Aug 1, 2023 - Food and Drink

Denver's The Easy Vegan wins "The Great Food Truck Race" on the Food Network

Left to right: Matt Heikkila, Taylor Herbert and Alexi Mandolini of The Easy Vegan. Photo: Matt Harbicht/Getty Images via Food Network

The Easy Vegan, a queer-owned and operated pop-up kitchen in Denver, is taking home $50,000 after finishing first on the Food Network's 16th season of "The Great Food Truck Race."

Why it matters: The plant-based pop-up, co-founded by Alexi Mandolini and Taylor Herbert, has "put vegan food on the map in such an incredible way," ushering in a "new era of food here in America," show host Tyler Florence told the team.

Driving the news: The eight-episode show aired its finale on July 30 after pitting four more experienced teams against five food truck rookies in a "David vs. Goliath"-style showdown.

  • After more than a dozen challenges, the finale came down to two rookies — The Easy Vegan and Detroit-based pop-up Khana.
  • The two kitchens competed in three challenges, including one that required them to go "all in" on one dish that they were tasked with selling exclusively.

What happened: Despite losing the first two tests, the Easy Vegan wooed Florence during the "all in" challenge with "pink tacos" — beetroot-infused corn tortillas filled with a meat-like mixture of carrots, walnuts, and maitake mushrooms, and topped with lime crema, cilantro and pickled red onions.

What they're saying: Mandolini and Herbert, who started their business during the pandemic, want to funnel their new funds into a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Denver, they said on the show.

  • "I'm just seeing so many doors opening for ourselves and our small business," Mandolini said.

Of note: The Easy Vegan does not operate as a food truck in Denver, but all the teams on the show were given a truck for competition.

  • You can find The Easy Vegan popping up at festivals, farmers markets and local events. Follow their schedule.

The big picture: Denver food trucks are on fire. Earlier this year, three of them were featured on the Food Network's "Food Truck Prize Fight."

  • In the end, Mukja — which specializes in Korean cheese dogs — took the title of Denver's top truck.

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