants. On every corner you will find one and have a great meal. Part of the reason is that the focus right now is for chefs in this city to use really fresh local ingredients.

What do you think about food culture in Canada?

In Canada we are blessed to have very different regional cuisines and some of the best products in the world. From the east coast where you have oysters and seafood, to the west coast’s salmon and spotted prawns, and of course, from the Prairies you have great beef. So I love travelling around Canada and trying all the different dishes.

What’s the weirdest dish you’d recommend to someone?
I have three! Mexican truffle (known as huitlacoche in Mexico), balut and, if you ever go to Newfoundland in Canada, you have to have moose as steak, burger or in a stew — doesn’t matter how but you just have to try it.

What’s your guilty pleasure for food?
French fries… No wait, chocolate chip cookies…. No, ice cream…

Why do you love food so much?
I owe my love of food to my mum. She loves cooking and always lets me help her in the kitchen. She was adventurous with food and always encouraged me to be adventurous as well.

Catch Chuck’s Eat The Street: Season One exclusively on AFC (Astro Ch.703) tonight at 10pm.


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