Food trucks from Orlando to Tampa gathered at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds Saturday morning as they competed in a highly contested battle for the title of Top Truck.
Early Saturday morning nearly 1,500 people gathered at the Charlie Grimes Family Agricultural Center to take part in the War on I-4 Food Truck Battle and Discovery Quest.
The two events were paired together for a day of opportunity and delicious food. The inaugural Discovery Quest brought more than 80 service and program providers, churches, schools, local government offices and more together to get Plant City residents connected for free.
Whether it was a healthcare opportunity, a career option or something someone may not have known they needed until then, Discovery Quest’s purpose was to bring services to the people all in one place, without anyone having to drive out of town.
Outside, trucks representing Tampa, Lakeland, Plant City and Orlando showed off their unique menus in an attempt to walk away with the title of Top Truck. Local organizations and artists also demonstrated their dance skills and talents in scheduled performances throughout the day.
“People come out because of the activities here,” Noah Pittman, operator of the Mobile DJ Truck said. “You don’t get to see things like this a lot. There’s every kind of food you could think of here and so many things to do inside. It makes for a full day.”
Only one truck, The Kitchen by Devin Davis, was from Plant City. This was his first official food truck competition and he found himself up against local legends like Jimmy’s Famous Seafood Express and I Wanna Wok.
Jimmy’s crab cake has been featured on the Food Network, Davis won Chopped during his senior year of high school, the Rolling Gourmet offers unique burgers and I Wanna Wok has lines wrapping down the block when he comes to the Tampa rallies. All of the 11 trucks competing brought their A game to the competition.
Each attendee was allowed to cast one vote for their favorite truck. As the 2 p.m. deadline drew near the tickets began to slow down as everyone finalized their choice. After a brief tally Plant City came out victorious as The Kitchen by Devin Davis won the people’s choice award.
“I had a few people coming up throughout the day saying they had voted for me and they told me that my jar was really full,” Davis said. “By the end of the day, I was getting more and more confident that I had a chance at actually winning. I was definitely overjoyed because it’s my first food truck competition.”
Davis said he knew he would have his work cut out for him due to the caliber of talent compiled at the rally. He relied on heavy marketing among the community to help rally his home turf to the event. He said without the support of his local community there was no way his truck would be as successful as its been since opening in August.
After months of cultivating a perfect menu, he drafted some of the crowd favorites like his burger sliders and chicken po boys to give him the top advantage during the event. Davis cut his teeth on competition and said he is looking forward to being able to try his hand at future challenges.
Though this was the first event of its kind in the area, Davis said he is certain we will see more as time passes. He believes that the food truck industry will only continue to grow throughout the next several years, which will increase competition and leave only the best of the best as viable options. He said they are gaining in popularity and offer a fun and unique atmosphere the public is strongly getting behind in support.
“For those of us who want to stay on top we’re really going to have to work hard over these next few years,” Davis said. “That’s why it’s so important to do events like this. It helps keep you on your toes and lets the community get a feel for who you are and what you’re bringing to the table. It’s the same as the restaurant industry. You have to put out great food every single time.”
Justin Kline contributed to this report.