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Posted: July 02, 2010

Keep on (food) truckin’, baby

"Top Chef" winner Hosea adds to Front Range mobile food trend

Brooke Wylie

In recent weeks and months, tricked-out food trucks have dotted Front Range streets.

There's the white and blue Denver Cupcake Truck, the retro-chic Steuben's Food Service Truck, the modern Biscuit Bus and the hot-pink, taco-dispensing Comida truck launched by former Proto's Pizza co-owner Rayme Rossello in May.

On July 3, one more will join their number: an Airstream trailer for StrEat Chefs. Chef Hosea Rosenberg, winner of the fifth season of the reality TV show "Top Chef," and his partner, Laura Rice, will bring food from all over the world to the streets of Boulder County.

The Airstream trailer boasts a full kitchen that will enable the team to handle the potentially large crowds at the events they will be working. StrEat Chefs will be at Chautauqua on Monday nights, the Louisville Street Faire on Friday Nights and the 29th Street Mall on Saturday nights. Starting in September, they will also work University of Colorado football games.

"We really look forward to being a part of the community at those events," Rice said. "I think street food is where fast and casual dining is going. We can go to the people."

StrEat Chefs has every intention of doing just that. "Our plan is to be national," the chef said. "We want to go to other college towns similar to Boulder, like Lawrence, Kansas. They are great places to be outside, and enjoying the outdoor weather is a great part of the street food culture that we hope to bring to Boulder."

The Denver Biscuit Company's Biscuit Bus has been on the streets since May 1, serving up Southern goodness.

Owners Ashleigh and Drew Shader bought the old DHL truck that was to become the Biscuit Bus in February and worked with a metal fabricator in Parker to make the many modifications that transformed it.

"It was a giant learning process. We had never done anything like it," Ashleigh Shader said.

Now the Shaders are at it again, building another truck for their other venture, Fat Sully's New York Pizza. Shader said they are hoping for an August 1 launch of the Sully's Slice Truck.

"The response to the Biscuit Bus has been really great. We're realizing that Denver is really desperate for stuff like this," Shader said. "We would like to be part of a food-truck community. We all need to get together somewhere so that everyone can come and eat and support local business."

The Biscuit Bus makes regular appearances at the Cherry Creek Farmer's Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays and at the Stapleton Farmer's Market on Sundays. Locations throughout the week are announced on Facebook and Twitter.

The Denver Cupcake Truck, "Clementine" to the fans, also uses Facebook and Twitter to get the word out.

Owner Sean Moore has used fan feedback from the social networking sites not only to update his fans, but to engage them as well. Moore often chooses where to go based on fan suggestions, and the name Clementine was one of about 500 fan suggestions. "Picking the name was about a month-long process," he said.

Moore and his crew offer up a mystery flavor every time they hit the streets. "The mystery flavor is the result of something that sounds good," he said. "We get lots of requests that give us more ideas. We always do a taste bake to make sure it's good."

The truck is something Moore has been thinking about for the past three years. "We were going to have everything on a mobile bakery, but we held off to grow our business," Moore said. "We decided on a cupcake truck because it is specific and people love them."

Just a couple of months after Clementine's late April launch, Moore is working on a second, as yet unnamed truck right now. "We have had an awesome response from our fans, it has been phenomenal. It's all about spicing up their day," Moore said.

Rayme Rossello's taco truck, Comida, has had no problem attracting attention in Boulder -- though to be certain not all of it has been desirable. Boulder's strict regulations have made it difficult for Comida to answer fan requests, or even go places they planned on going.

"We have had police show up where we were parked twice. One time we were donating the food, so we got to stay, but it can still be deflating to have that happen," Rossello said. "I would love to get to the point where we're out selling tacos and not something contraband."

Despite the geographical challenges Comida sometimes faces, it has carved out a fan base and a routine. "We are going places we know we can go, industrial and office parks. We have certain places we go every week. Things have been great every time we've gone to Crispin Porter +Bogusky. Every Friday we go to the Flatirons Industrial Park, and it is always really busy," she said.

If the food truck is taking Comida different places than expected, it has also been a departure from the traditions of the restaurant industry that Rossello has worked in for 20 years.

"With the truck, it can't happen until you get out there, that has been fun and different," Rossello said. "At a restaurant if you run out of food, everyone gets in a panic and you try and fix things as fast as you can. With this you just pull the menu up and drive away."

Comida hit the streets on May 17. Rossello said that the venture is already rewarding, but it will be more so when Comida is granted more of a free range.

"I would love to see more food trucks pop up, and see the city embrace us selling food," she said. "It is just hard to break through, but it hasn't stopped us yet. We're playing by the rules."
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Brooke Wylie is a ColoradoBiz intern.

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