San Jose Taco Festival spices things up

by Apr 15, 2012 2:35 pm Tags: , , , , ,

[media-credit id=236 align="alignnone" width="500"][/media-credit]They came in droves. The young and the old, with families and friends. They congregated together under the potent California sunshine in search of one thing: tacos.

“For the first time in San Jose, we’re doing a large-scale festival that isn’t run by baby boomers,” said event organizer Ryan Sebastian, founder of Moveable Feast, a food truck collective that organizes and hosts events with local Bay Area trucks.

San Jose police estimated between 6,000 and 8,000 people flocked to History Park on Saturday for the San Jose Taco Festival of Innovation 2012, which touted itself as the largest taco festival in Northern California, Sebastian said.

The festival lineup included food from 24 food trucks, live music, the first U.S. Air Accordion Championships and lucha libre wrestling.

“This is the first time where you’re going to go to a festival where you’re not going to see posters of dolphins for sale or hear bad covers of the Eagles' catalogue," Sebastian said. 

According to Sebastian, the goal of the festival was to meld together the inventiveness of food truck culture and the Silicon Valley to create a venue in San Jose where both the foodie crowd and families felt welcome.

Part of the festival included a taco competition between the food trucks in which participants indicated which truck served the tastiest taco through text messaging.

Every truck featured three tacos for $2 and diners were encouraged to text their favorite, indicated by code numbers posted on each truck, to the organizers, Sebastian said.

The winning taco, by KoJa Kitchen, which specializes in Korean/Japanese fusion, was gently packaged into a converted tortilla warmer, attached to a weather balloon with a GPS system and camera and launched into space, according to Sebastian.

Sebastian said they are not the first to launch things into space like this, but they are the first to send a taco into space.

“The GPS system will track the movement of taco in space,” he said. “The camera will take video.”

He said when the taco eventually lands they’ll retrieve the camera and put the footage on YouTube.

Pushing innovation

The promise of tacos is what brought Lauren Short, a graduate student in geology, to the festival though she said she was also participating in the vote-by-text competition.

“It’s good to have something that’s fun and it doesn’t cost like $70,” she said. “If you don’t like tacos, I’m sorry, but you don’t have a soul.”

Sebastian said Moveable Feast does more than 200 events a year.

“Most of these trucks sell tacos for most of them," he said. "Once we talked to them, it wasn’t really hard.”

Although traditional taco trucks were represented at the event, serving plenty of al pastor, carne asada and pollo, many trucks served less taco-traditional cuisine such as Asian, Korean, Indian and Creole food and repurposed their ingredients to create tacos for the event.

The Chairman, formally known as Chairman Bao, an Asian-fusion truck based out of San Francisco, served mini steamed buns with pork belly and spicy chicken as well other fare.

Truck manager Kevin Kiwata said The Chairman’s six-person crew was ready to serve its fusion cuisine for the full six hours in the 100-square foot prep space inside of the truck, brightly painted brunt orange and black.

“At these festivals it (business) can kind of vary,” he said. “It’s really cramped … We have a lot of fun in the truck.”

AJ Siosin, executive producer of the taco festival, said the event played off of the Tech Museum of Innovation’s name as part of its inspiration.

“We made sure that yes, there’s the traditional tacos that are here in San Jose, but they’re tacos that are maybe Asian or Indian or some other cuisine,” he said. “It’s all about creating and having fun, giving a challenge to all these other taco trucks, getting all of the taco truck vendors to be in one place so they can talk about their craft and their business together.”

Alex Decesare, an alumnus who graduated in 2009 with a degree in business engineering, said the lamb curry taco from 3-3-3 was his favorite.

He said he enjoyed that the cultural diversity of San Jose was showcased at the festival.

“I think that this type of environment brings out the right kind of people you’d expect from San Jose,” he said. “You get a really good variety of people from a very variety-rich town. This just exemplifies this and makes it that much more fun.”

Where the magic happens

The mouth-watering scent of carne asada and onions permeated the tiny space of the No Way Jose food truck.

Stacked neatly on top of each other lay containers of seasoned corn, prepared molé and chopped vegetables.

A mountain of tortillas, sealed together in their plastic wrappers, dominated one corner of the kitchen on wheels.

Ernesto Floresc said he has been cooking in the truck for two months and although it gets busy, he feels like cooking in a food truck is the same as cooking in a more spacious kitchen.

Truck manager Michele O’Hanlon said she felt No Way Jose, which has had a truck for 10 years and whose circuit includes Lockheed Martin and Tesla Motors, probably had an advantage for the competition because they serve solely Mexican food.

Sisters Natasha and Kayla Victoria, said they help work at the truck.

“It’s really fun,” Kayla said. “Working here, you meet new people. It helps me deal with people and learn how to manage them.”

San Jose local

Sebastian said the goal of the festival was to make it unique to San Jose.

“San Jose is the perfect place for a taco festival,” he said. “I just feel like there’s so much win in this festival."

San Jose resident Michael Quinnell, 25, said his love for tacos brought him out, but he was surprised at the turnout.

“I knew the lines would be long,” he said. “I thought there would be more trucks here.”

Quinnell said he would have like to have seen a taco-eating contest as part of the day's festivities.

Ultimately, Sebastian said he felt the festival was a success.

“A common complaint is that there is nothing to do in San Jose and I think we’re proving them wrong,” he said. People flocked to History Park on Saturday for the San Jose Taco Festival of Innovation 2012, which touted itself as the largest taco festival in Northern California and included food from 24 food trucks, live music, the first U.S. Air Accordion Championships and Lucha Libre wresting. People flocked to History Park on Saturday for the San Jose Taco Festival of Innovation 2012, which touted itself as the largest taco festival in Northern California and included food from 24 food trucks, live music, the first U.S. Air Accordion Championships and Lucha Libre wrestling.

4 thoughts on “San Jose Taco Festival spices things up


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  1. I was totally bummed that I was not able to participate as I went to volunteer for the Sierra LeMar foundationa nd thought we would be out of there on time to go to festuival I am sure it was an eventful fune event and all the activities were perfect I sent out e-mails here at work for my co-worker to go.
    Can you please tell me will there be another even like this again…PLEASE KEEP ME POSTED. Glad to hear it was such a great sucess!!!


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