On the Season 5 premiere of The Great Food Truck Race, eight teams of food truck rookies began the cross-country competition in Santa Barbara, Calif., but they soon found they would be moving their trucks to Venice in a Speed Bump challenge. What they didn’t know was that it would also become their first Truck Stop challenge, with Tyler sending special guests and food truck experts to taste test each of their signature dishes. Unfortunately one team wasn’t able to roll with all the challenges, and along the way, a number of small missteps added up to a major failure in getting out their main product. FN Dish has the exclusive exit interview with the first team cut from the race.
The team from Chatty Chicken came in with a goal of selling Greg Sr.’s Southern fried chicken. Setting up in Southern California may have seemed like a hard sell, but it’s what transpired that made it tough going for this family from Tennessee. Not having oil for the deep fryer was strike No. 1. Not putting out food in a timely matter, strike No. 2. Leaving for the grocery store without the cash box was not a good idea, and then forgetting the key just made it even worse. Having lost precious time for selling, and offering a menu without their star dish, easily put the team in the bottom. Even though just $60 separated the bottom two teams, it wasn’t enough to save Chatty Chicken from elimination.
Did you ever think your team was at a disadvantage selling comfort food in Southern California? Did you change your sales tactics because of the location?
Chatty Chicken: Coming from a small town in the South, the food we serve is comfort food — each region has its own style of comfort food. I think SoCal comfort food is more fish tacos or poke poke. I know the bacon truck had a hard time with bacon there. I think they didn’t, for the most part, want to eat anything fried. We did have some customers try our chicken and loved it, and for those folks we are thankful. Yes, we did change our sales tactics by serving grilled chicken instead of fried.
You lost time in Venice when the cash box and keys were left behind when going on your shopping trip to buy more oil, and then the fryer didn’t work. Do you think coming up with a plan B earlier in the day, like the grilled chicken idea, might have saved you?
CC: If we could go back in time, we would have never gone to the store. We don’t think we have ever had a more disastrous or stressful trip to the store in our lives! If we’d had a hammer, we think we would have done the old Southern lost key technique — bust that sucker wide open! Yes, we should have had a plan B or better yet a plan Z for grilled chicken and pork, and forget the fryer altogether. After all, that sweet tea sauce makes anything lip-smacking, finger-licking good!
What’s next for you now that you’ve gotten a taste of the food truck business? Do you think it’s the next step for your family business, or do you have other plans?
CC: Our goal is to have a Chatty Chicken truck up and running in Chattanooga, serving our chicken dishes and specialty sauces. We just need to get finances together.
What was the biggest obstacle in operating a food truck business for the first time?
CC: Our biggest obstacles were: not having a fryer working, after all, our signature dish was Southern Fried Chicken, and also having refrigeration problems. We wish we would have videoed the truck walk-through. Although we did ask a lot of questions, we still missed some things, i.e., oil capacity. Plus, it is a lot different than a brick and mortar — not a whole lot of room to get around in. We wish we had a little more time to look at our truck before blastoff.
What advice would you give the remaining teams? And who are you rooting for?
CC: Being we were the first team to get the boot, it’s hard to give them advice other than have fun and make the most of this incredible journey! We had a great time and made lots of new friends. It’s hard for us to pick a favorite to root for, so to all of our newfound friends: We wish y’all the very best, and always make sure you have the key to your cash box!
If you had the chance to start the competition over, what’s the No. 1 thing you would have done differently?
CC: No frying of anything! But seriously, we had the time of our lives. You took this small-town country family to California, a place we had never been to before, gave us the opportunity of a lifetime, and for that we are forever grateful. We are truly blessed for being part of this great show and for the many friends we made while we were there. Like our grandpappy used to say, “You folks are finer than a frog’s hair split three ways.”
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