On this week’s episode of The Great Food Truck Race, the teams headed to Oklahoma City. On Day 1, unbeknownst to the teams, Tyler already had a Speed Bump challenge in play, timing the teams on who would open first. Despite getting a speech from Tyler about the importance of time management, not all the teams rushed to open. In an ironic turn of events, the team that won the Speed Bump challenge ended up being the team to go home. FN Dish has the exclusive exit interview with the latest team cut from the race.
Madres Mexican Meals, which was in the bottom the week before in Austin, came into Oklahoma City energized and ready to take on new challenges. Winning the Speed Bump gave them a selling advantage when Tyler closed up all the other trucks. A Truck Stop challenge, which came later, had the teams selling a local Oklahoma specialty, fried onion burgers, which placed them on a level playing field. But not all the teams found success. Lone Star Chuck Wagon and Madres Mexican Meals were the only two teams that weren’t able to meet Tyler’s goal of selling 50 burgers. And at elimination time, both were in the bottom. Not keeping the momentum they had found the day earlier proved to be the downfall for Madres Mexican Meals, and they were ultimately eliminated.
What was your strategy going into Oklahoma City after nearly being eliminated in Austin?
Madres Mexican Meals: The strategy for OKC was basically to sell our little hearts out! People in the past cities gravitated to the truck because of the food and the fact that my mom was actually working the truck. Another big thing for us was making sure we locked in a few locations to park. Our issue in Austin was that we only had one location and that was because Gretta had secured it.
You guys had trouble selling at the racetrack. Javier, you seemed to say that you thought maybe being pushier might have worked to drum up more sales, but you said you’re not that kind of people. Do you have any regrets?
MMM: For sure we have regrets. Upon arriving to the racetrack we had some issues with the truck to begin with. But aside from that, the fact was that the races were ending, and people just weren’t into it. I do feel like we could have done more to rally people and get them to the truck. This journey was a learning process, and moving forward I’m going to start getting in people’s faces!
What was your initial reaction to finding out you would have to sell onion burgers in the Truck Stop challenge? Were you worried it would alienate your customers who were expecting Mexican food?
MMM: The onion burgers were not our friends. It was a bit nerve-wracking knowing people were not interested in the onion burgers, via social media. We had people come to the truck and simply turn around because we couldn’t serve our Mexican food.
Do you think you could have done anything differently (location, sales strategy, etc.) to sell the burgers instead of being shut down by Tyler when it reached 8:30 p.m., the cutoff time?
MMM: Now that everything is said and done, yes, we could have done a lot of things differently. Better locations, more locations, we could have turned the burger into a Mexican burger. We could have reached out to more people. In the moment you just scramble, and all we could do is hope for the best and not give up.
At elimination, Tyler called your family “a ray of sunshine.” What did it mean to compete for you all? And do you think you achieved everything you set out to do? Especially for you, Javier, to prove to your father that being a chef is an honorable job?
MMM: Tyler’s comment made us feel good! It was very important to us as a family team to show the dynamics of our family. We had our ups and downs, we embraced the other teams as part of our own family, we were emotional, but at the end of it all we were united. My mom and wife dropped everything to help me achieve my dream, and for that I am forever grateful. I grew up telling everyone that I was going to be on the Food Network someday, and that is exactly what I did! I got to showcase my culture’s food, my mother’s recipes (we won best dish!) and we did it as a family. Most importantly, I know I gained the respect of my dad. I never needed him to understand what I did; I needed him to respect it. I know my dad has always loved me and has only wanted the best for me.
Overall, what was the biggest obstacle in operating a food truck business for the first time?
MMM: The small space and not having all the equipment we needed. It’s not the easiest thing to make salsa by hand. We had to learn how to improvise and adapt. That’s the name of the game! We were told that this would be the hardest thing we would ever do … and it was! Would I do it again? Heck yeah!
Javier, what’s next for you? Is operating a food truck in your future? Or do you plan on going back to working in restaurants?
MMM: I want to take the Madres brand to another level. I want to create a line of salsas of all heat levels. I want to write a cookbook to share my mother’s recipes with those who aren’t around the corner. I want to shoot a cooking show pilot with my mom. I do want my own truck, and I want to continue this journey across America sharing my mother’s recipes. For the Crespos, the race has just begun. (Business partners wanted. Call me!)
What advice would you give the remaining teams, and is there one you’re rooting for?
MMM: My mother would tell the remaining teams to “be nice to each other!” I would advise the other teams to focus on what you’re doing and not what the other teams are doing. As a family team we are rooting for another family team, Middle Feast!