The duos behind two Chicago food trucks would like to make their final stop at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee.
Only they know if that’ll happen. The rest of us will have to wait until March 2, when the Food Network airs an episode of “The Food Court Wars” filmed at the mall last November.
The series pits two teams of aspiring food entrepreneurs against one another as they battle to win their own food court restaurant. The team whose restaurant makes the most profit during a test run at the mall wins an eatery space rent-free for a year, a prize worth $100,000.
“They put your cooking and culinary prowess to the test,” said Tim Brown, one-half of the duo that makes up Chicago food truck Glutton Force 5. “Obviously, you have to know what you’re doing somewhat to get on the show.
“They also put your marketing skills to the test... The host [Tyler Florence] sort of coaches you through and brings you through this journey to the end. Whoever makes the most money wins.”
Contestants are not allowed to talk about the outcome of the show until it airs. The “Fat Shallot vs. Glutton Force 5” episode is scheduled to premiere at 7 p.m. March 2.
Brown, along with his food truck co-owner, best friend and fellow competitive eater Pat Bertoletti, took on married couple Sam Barron and Sarah Weitz of The Fat Shallot. Culinary school sweethearts, the two took their life savings and bought a food truck in May of last year, about a year after they got married.
“We’ve been on the road ever since,” Weitz said.
They’re hoping for a more permanent location.
Named after a play on Chicago’s nickname, “The Big Onion,” their food truck specializes in recognizable sandwiches with gourmet twists. A buffalo chicken sandwich, for instance, comes on a challah bun with blue cheese sauce and a celery salad.
“We just kind of started off with the food truck because that’s what our budget would allow,” Weitz said. “This would be a great opportunity on the show to possibly win a place in the food court and maybe expand into a restaurant.”
Both she and Barron said the experience was competitive, but incredible.
The two have yet to see the final outcome of the filming.
“It was very surreal, because you have your regular life where you make sandwiches, and then you have a camera following you all day,” Barron said. “To be the focus of such attention is unnatural, but it was fun and interesting.”
Brown and Bertoletti say they thought the show provided an opportunity for them to help their food truck gain momentum. Both work other jobs along with heading up Glutton Force 5, which offers food they describe as “not only gratuitous and ridiculous, but also good all at the same time.”
Their Big Jim aims to “take back the dignity of the walking taco,” while a Carrot Cake Bread Pudding is topped with sweetened ricotta and pineapple compote.
“There’s nothing like us anywhere else,” said Brown, who met Bertoletti when the two competed in a grilled cheese eating contest in Detroit.
“We actually were kind of like a little bit of rivals to begin with because we were the only two boys out of Chicago, but it was quickly shown to me it’s very hard to best Pat. I try to take a back seat to him as far as eating goes,” he said.
“Don’t forget about my sex appeal,” Bertoletti added.
The two joked that the Food Network is bound to give them a spin-off, win or lose.
Brown, who works in marketing by day, said owning their own restaurant has been their dream.
“You’d think a food truck is a great start, but in Chicago, it’s a nightmare,” he said. “It’s crazy. There are basically 40 legal spots where you can park a truck and 120 trucks... When this thing came along, it was a great opportunity.”
The duo still remain involved in the competitive eating circuit, even training future competitive eaters.
“We’re not just a couple of pretty faces,” Bertoletti said.
Whatever the outcome of the show, it’s great exposure for Spring Hill Mall and the West Dundee area, said Cathleen Tymoszenko, community development director for the village of West Dundee.
The mall recently underwent some renovations to its center court, adding Wi-Fi, a new kiosk, new tables and iPads available for use by the public, she said.
“It’s a very interactive cool space,” she said. “It’s just great timing for the mall to showcase some of those improvements and get that exposure.”By JAMI KUNZER firstname.lastname@example.org