News and Schmooze snoozed over the Memorial Day weekend but we did learn that St. Louis was very good to the Middle Feast food truck.
Speaking from the road Tuesday as they traveled from St. Louis to Mobile, Ala., Tommy Marudi explained that he and his partners managed to sell enough of their Middle Eastern spicy tacos and kabobs over the weekend in St. Louis to advance to the finals of the “Great Food Truck Race,” which airs Sunday nights on the Food Network. As of now, Season 5 of the reality food show is still filming, with only three out of the eight trucks, including Marudi’s Middle Feast, still left in the competition.
Marudi wasn’t sure which of the three other trucks — Lone Star Chuckwagon (barbecue and Tex-Mex), Let There Be Bacon (duh!) and the Beach Cruiser (wraps and California cuisine) — was eliminated.
“The people in St. Louis were so warm and so nice, really cool,” said Marudi, a native Israeli who has lived in Los Angeles for the past 10 years.
The goal of the show, hosted by Tyler Florence, is to out-sell rival food trucks at various stops as they travel across the country. Each new destination is revealed only a day or two in advance; along with St. Louis, previous stops included Santa Barbara, Tucson, Austin and Oklahoma City. The winning team gets to keep their food truck, along with $50,000.
While in St. Louis, Marudi took to social media and started calling around to see where Middle Feast could set up shop. Several synagogues offered their parking lots, but Marudi was concerned that there might not be enough traffic and that the food he serves is not kosher. Instead, the truck found temporary homes outside 4 Hands Brewing Company, Ballpark Village and Mission Taco Joint.
“I really want to thank David (Choi) of Seoul Taco, who teamed up with us and helped us find locations and get the word out,” said Marudi. “He treated us like his truck was our truck.”
Marudi, 31, who is married with a young son, works at Toast Café, a kosher dairy restaurant in the L.A. suburb of Sherman Oaks. Joining him on this food truck sojourn is his sister, Hilla Marudi, who has worked at a variety of restaurants, and best friend, Arkadi Kluger, a home cook who also is employed as a locksmith.
Maybe that vocation will be a help breaking into Mobile, which isn’t swarming with a large Jewish population. Nonetheless, Marudi seemed unfazed.
“We’ll just turn on the Israeli charm,” he joked. “We try to make it happen wherever we go.”
(The Food Network hasn’t announced when Season 5 will start airing, but typically the show begins in mid-August.)