The 2017 S&D Culinary Challenge — It’s a Food Truck Frenzy!

Food trucks — you’ve seen them outside office complexes, parked at community events and maybe even next to a craft brewery on a busy Saturday.

As you might have guessed, the food truck segment has seen steady growth. According to research firm IBISWorld, the number of food trucks grew 8.4 percent between 2007 and 2012, now comprising a $1 billion industry.

In its 2013 Food Trucks, U.S. report, Mintel found that Millennials are the driving force behind food truck sales, which isn’t surprising considering their preferences for convenience and unique menu items.

S&D thought one particular group of Millennials and Gen Zers — the students at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte (JWU) — would find the food truck concept interesting, and so it was selected as the “big idea” behind this year’s S&D Culinary Challenge.

Now in its seventh year, the S&D Culinary Challenge gives JWU students the unique opportunity to create original recipes featuring an S&D ingredient, such as ground coffee, espresso coffee extract or green tea extract.

Twenty semi-finalists will be selected from the entered recipes to participate in the Semifinals Taste Test, held Jan. 27 at the university. Students’ dishes will be judged by a panel representing Charlotte-area food trucks, including

  • The Chrome Toaster
  • Ooowee BBQ
  • Papi Queso
  • Street Spice
  • Yummi Banh Mi

These food truck representatives will then become the mentors to the 10 finalists, helping them practice, refine and perfect their dishes to prepare for the challenge final which will be held on Feb. 14.

The top student chef chosen that evening will receive a $5,000 grand prize, and the winner’s chef mentor will receive a $5,000 donation to the mentor’s charity of choice. Seven other students will also receive cash prizes.

This annual event demonstrates S&D’s commitment to the culinary community and desire to inspire innovation in chefs — whether they are just beginning their careers at JWU or are a veteran of the industry.