Saturday Night Truck Stop & Throwdown!
This past Saturday night I was asked by Jolene Mannina (known better to many in Vegas as the brains behind Sloppi Jo’s (@SloppiJos) food truck and the founder of Saturday Night Truck Stop (@SNTruckStop) to be one of her guest judges for the Back of House Throwdown. This event is held every Saturday night, starting between 8pm and 10pm, then going into Sunday morning until about 2am to 4am with a collection of 4-6 different Las Vegas Food Trucks gathered selling their culinary delights to locals and tourists at Tommy Rocker’s (@TommyRockers), located right behind the Strip.
Jo had created the throwdown as a way to bring out two local chefs from Strip restaurants, give them a basket of ‘secret’ ingredients and then 30 minutes on the clock to create two dishes on one of the food trucks that gathered for that night’s Truck Stop. It is a pretty cool event which has gotten great backing from the local restaurant community and their staff. My co-judges that night were my buddy, Geno Bernardo (@ChefGeno) – Executive Chef of Nove Italiano at The Palms and Dominic Scali, better known at The Vegas Foodie (@TheVegasFoodie), a local food blogger and great guy.
This week’s Throwdown pitted Chef Jason Johnston from Bellagio against Frank Ortiz from Wynn & Encore. Chef Johnston commandeered the Rusty Pickle Food Truck (@RustyPickle) with his Sous Chef Severin Nunn, while Chef Ortiz hopped onto the Redneck Kitchen Food Truck (@RedneckKitchen). The secret ingredients were a tough collection, but all easily manageable to create some fantastic dishes – they included Brown Rice Flour, Chicken Thighs, Italian Sausage, Celery, Sumac and Rice Paper. The chefs were then allowed to use anything found on the food trucks to further embellish their dishes.
Aside from some brisk winds and some short 10-15 minute rain sprinkles, the crowd was supportive from the start, getting behind each chef and cheering them on.
The best dish of the night was created by Chef Johnston, which was a take on a Vietnamese Summer Roll – using boned chicken thighs, roasted vegetables and a Sumac Aioli (that really stole the show). Between us three judges, we were extremely impressed by their creativity, abilities to pull off dishes in only thirty minutes and flavors. After some serious debate and conversations, we came to a conclusion and the winner was...Chef Johnston!
I was thrilled to be asked to participate and can’t wait to be back to judge another contest, especially on a warmer night! Next time, I promise to bring a bottle of Labor Wines too...