Turlock residents are invited to taste — and critique — some of the best cuisine their favorite local food trucks have to offer, and all for a good cause.
Turlock Gospel Mission’s second annual Turlock Top Chef competition is set to be held later this month, bringing back a new tradition which started successfully in 2019, but was put on halt last year due to the pandemic. This time, instead of four of the city’s top culinary masters putting their knives to the test, four of the area’s most popular food trucks will face off while feeding the masses.
The first event two years ago raised about $12,000 for TGM, said the mission’s Director of Development Rudy Valencia, and money raised by the competition this year will benefit its Culinary Training Program. Through the program, participants are provided with a high-quality, no-cost culinary education which prepares them for a successful life beyond homelessness.
Turlock restaurants have been known to hire those who excel through the program, Valencia said, and for many, it provides a second chance.
“The program is a great opportunity for people that are looking for that second chance to get some life skills that could help them build their confidence back up and get back out there, and possibly find employment. At the same time, it’s also helping the community and business owners that are really struggling right now to find people that want to work,” he said. “It’s that full circle thing where you can give back to the community by helping people learn.”
The inaugural Turlock Top Chef competition in 2019 saw Center Street Grill Chef Ira Berry emerge victorious after defeating Chef Abraham Leon from Loza Wine & Crepes, Chef Mario Lara from Memo’s Cocina & Tequila Bar and Chef Robert Provencio, formerly of the Deadwood Social inside Ten Pin Fun Center.
This year, however, will feature food trucks instead of solo chefs. Krepe Dog, Food Fix, Big Vic’s BBQ and David’z Tacos have all signed on to compete, and while the chefs before them only made food for a panel of judges, the trucks will have the task of creating small portions for all in attendance to sample.
In addition to a judge’s award handed out by the panel, this year there will also be an award handed out by the attendees who will vote for their favorite food truck.
“These are some of the elite trucks that people really gravitate towards, and they're kind of like a little family. As soon as one signed up, another signed up and then they all signed up,” Valencia said. “It will definitely be a friendly competition, but I've noticed that whether it's a chef or a truck, they still have a little bit of that ego. They're not going to roll over and get beat; they still want to win.”
The second annual Turlock Top Chef competition will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at Pageo Lavender Farm, 11573 Golf Link Rd. Tickets are selling fast, Valencia said, and can be purchased at www.turlockgospelmission.org.