The Garden State loves food trucks, but the biggest New Jersey food truck success story of 2022 lies 3,000 miles away in California.
In six episodes of Season 15 of The Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race, three young entrepreneurs from Morristown’s ESO Artisanal Pasta will take home the $50,000 grand prize heading into Sunday’s penultimate episode. are one of the last three teams hungry for
“At this point, we found a new life,” said Matt McFadden, who is teaming up with lifelong friend AJ Sankofa and Sankofa’s fiancé Christine Gambarian on the ESO track. “I got a little tired halfway through. [of the season] Because I was trying to figure out how to get over the hump. But when we finally started hitting our own grooves, it was exciting. We felt we were on our way to the top. ”
ESO is vying for the final prize with Toledo, Ohio-based macaroni and cheese specialist Maybe Cheese Born With It, led by drag queen Sugar Vermonte, and Los Angeles-based Cuban food catering company SENOREATA. His penultimate episode of “The Great Food Truck Race” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Food Network.
McFadden joined the company in January and “will be on a plane to California by the end of February,” he said in an interview earlier this year. The producers of the “Great Food Truck Race” learned of ESO’s story and invited Morris restaurateurs to compete. The young manufacturer and retailer of fresh, premium pasta had never operated a food truck before.
Sankofa founded ESO in 2020, but COVID and a legal battle with a former partner forced the young business to temporarily shut down less than a year later. In February, his GoFundMe campaign, which raised more than $20,000 and $10,000 in black-owned small business grants from the Jets Foundation, launched a comeback last year.
The season started with nine teams given custom tracks and different destinations. Along the way, the team was able to earn money and bonus perks by winning challenges ranging from certain menu items to sandboarding his race in Glamis Dunes, the largest natural dune park in the United States.
“We came last,” McFadden said with a laugh. “AJ and I have been snowboarding and other things, but not in the sand.”
Each episode ended with the elimination of one team.
Although he was careful not to give up any spoilers going forward, McFadden said the ESO team struggled early on due to prep time to make fresh pasta each day.
“For us, it was logistics,” he said. “Our food has been a hit all along. We had to find a way to open it faster.”
After deciding to outsource fresh pasta in Episode 5 and focus on sales, sales rebounded.
“We had other dishes,” he said. “Our Sicilian fried chicken was the biggest hit at the time. It sold right from the start.
“Some people were good at selling,” Gambarian said of the competition. “We’re good at cooking. We had burgers, sausages, Chinese food, tacos a lot. We were the ones making restaurant-level food.”
The team survived several crises before finishing second in Episode 5 thanks to winning appetizer and dessert challenges chosen by guest judges.
“We’ve been doing well in sales and other areas, but challenges played a big role,” said McFadden, who honed his culinary skills at Morristown’s Whole Foods.
MorristownDowntown intersection closed this weekend due to conversion to roundabout
farmers marketWhat You Need to Know About North Jersey Farmers Markets
McFadden described the whole experience as “amazing”, both on and off set and with the rest of the team. Some of the team played for the cameras with colorful fashion, bold statements, and competitive drama.
“At Offset, we were friendly with a lot of the teams, but it’s sad to see them leave when they’re cut.” , everyone is in a close relationship.”
On-set and on-camera were separate issues.
“When most people see us on the show, we’re really hard on ourselves,” McFadden said. “We’re trying to figure out what we can do to improve.” We don’t try to socialize with other teams during competitions, we try to outdo ourselves each time.”
Regardless of the outcome, national exposure has already helped ESO surpass previous sales records, which sell products from a small storefront on Elm Street, while pop-ups at Morristown restaurants such as South + Pine. Location is also successful.
Food trucks may or may not be part of their future, but for now they’re busy preparing orders for nationwide delivery.
“There’s a lot of demand right now,” McFadden said. “We’ve had a lot of demand from out-of-state customers. We’re still planning on that, but we’ll probably start shipping at the end of the show.”
For information and updates, please visit the ESO Artisanal Pasta website.