Expanded Curbside Cookoff plans to set up shop in NoMa

In the two years since the District Maryland Virginia Food Truck Association started hosting Curbside Cookoff, a gathering of mobile vendors to promote the industry, the event has been a loose, vagabond affair. It's been held in places as diverse as RFK Stadium and the Wheaton Triangle, often assuming secondary nicknames such as Trucko De Mayo and Trucktoberfest.

But this year, the association has moved Curbside Cookoff to what organizers hope will be its final home: The NoMa neighborhood. Twenty trucks are expected to drop anchor at a massive parking lot at First and M streets NE, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6. They include the Lemongrass Truck, That Cheesecake Truck, Arepa Zone, TaKorean and Feelin' Crabby.


The Cajunator food truck is one of many nominated for awards for the 2014 Curbside Cookoff. (The Washington Post)

Just as important, by fixing Curbside Cookoff's location in NoMa and its date in late summer, organizers hope to legitimize the fundraising event in the public's mind, creating the food truck equivalent of D.C. Central Kitchen's annual Capital Food Fight.

“When I thought about the festival, I wanted to add some more mission and purpose to it," says Che Ruddell-Tabisola, the first full-time executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association.

One way to add more purpose is to get the public involved. Since its inception in 2010, then co-hosted by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Curbside Cookoff has always had an awards component. Sometimes they were serious, sometimes not. This year, the DMV Food Truck Association is upping the ante with not only eight award categories (see the nominees below, based on suggestions by association members) but also a series of live cooking contests that will pit chefs from different trucks, challenges similar to the ones that take place at Capital Food Fight.

The chefs will only have two butane burners, some basic tools, a few seasonings and a secret ingredient at their disposal to create a dish. The winner will be determined by a judges panel that includes Ris Lacoste, chef and owner of Ris, and yours truly. There will also be a separate dessert competition.

The eight categories will be determined by an online vote. The public has until 11:59 p.m. August 30 to vote for their favorite trucks. You can vote here. Winners will be announced during the Curbside Cookoff.

Ruddell-Tabisola hopes the expanded award categories will do at least two things: recognize the innovations of the food truck industry, and foster more of the same. "One of the hallmarks of this industry is its innovativeness," the executive director says. "And that’s not by accident.”

Tickets to the 2014 Curbside Cookoff are $5 per person.

The Nominees:

Food Truck of the Year

Arepa Zone

Captain Cookie & The Milk Man

Crepes Parfait

DC Pollo Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken

DC Slices

PhoWheels

Popped! Republic

Red Hook Lobster Pound-DC

Rito Loco

TaKorean

Chef of the Year

Mounir Elhilali, Crepes Parfait

Rob Miller, Ball or Nothing

Chris Moore, DC Sliders

Huy Nguyen, PhoWheels

Tadd Ruddell-Tabisola, BBQ Bus

Dessert Chef of the Year

Craig Barsi, That Cheesecake Truck

Brandon Byrd, Goodies Custard & Frozen Treats

Mounir Elhilali, Crepes Parfait

Kirk Francis, Captain Cookie & The Milk Man

Aaron and Sandra McNeil, Midnight Confections Cupcakery

Sandra Panetta, Sweetbites

Sam and Kristi Whitfield, Curbside Cupcakes

Outstanding Customer Service

BBQ Bus

Captain Cookie & The Milk Man

Crab Cab

Crepes Parfait

Curbside Cupcakes

DC Slices

Neat Meat

Popped! Republic

Rito Loco

TaKorean

Best New Food Truck

Arepa Zone

BurgersRUs

South Meets East

Breakthrough Dish

El Triple, DC Pollo

Lobster BLT, Red Hook Lobster Pound-DC

Mayo-free chicken salad crepe, Crepes Parfait

Old Bay chicken sandwich, Astro Doughnuts and Chicken

Musubi tacos, PhoWheels

Sifrina arepa, Arepa Zone

Food Truck Design of the Year

Cajunator

Crepes Parfait

DC Sliders

Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats

PhoWheels

Best Five Buck Bite

Affogato Americano, Dolci Gelati Truck

Chocolate chip cookies and milk, Captain Cookie & The Milk Man

Crabster slider, Feelin’ Crabby

Elvis slider and french fries, DC Sliders

K Street kettle korn, Popped Republic

Red velvet cupcake, Curbside Cupcakes

Vegetarian three bean chili with buttermilk cornmeal Biscuit, BBQ Bus

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.
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