“I’m a big fan of food and what food trucks can do in such a confined space and area. The fact that they can put out this high-level, quality food really impresses me,” says Asheville Food Truck Showdown organizer Carey Harnash. At the fourth annual event, which happens Saturday, March 25, at the WNC Agricultural Center, 17 local trucks will compete to take home the title of Best Food Truck in Asheville.
Harnash is neither a food truck owner nor a chef — he’s just a food truck fan who had an intriguing idea and took the initiative to make it happen. “I was talking to my wife one day, and I got kind of frustrated chasing food trucks all over the place, figuring out where they’re going to be, what time they’re going to be there, what they’re going to serve that day,” he explains. “So, I said, ‘You know what? I wonder if I can create an event where I can get all of the food trucks that I like there and be able to eat what I want, when I want, at one specific time.'”
General admission to the Asheville Food Truck Showdown is free, and advanced tickets are not required. “The only cost involved is if you eat from the individual food trucks,” says Harnash. There’s also the option of the VIP Tasting Experience ($35 per person or $45 with the addition of adult beverages), which Harnash describes as “probably the most economical way to eat yourself through the whole event.” VIP ticket holders will have access to indoor reserved seating and will have an hour and 45 minutes to eat samples from all 17 competitors while avoiding the lines.
The competition will be judged in three components: scoring by a panel of three guest judges, a people’s choice vote and VIP Tasting Experience vote. This year’s judges will be “News 13″ weekend anchor Evan Donovan, “AVL Food Fans” podcaster and food writer Stu Helm, and Chestnut and Corner Kitchen owner and chef Joe Scully.
For the people’s choice award, guests will be able to buy voting tickets, which can be placed in a receptacle at the food truck of their choosing. “You can buy as many as you want and stuff them in the boxes for the food truck or the different food trucks that you prefer,” says Harnash.
At the end of the day, all three scores will be taken into account, and one truck will receive the title of Overall Best Food Truck in Asheville — an honor that Root Down Food Truck has taken home three years running.
Brad Jordan, chef and owner of The Real Food Truck, says there is a change in the rules this year that he thinks will enhance the competition. “The judge’s samples [this year] have to be actual dishes that you serve to the general public,” says Jordan. “I think that’s kind of nice because what I served the judges last year was also what I was serving the general public.”
Another big change for 2017 is that the event will relocate from its former home at the Asheville Masonic Temple downtown to the WNC Agricultural Center to accommodate its steadily expanding size. “The first year we had just over a thousand [attendees],” says Harnash. “The next year we had between 2,000 and 3,000; last year we had between 5,000 and 6,000, and this year we are slated to have over 10,000 people.”
“It’s just a real busy event, always a good turnout,” agrees Jordan, who notes that many local trucks attend the festival because Harnash ensures there will be a big crowd and plenty of business during the event.
This year’s event is also growing in other ways. With its new, larger venue, it can now accommodate more competitors than in the past (last year’s showdown topped out at 14 trucks). The 2017 showdown will also feature an expanded children’s area that includes inflatables, a rock-climbing wall and face painting. Live music will be performed by Kampfire Circle, Ali Randolph and the Outta Luck Band, Striking Copper and Black Mountain City Limits.
Asheville Food Truck Showdown happens 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the WNC Agricultural Center, 1301 Fanning Bridge Road, Fletcher. A portion of all proceeds will benefit MANNA FoodBank and Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. For details, including a full list of competing food trucks, and to buy VIP tickets, visit AshevilleFoodTruckShowdown.com.