The mouth-watering aroma of food cooking permeated Auraria campus on Aug. 30 near the Tivoli building as the finalists of the Food Truck Challenge’s first round faced off in a showdown, attempting to garner student votes through culinary mastery.
The winner of the final round will receive five days of their choice on campus without competition from other food trucks.
The six trucks that competed in the first round of the showdown on Aug. 27 have become like familiar faces on the campus since the beginning of the semester. Trucks on the ballot included Crock Spot, Hey PB & J, Manna from Heaven, NZ Smoking Guns, Pink Tank, Saj Express, Sully’s Slice Truck, and the Vegan Van.
Each truck gave out free samples to those attending the event and then students voted for their favorite.
The competitors in the finals were Manna From Heaven, Saj Express, and Crock Spot. The heat didn’t deter the crowds waiting in line for each truck. By the end of the event, Crock Spot had almost sold out according to one of its co-owners.
The Manna From Heaven truck serves Vietnamese cooking, and offered samples of their rice boat. The rice boat started with steamed rice, topped off with half of a pot-sticker laid alongside a spoonful of their manna salad. It was well composed for a sample, offering a good preview of how the full dish might taste.
The Manna truck is a regular around campus, and is easy to spot with its blue sky and green field paint-job.
The Saj Express truck worked to give students a wide variety of everything they serve. The sampler plate contained hummus, some beef and chicken shawarma, a falafel and a bit of salad. The truck was giving away so many samples, they had to later reduce the portion size so they wouldn’t run out of food entirely.
The Crock Spot truck offered custom samples for each student, allowing them to pick a grain, protein, and sauce of their choice. The menu for the Crock Spot rotates fairly often, so the customers always have something new to try. The Crock Spot seemed quite popular with the crowd.
After the sample giveaway ended, the Crock Spot was announced the winner. Crock spot also got first place in the first round Aug. 26.
“That felt really good. Today was awesome too,” said Mandy Birks, who co-owns the truck with Stephen Daniels. “But the first day we were competing against seven other trucks. I thought we would get top three, but I was really honestly surprised when we got number one.”
The Food Truck Challenge was an interesting addition to the usual start-of-year activities put on by the campus life organizations from each of Auraria’s schools.
“It adds a fun environment to campus.” Sam Smith, a theater, film and video production major at MSU Denver said. Smith had one of the Crock Spot’s jasmine Thai rice bowls with savory pork and chipotle sour cream for lunch.
He went on to express how he felt the event, although fun, makes him think that the campus is trying to sell the students on certain food trucks by pumping up interest in them.
“Part of me likes it, part of me feels like they’re using me,” Smith said.
According to Matt Brinton, interim assistant director in student activities, the challenge and the roller rink at the second day of the challenge, are just the first glimpses of their plans to get students engaged.
“We’re trying to carry the fun from orientation and bring it back to campus,” Brinton said, “We’re trying to do more things to get students to have fun while they’re here.”
Whether or not that is the case, the Food Truck Challenge sure was a delicious event.