Denver’s The Easy Vegan has become the second consecutive vegan team winning the Food Network’s hit show “The Great Food Truck Race”
Los Angeles, August 15th, 2023 — For two consecutive years, a team producing vegan food has won the Food Network’s hit show The Great Food Truck Race. This time, the winners were The Easy Vegan, a queer-owned, pop-up vegan kitchen from Denver, run by Taylor Herbert and her partner Alexi Mandolini.
The couple, joined by a third team member, Local Jones Bistro executive sous chef Matt Heikkila, won a $50,000 prize after finishing first on the Food Network’s 16th season of The Great Food Truck Race. The final leg of the competition was at Bestie’s Vegan Paradise in LA. Last year, the competition was won by Señoreata. Led by creator Evanice Holz and including Chely Saludado and Adri Law, it’s a Cuban pop-up vegan restaurant based in Los Angeles.
UnchainedTV’s Jane Velez-Mitchell interviewed one of the members of the winning team, Taylor Herbert, and she gave us the inside story on this well-deserved victory. You can enjoy the fascinating conversation here:
The Easy Vegan Backstory
Taylor Herbert is one half of The Easy Vegan, the 2023 Great Food Truck Race winners. The two chefs have a combined 28 years of experience in the service industry. Their website declares, “We’re not a food truck or a restaurant (yet) but perhaps the next best thing. Through catered pop-ups and plated dinners, our veg-forward meals bring everyone just a little bit closer.” Herbert explains what they did in Denver before the competition:
“We work in Denver under a 10 x 10 tent, and we’re proud to say we can do just as much as a food truck — with the exception of having a deep fryer. We love our 10 x 10 tent setup because it’s kind of just open and we get to talk to people that come to see us. It just feels a little bit more intimate.”
Big Plans Ahead… a Brick-and-Mortar
Celebrating plant-based cooking in all its forms, The Easy Vegan produces globally inspired street food to plated prix fixe menus, which has included dishes such as kimchi melt, pink-hued tacos, creamy pasta, pierogi platter, etc. Boosted by their latest victory, they now dream of growing into something bigger. Herbert explains:
“We’re going to continue The Easy Vegan on as a seasonal pop-up kitchen at the farmers markets, and then the money is going to go toward opening up a vegan restaurant here in Denver. I think you can always use more vegan restaurants.”
In addition to the vegan identity, The Easy Vegan’s queer identity is also very important to Herbert, as she explains:
“It’s really important to us to have that representation as females in the kitchen, especially queer females, and I think we really nailed it. I didn’t grow up with many queer role models, I guess, and I know that’s the same for many people in our generation.”
“At the end of the day, as exhausting as it was, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we are really grateful to be able to experience it. We just wanted to walk away from it, with no regrets, win or lose.”— Tylor Herbert, vegan chef.
The Great Food Truck Race Is a Tough Act
Winning this competition was not easy… to put it mildly. In fact, considering that another vegan team won the previous year, Herbert thought this year could be a real long shot. She explained:
“I think we had a little paranoia, honestly, that production wouldn’t let a vegan team win again, and that just wasn’t true. So, we were actually going into it thinking, ‘Oh, man, they’re gonna just like throw a wrench in it somewhere’… But nothing was rigged that way at all. It was a totally honest game and we couldn’t have been more wrong.”
The truck that sold the most food during the competition is the one that would win, so the pressure to sell enough was huge:
“The days were long, the camera’s always on you. I think that our biggest strength in the competition, outside of the food, is a mental game. I think people start to crack under this pressure.”
Herbert credits their success to the entire team:
“We just had such a solid team. Lex and I, my partner in business and life, work really well together. We’re used to working under really intense, high-pressure environments. Then, our third teammate who we brought on, Matt, has worked with Lex for years, and he’s such a calm, level-headed chef who’s also very familiar with cooking plant-based food.”
“It was an enormous amount of pressure. It was the hardest and most rewarding thing that we’ve ever done in our lives.”— Tylor Herbert, vegan chef.
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Jordi Casmitjana is a vegan zoologist and author.