01 August 2018 Posted By : Alicia Bridges

Flavour war food trucks find common ground to make Saskatoon more food-truck friendly

Secret sauces were being tested and recipes fine-tuned on Saturday in preparation for the cook-off of the year for Saskatoon's kitchens on wheels.

Fierce competition is the name of the game at the Food Truck Wars Street Festival on 20th Street in the Riversdale neighbourhood this weekend.

But food truck owners say they need each other too, to help improve business conditions for everybody, particularly when it comes to parking downtown.

"I kind of want to see [the food truck business] grow so that the food trucks are a little more acceptable within Saskatoon," said Marla Mullie, who owns the Rebel Melt grilled cheese truck.

"The more competition, not always the better, but that doesn't bother us."

Food Truck Wars started in 2015 with 12 trucks at the Sutherland Curling Club, and has grown to fill several blocks of 20th Street with craft stalls, food vendors and a program of live entertainment and activities.

The festival ends on Sunday with a competition for the best dishes, which are selected by a panel of judges.

On Saturday, Mullie was perfecting her recipe for the Flavour Challenge.  

Festival grows but business still challenging

Mullie started Rebel Melt after working office jobs for a number of years and deciding she wanted to take her career in a different direction.

Mullie said Food Truck Wars has grown substantially since its first year to include entertainment and craft stalls, which now line multiple blocks in Riversdale.

But the food truck business itself has been challenging.

"Compared to year one, we have different challenges but it's just as challenging as it was then," said Mullie.

"Saskatoon is a great city and we love running the truck here, there's just not quite enough people for running it full time."

Mullie has switched from a six-day-a-week schedule to running only on weekends and festivals.

Locations hard to find, say some vendors

She said that is due to difficulties working with the city to try to find suitable locations where there would be enough people around.

"We have considered a brick and mortar spot ourselves, I'm just not sure if we're ready to go that far into it," said Mullie.

"It requires a lot of personal financial backing."

Mullie said she loves having the mobility she has with a kitchen on wheels. 

New truck owner says downtown too expensive

Sharon Grady from Poor Gary's Grub Truck, which opened less than a year ago, said she and her partner Gary have chosen not to park downtown because it is too expensive.

They run their food truck, which sells primarily pulled pork dishes, on private property on 51st Street.

"I would love to work more downtown but it is expensive and I wish the city would — not that they haven't, they've been great — but embrace it more like Toronto or even Calgary,

Despite some challenges, Grady feels good about the food truck business after her first few months.

On Saturday, she was on her way to pick up more stock after the truck ran out of its key ingredient: pulled pork.

"I don't think we expected the popularity," said Grady, who lives in Dundurn, Sask.  

"We knew we'd be busy but it's overwhelming but it's so fantastic and so great, we're so happy about our first year."

Bannock business among new trucks

First-time participant Kyra Robillard was thrilled with the size of the crowd and the line-ups for her food.  

Robillard has been running her food truck, Baby Got Bannock, out of Prince Albert, Sask. for two years now.

She learned to cook bannock from her mother and her kokum — or grandmother.

Now she uses the dough to make cheeseburgers, tacos and hotdogs, which she said have been a hit in Saskatoon.  

"This is my first time doing any big event and it's been non-stop, we have had a line all day and I would definitely come back next year," said Robillard.  

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