This Sunday, the Food Network is bringing an epic battle on wheels for foodie fans. Host Tyler Florence is back with “The Great Food Truck Race.” Six family teams who have never been part of the food truck revolution are taking the wheel racing toward the $50,000 grand prize.
The competitors include a Chicago police officer, Jersey Show reality star Vinny Guadagnino and many more. If you’re looking for San Diego/San Francisco representation, you can expect to see twin brothers Michael Kalish and Charlie Kalish along with family Bryce Adams.
From the California Sun Belt to Catalina Island these competitors will take on challenge after challenge to see who can bring it through the stress and we all get the opportunity to see their culinary skills. From the first episode it is clear that each team has come to win!
I had the grand opportunity to speak with Michael and Charlie Kalish about what drew them to “The Great Food Truck Race” and what makes them embrace one of my favorite comfort foods — grilled cheese sandwiches!
Jeri Jacquin: We are going to jump right in. What made you both decide to participate in “The Great Food Truck Race?”
Charlie Kalish: We participated because it was a family food truck race and it was just a great opportunity for Michael and me to step away from it all. We work together and are business partners so we could just be brothers and have some fun. I think we underestimated how stressful, crazy and wild the show would be. We brought our college buddy Bryce to join us and he’s pretty much family. He stepped in to help out. The idea was that this would just be a family road trip and we would test out working on a truck together to decide if that was something we might want to do in the future.
JJ: You said it was stressful, how was that for two brothers to be in such a confined space?
Michael Kalish: We are still here and alive so that’s good [laughing]. I think in those kinds of situations you either disintegrate or pull together as a team. Win or lose I am proud of how Bryce, Charlie and I worked together. I think we did amazingly well bringing it all together.
JJ: Tell me about the creativity that it takes now to have a food truck because they are so popular. It takes that extra something to get people interested in what you are creating, tell me about that for you both?
Charlie: Michael and I are cheese experts and our product is grilled cheese. It was a big empty canvass for us to play around with what we could do with cheese.
Michael: Cheese is an amazing thing. It can have so many different textures and flavors so a big part of grilled cheese sandwiches is what it looks like. Presentation is really important and this plays directly to all our strengths. Charlie and I are brand ambassadors for Meiomi Wines so we do cheese parings on a pretty regular basis. We are always thinking what would be tantalizing to our customers so it was a real natural fit for us.
Charlie: Going into “The Great Food Truck Race” we watched some previous seasons and see when they travel places they tend to have local ingredients. We were confident that depending on where we went and what kind of ingredients popped up, we could find the right cheese or the right combination of ingredients to bring those flavors and textures together.
JJ: Are you both surprised that you can do so much with a grilled cheese sandwich and that people respond to it?
Charlie: I’m not surprised because a grilled cheese sandwich is a food of comfort and convenience. It is something that you can slap together right away for your kids or for yourself quickly. For us that meant that grilled cheese were familiar and approachable. People know grilled cheese and will come for those. We have seen deep fried Twinkies or deep fried Oreos and those are things people find comfort in. There is a little bit of flare in the deep fried and they will go for it. I feel that an elegant or gourmet grilled cheese is very much those in an interesting way.
Michael: You can really spin a grilled cheese in any direction. All you need is bread and cheese and whatever the ingredients are you want to make sure it all comes together in a great way. You can take “The Great Food Truck Race” to India or Japan and I’m sure you can make a great grilled cheese sandwich with ingredients you find there. You can do anything with it.
JJ: Can you speak a little about your competitors?
Charlie: Everyone brought their own strengths, there is an Italian truck and a Soul Food truck and you will see in the first episode how that all comes together for each of them.
JJ: Is it everything you thought it would be?
Charlie: When I watched previous seasons it was so stressful and painful to watch for me. It is very intimidating. I had to stop watching it because I didn’t want to psych myself out. Once you are there and in the moment it is very excited actually. I felt like we had a really great time.
Michael: Yep, I would do it again if I had the chance. You learn a lot about yourself and your teammates and that’s really why we did it. We work together around the clock so this was a chance to have a vacation and do a little work too!
Charlie: Even when we are on vacation we like to stay busy so this worked well for us.
JJ: You were mentioning Bryce join the team, how was working for him?
Charlie: The show really brought us together and we have a stronger friendship out of having him with us. Win or lose it was nice to get closer to our buddy.
JJ: One of the things about “The Great Food Truck Race” is that none of the teams have ever been part of a food truck before. What was your first reaction in taking this on?
Michael: My reaction was couldn’t we do a different show? [laughing] Our 20’s were a lot of being on the road and working with cheese makers and working with farms and jumping in a truck and doing a new kind of job was amazing. A lot of people say it is the hardest thing they’ve ever done and it is hard. We worked hard in our 20’s riding all over Europe so this was getting back in the saddle, biting the bullet and doing the work. The competition was fun! I haven’t been in a competition since I was young and I love being competitive. The only person I was born to beat is Charlie but since we were a team it was amazing to collaborate.
Charlie: He’s not kidding, he is very competitive. My reaction to show the was ‘lets go for it’. My goal was to get past the first round. I can’t say what the end result was but that was my first goal. If I can go into a competition with my brother and we could get past the first round it would be awesome. I wanted to just have fun.
JJ: That’s great that you took that attitude. It’s hard not to ask the questions about how you did — I want you to know that.
Michael: I’m sure it is we’ve been asked a lot.
Charlie: It makes everything better with surprise.
JJ: Were you able to create good friendships with the other contestants even though you are competing with each other?
Michael: They are all great competitors. You’ll see it from the very first episode. Again it’s one of those things we can’t talk about but the atmosphere was truly competitive.
Charlie: We met everyone and we can tell right when we met that the vibe was good. I felt really good about them all.
Michael: I’m really excited to see the show so we can see what they were saying in their trucks.
Charlie: Michael is more conservative and I’m more liberal so it’s good we were together as a team.
JJ: It sounds like you were the perfect team.
Charlie: We refer to ourselves as the perfect team. We grew up playing competitive sports together. We were doubles partners in tennis, we were water polo teammates and basketball teammates. We have done everything together so we have the ability to anticipate what the other is coming up with.
Michael: It makes us better as a team. When we went surfing as kids one would paddle out and the other would give the thumbs up while one stayed on the beach to reach 911 [laughing].
Charlie: We had a blast growing up with a lot of laughs. I think what makes us good competitors is that our parents instilled in us a great sense of humor. So we approach things a little bit lighter and see the humor in things. I think that will come out in the show.
Michael: Plus both our parents are very hard workers so I think we get that work ethic from them. Bryce, his dad was a professional baseball player, and he is a competitive man. He is a supreme competitor. It was so good and I felt so lucky the first day he was there because he was so motivated and we were on the same page. This is very challenging and the stress level on “The Great Food Truck Race” and you’ll see it all from episode one.
JJ: Finally guys, one of you lives in San Francisco and the other in San Diego, how does that work for your business together?
Charlie: A majority of our business is remote and allows us to work with clients that way. Michael and I even though we live apart we communicate through multiple platforms at any given hour of the day. We are constantly sharing information. Where technology is today we are able to work that far apart and still feel close. Being on the same time zone really helps as well.
Michael: Charlie and I are consultants in the food industry all across the United States and some in Australia.
JJ: You live in two of the best cities in California so there is that!
Charlie: I agree!
JJ: Thanks for talking the time to speak with me today guys, I am truly looking forward to rooting for you beginning this Sunday on “The Great Food Truck Race!”
Many, many thanks to Charlie and Michael Kalish for speaking with me today. You can also follow the Kalish brothers at www.cheesetwins.com, on Facebook www.facebook.com/cheesetwins and on Twitter www.twitter.com/cheesetwins. Being a self-proclaimed foodie and foodie show watcher, there is nothing like a good competition to bring out amazing people who do extraordinary things under immense pressure!
Check out “The Great Food Truck Race” on the Food Network in a five-episode culinary road battle premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28. Lets cheer on these two amazing guys and experience their grilled cheese creations for yourself!