The Food Truck Wars made a rousing comeback on Thursday in Saskatoon after more than a year’s break due to health restrictions imposed by the provincial government to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The three-day event, which ends on Saturday, is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. located at the corner of 23rd Street and 4th Avenue downtown.
FTW Corp., which organizes the event, said this year’s event was scaled down even with the province lifting all health restrictions early this month. Competitions will not be held this year and entertainment will also be limited to secure the safety of patrons and participants since the world is still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
David Mah of FTW Corp. said this is their seventh year of holding the event.
“Obviously last year, we didn’t operate due to COVID. Now, we’re happy with the turnout already. It’s only a couple of hours in the opening day and it has been pretty good. A lot of people are excited and showing up to support the event. That’s really good.”
He added that only 23 food truck vendors joined the event.
“A lot of trucks are not operating this year due to COVID. So, next year we’re going to probably have 40 food vendors. We also have about 22 craft market vendors and some sponsorship vendors. That’s down from what we normally do. The last time we had 103, so this is quite a bit smaller than our normal shows.”
“We were kind of limited with restrictions on what we could plan so we kind of kept everything into our parameters and we were allowed. We weren’t really allowed to have entertainment or beer garden so this is the kind of we had to do.”
Mah said that they will be back with a bigger and better event next year.
“We have a wide and diverse type of entertainment that we bring in. We do lots of food competitions like the hot dog and pie eating competitions. Next year, we will have a pizza eating competition. Then we also have a competition amongst the food trucks, where they can enter their best entrees. We got a karaoke competition last year, so that’ll probably returning next year as well and some cultural dancing. A wide array of stuff.”
The event was well received by residents as foot traffic was busy in the area, which was a good sign for food cart vendors Flora Dalisay and Jeff Mullie. Both say the event is one way of showing their passion for cooking and showcasing their love for food.
It was also the first time for Dalisay to join the event and her family-operated Cucina Ni Flora (Flora’s Kitchen) sells Filipino dishes — heavily influenced by neighboring China, Vietnam, and Malaysia — with the dessert fried Oreo and biko (a Filipino rice cake) among the best sellers.
“We do this every summer but this is the first time we went here in the city to join this event. I like food and I have a passion for cooking. Thinking of this as a business is only the second thing. We were busy during lunch time, good thing I have my husband and nieces to help me,” said Dalisay, who is from Biggar, where they also operate a food truck every summer.
Mullie is a member of the family-owned Rebel Melt Food Truck, which is the three-time FTW champion and is known to offer Saskatoon’s best grilled cheese. He said that business has started to pick up after they closed down last year due to the pandemic.
“Having more events and festivals is a huge boost for us. That will help us survive and right now, we’re doing well.”
Their winning sandwiches — whose recipes are made by his wife and are well-kept secrets — are the Rebel Melt, Memphis Melt, and their very own sausage patty in a homemade cornbread.
“All are really good sandwiches but it just takes a lot of preparation and we do that in small batches now. I will tell you that there is bacon in the bacon jam, but the rest is secret.”