Meet the contestants from Cork, Limerick and Kildare on Battle of the Food Trucks 

The new series lands on the RTÉ Player tomorrow and includes Spice Genie, maker of Cork's finest curry
Meet the contestants from Cork, Limerick and Kildare on Battle of the Food Trucks 

Judge Eric Matthews, head chef at Michelin starred restaurant, Chapter One featured with hosts James Patrice and Justine Stafford and judge/chocolatier, Gráinne Mullins.

Street food has come a long way from the days of chip butties out of greasy truck windows in car parks at 2am. Ireland’s food truck market is booming with brilliant, inventive and delicious takes on Irish and international dishes in free-roaming, pop-up, creative trailers to rival the country’s top restaurants. Now we get to see six of the best of them battle it out on RTÉ’s Battle of the Food Trucks,airing on the RTÉ Player tomorrow, July 5.

Christopher Braganza, Spice Genie

Christopher Braganza Spice Genie
Christopher Braganza Spice Genie

“Pressure is for tyres,” laughs Christopher Braganza, owner of the Cork-based Spice Genie food truck and one of the contestants on RTÉ’s Battle of the Food Trucks, now in its second year. It’s a measured answer for someone who is literally in the heat of the kitchen and the competition. 

But then years of working in restaurant and hotel kitchens including the Park Hyatt, Goa, where Chris is originally from, and Castlemartyr Resort in Cork, tends to equip you with the armour you need to work under fire. 

“I believe you show your emotions on a plate,” he continues. “So I always try to keep a sunny side out — happy cook, happy food.” It’s clear Chris is well suited to the chef's life, albeit one in a moving kitchen as he is flawlessly composed, self-deprecating, and outwardly cheerful. All this is reflected in the motto he wears, literally, as a tattoo on his arm and across the front of his truck: “Fail we may, sail we must.” No matter what the weather, we still go, he says. 

Growing up in India, Christopher’s gift of creating dishes oozing with flavour was born from a need to keep his mother happy, rather than an ambition to become a chef. He is, in fact, a passionate football referee, which he now does in his spare time as opposed to the other way around. “My siblings are all nurses and when we fought, the only way to keep my mother happy was to cook for her and since I was the only one who knew my way around a kitchen that was left up to me,” he laughs. 

Christopher Braganza of Spice Genie created a tricolour tikka masala to pay homage to his new home in Ireland.
Christopher Braganza of Spice Genie created a tricolour tikka masala to pay homage to his new home in Ireland.

In episode one of Battle of the Food Trucks, he delivers a mouthwatering tikka masala in the colours of the Irish flag — a nod to his love of his ‘second country’ – that leaves judge Eric Matthews (Michelin-star chef at Chapter One, Dublin) somewhat speechless. Given the timeframe, he kept it simple, taking a few risks but nothing that would overpower the food. When it comes to spice, it’s all about being gentle, he says, too much of some spices can, in fact, kill the flavour. 

His favourite recipes to make are Goan curries, which are simple but can be complicated. “You can have one dish but ask five Goan women to make it and they’ll all come out different,” laughs Chris. He doesn’t stick to any recipes but works off his own instinct ‘feeling the food’ instead. “I didn’t really want to do the competition,” he admits. “My brother put me up to it but it really was the most rewarding experience. I’ve found my passion for food from doing this show and having my food trailer. Great food can come from food trucks, and unlike a hotel or restaurant, you meet the customer eating your food which is the most beautiful part.” 

Louise Miller, Soul Rolls Sushi

Louise Miller, owner of Soul Rolls Sushi is the only food truck owner who doesn't have a background in cheffing.
Louise Miller, owner of Soul Rolls Sushi is the only food truck owner who doesn't have a background in cheffing.

It doesn’t quite have the same ring as tacos but if the crowds outside Limerick native Louise Miller’s Soul Rolls Sushi trailer is anything to go by it might just be the next best thing. Unlike a lot of the other contestants on the show Louise isn’t a chef, nor does she come from a food background, but rather a combination of her love of sushi and the lack of it in Limerick lead her to start her mobile sushi business in 2019. It started with boxed sushi which was so popular she decided to take it on the road. 

“It can be tough when you’re trying to juggle three kids and family life with work but there’s such a great buzz and the feedback I get makes it all worthwhile,” she says. Being out of her comfort zone isn’t something Louise is familiar with. Asked whether she’d do the show again and her answer is an emphatic ‘No’! “Mainly because having three small kids makes it harder. I also found it quite stressful, especially when you’re in the thick of it and the judges are at the window asking you questions. You’re trying to answer and keep an eye on what you’re doing. But it definitely made me more confident about my food, the decisions I’ve made and what I’m capable of.” 

Louise Miller's signature dish, the Prawn Star is a firm customer favourite.
Louise Miller's signature dish, the Prawn Star is a firm customer favourite.

Her signature dish, the Prawn Star, a sell-out most weeks at the markets she locates, naturally made it onto the show. A delicious combo of prawns, homemade siracha mayo, Japanese mayo, cucumbers, avocado, spring onions and crispy onions, toasted sesame seeds and seasoned sushi rice pulled together in a nori wrap. The judges were visibly impressed. “I gave it everything and it’s what I deliver every week to happy customers but food is subjective and it can come down to the mood of a judge on the day.” 

She’s giving nothing away except her favourite bit, which was when everyone got to work together. “It was amazing seeing how other food trucks work and getting to taste all the different food.” Her next stop is the Milk Market and Wickham Way Market in Limerick where her newfound confidence has her exploring exciting menu options: a prawn and crab dumpling and a curried popcorn cauliflower served with Japanese mayo, tonkatsu sauce and pickled Asian slaw. 

“I might be short on space but I can still deliver great food and I can choose to work where, and when I like. It’s a bit nomadic but I love it.” 

Caomhán de Brí, The Salt Project 

The Salt Project was established just a year ago by husband/wife duo Carla and Caomhán, who eschew processed foods for local fare.
The Salt Project was established just a year ago by husband/wife duo Carla and Caomhán, who eschew processed foods for local fare.

You can do a million things with a potato,” muses Kildare-based chef Caomhán de Brí, when probed on his favourite ingredient to work with. Caomhán, together with his wife Carla, set up The Salt Project in September 2021 and they have been on the road ever since bringing their plant-based Irish street food to all corners of Ireland. The food trailer is the first of several elements of the brand to launch and may well keep him from much else given its popularity. For a small country, we pack a punch when it comes to quality food producers, something Caomhán is harnessing in his 20sq ft trailer, designing menus around the locations they’ll be in, using ingredients and producers local to those areas.

“We work backwards,” he explains. “If we’re going to be in Sligo next week, we look at what’s going on there, the specific location, local produce and draw up a list of those suppliers, then build a menu around it.” It’s a lot more arduous than your average food truck business but as the saying goes ‘slow food is good food’. His respect for Irish food seems to come from a childhood spent peeling fresh peas from their pods in his garden and wandering French food markets on family camping holidays in France. A degree in hotel and restaurant management followed along with stints in various restaurants and more recently a few months alongside TV Chef, and former winner of RTÉ’s Battle of the Food Trucks, Kwanghi Chan.

The Salt Project was born out of a love of creating simple meals from freshly-picked produce, often with a sustainable bent.
The Salt Project was born out of a love of creating simple meals from freshly-picked produce, often with a sustainable bent.

"I wanted the challenge,” says Caomhán of his decision to enter the competition. “Before it started I did question that decision,” he laughs. “But it really was a lot of fun, I met some amazing fellow foodies and I got to present the business and my ethos to a wider audience.” He would have preferred a bit more time to prep and, given the freshness of his food, a chance to show the judges his dish first so as to avoid any ‘wilting’. A dessert round, for example, didn’t go quite to plan as, by the time he got to show the judges, the dessert had gone cold. Were there some risks he wish he hadn’t taken? “It’s always tricky when you’re trying to include so many elements into one dish in such a short space of time. Simplifying things is the best approach and time management; it’s probably the most important part of running any business,” says Caomhán as he juggles this interview with prep for the Taste of Dublin festival where he’s hoping to wow the crowds with his BiaSol rye waffle — one of the dishes he tested out on the show — with Leamhain vegan ice-cream, strawberries from McCarthy’s farm in Kildare and a honey and salted caramel drizzle. 

After that, who knows, it depends on where the food takes him. 

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