RAWLINS — Mary and Robert Gallardo of Pinedale started a family tradition 12 years ago at the Green River Rendezvous as a business lesson for their children.
“We wanted to teach our kids, you know, the value of hard work, and also to share our culture, in terms of, you know, sharing our food here in our community,” she told Cowboy State Daily.
Island Barbecue was just a canvas tent then that came out once a year. But today it is a food truck, two years strong and growing. Eventually, Mary hopes to have more than one food truck in different parts of the Cowboy State selling their family’s version of lumpia and barbecued pork skewers.
The Gallardo’s authentic, delicious Filipino barbecue was among 10 or so food trucks that showed up for the Taste of Wyoming Food Truck Festival and Vendor Showcase’s debut in Rawlins that brought both the tastes and the wares of Wyoming to the Carbon County Fairgrounds.
The Gallardos make their home base in Pinedale, but spent most of their summer this year in Laramie.
The truck was Mary’s retirement dream, but it’s a true family enterprise. Her husband does the cooking, while she mans the register, and other family members help with food prep.
“I told my husband when I turned 50, I want to retire,” Mary told Cowboy State daily. “And he said, ‘What do you mean? Do you have a bank account I’m not aware of?’”
But Mary’s idea of retirement was simply to become her own boss, instead of someone else’s employee, and she believed that their Island Barbecue might be just the way to do that.
So far, it has been working out well, Mary said. The family has truly delicious food to offer — Filipino family recipes that are authentic — and lots of repeat customers that have helped bolster her confidence.
“We keep the menu simple, because we are a small staff,” Mary said.
Mediterranean Sold Out First
The Gallardos weren’t the only unique Wyoming flavor attracting long lines and interest during the Rawlins food truck rally and vendor showcase.
There was also Olio’s, a food truck that’s made itself famous in the Saratoga/Rawlins area for Mediterranean fare that’s a cut above what one might be able to purchase even at most restaurants.
There’s a good reason the food is so dang amazing that the food truck was the first to sell out at the rally.
The chef, Daniel Krugman, went to the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute of Chicago, after which he worked in Michelin Star restaurants for James Beard award-winning chefs.
Krugman decided to take the leap into the food truck world after returning home to Wyoming, so he would have more control over his schedule. He’s now able to schedule his food truck days for times when his wife’s not working, and then, when she’s working, he’s the one watching the kids.
At first, Krugman had planned for his food truck to be mainly Italian dishes. But he quickly realized, thinking about it, that was really too limiting.
“I really have fun with Mediterranean, so instead of just narrowing myself to Italian, I decided to broaden it. That way, I’d have more things to play with. So now I have French and Spanish and Moroccan and Greek.”
The one thing Krugman had to get used to when he went from high-end restaurants to the food truck world is not plating his fancy food.
“I don’t have a prep team and no sous chefs or anything to work with, so I can’t really plate the food,” Krugman said. “And that was the hardest thing about transferring. I’m like oh, how am I going to make this look really nice? But we’re going to do boxes.”
The other challenge has been finding interesting ingredients to work with.
“It’s tough to find really cool stuff,” he said. “So, up here, it’s about what you can do with what you can get.”
By focusing on fresh, though, Krugman is able to make it work to his high standards.
Making It Wyoming Was Key
The incredible diversity and flavor at the food truck rally in Rawlins was the game changer for the event, where Mexican, Mediterranean, Filipino, and American could all naturally meet. Rally goers chose Ohana Sips as their fan favorite, but it’s hard not to see the fast sellout of Olio’s as a kind of defacto award as well.
That sell-out took Olio’s by surprise, as it did organizers. They’d initially hoped the event might attract 200 to 300 people to taste test a variety of food trucks and vote on their favorites.
Instead, the event attracted more than 1,000 people, and both vendors and food trucks alike reported to co-organizer Casey Shinkle that they had blown past sales goals for the event, making it a perfect end-of-the-season rally.
That put Shinkle and his cohort Megan McComas over the moon.
“Before the event was even over, they were already asking if the event would happen again,” Shinkle said.
You can count on that, he added. He and McComas have booked the Carbon County Fairgrounds for next year on Oct. 5, and they’re already planning how to make it a bigger, better blowout next year.
“We are really centered around this being a Wyoming-themed event,” Shinkle said. “We want to showcase what Wyoming has — Wyoming-made products — and the fabulous food that comes out of Wyoming food trucks. We had vendors from Rawlins, Saratoga, Casper, Thermopolis, and Midwest. We had food trucks from Rawlins, Sinclair, Saratoga, and Pinedale. We even had one vendor from Spearfish. We thought it was pretty cool they wanted to join us for our Wyoming event, so we said why not?”
It’s not just the organizers, however, who are seeing the potential. Mary Gallardo, too, believes the food truck rally is a great idea, and that it could catch on, with Rawlins situated along a major east-west corridor, making it an easy jaunt for foodies and food trucks alike.
“It was perfect timing, too,” she said. “Because we are done for, you know, for this year, for the season, so that was our last stop. We were heading back, and the event was a blessing in disguise. We were able to do at least one more event before heading home to Pinedale.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.