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September 06, 2015

Syracuse’s PB & J’s Lunch Box and Rochester’s Smokin Pete’s Barbeque Win Top Honors in the “Taste NY” Food Truck Competition at the 2015 Great New York State Fair

Fairgoers and Food Experts Name the State Fair’s Best Food Truck Specialties Made with New York State Grown and Produced Ingredients

Chefs brought wine-infused tacos, a new twist on a Cuban sandwich, and other creative ideas, but in the end, it was that most basic of American foods – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – that won the judges’ taste buds at the very first “Taste NY” Food Truck Competition at the Great New York State Fair today, Acting Director Troy Waffner announced. The Grilled PB&J from Syracuse’s PB&J’s Lunch Box earned the Judges’ Choice award with Judges Christopher Cesta saying, “It just feels so much like the State Fair,” and Tom Kiernan, “It just makes you smile when you bite into it.”

Fairgoers weighed in as well, sampling the entries and casting a total of 3,186 votes in the People’s Choice competition.  When the numbers were tallied, Smokin Pete's Barbecue from Rochester won the crowd over and came in first place with 573 votes for its Loaded Pulled Pork Tater Tots.  In second place, with 468 votes, was The Meatball Truck from Rochester for its Meatball in a Cup, a specialty made from meatballs in house marinara, fresh ricotta, fresh basil and grilled focaccia bread.  And coming in at a close third, Syracuse’s Hell Of a Big Bite with its Pulled Pork Sliders brought in 434 votes.

“This first-ever Taste NY Food Truck Competition was a great hit with Fairgoers, who really seemed to enjoy sampling some of the best and most innovative foods, all made with New York State ingredients.  With thousands getting in on the fun, and with top-notch judges tasting and choosing their favorites, this is one competition we’ll have to bring back again next year,” said Waffner.

PB&J's Lunch Box owner and chef Pat Orr said, “I’m most excited for the Central New York food trucks.  The Fair brought us here and it was awesome.  Competition is great and all of us had great food.  We all put a lot of hard work into it, and so it makes it feel like it’s worth it.”

Smokin Pete’s owner and chef Peter Chapman said, “Today was really great, there were so many people coming up to our truck and trying our samples. The whole seven hours was just slammed, there was no stopping ever,  it was crazy, but honestly we were ready for it. It was really cool seeing people enjoy the food we were working so hard on back in the truck. We’re proud of our team, we did a great job and the hard work paid off.”

The Meatball Truck’s owner and chef Matt Petrillo said, “We loved the competition and we’re happy for Smokin Pete’s for coming in first and for us for coming in second.  We really like Syracuse and would love to come back to the rodeo and do it again next year.”

Hell Of a Big Bite owner and chef Jay Smith said, “It was a rewarding day—it was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.  We had a great time and hope to do it again next year, and we want to thank all the great people that came out for the competition today.”

The competition featured exceptionally skilled chefs from across the state that used foods primarily grown and produced in New York State to create their tasty and unique entries. Competitors included:

  • PB&J's Lunch Box with a Grilled PB & J, from Syracuse.
  • Global Taco Truck with the Finger Lakes Taco, which includes lettuce, Riesling chicken, strawberry chardonnay cheddar, grape and husk cherry salsa, from Watkins Glen.
  • Lady Bug Lunch Box with Cajun Chicken, which is saucy and bossy with a kick and includes honey mustard, from Syracuse.
  • Chicken Bandit with Bandit Seasoned Chicken in either a thigh or drumstick with its secret recipe seasoning, from Syracuse.
  • Toss N’ Fire Mobile Wood Fire Pizza with a ‘Cuse Salt Potato Pizza, from Syracuse.
  • The Meatball Truck with Meatball in a Cup, made from meatballs in house marinara, fresh ricotta, fresh basil and grilled focaccia bread, from Rochester.
  • Tortilla Jacks with Mexican Street Corn, made from corn cooked in seasoned water then slathered in a mayonnaise concoction, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, a light dusting of cayenne pepper and served with a lime wedge, from Syracuse.
  • Smokin Pete's Barbecue with American Firecrackers, made from twice-smoked bacon wrapped brisket with jalapenos and caramelized blue cheese, from Rochester.
  • Hofmann Sausage with a Handwich, which features the brand’s famous German brand frank in an artisan roll, from Syracuse.
  • New York Wine and Culinary Center with the Upstairs Bistro Cuban Sandwich, made from roast turkey, smoked pork belly, house made pickles, gouda cheese, and whole grain mustard aioli on ciabatta, from Canandaigua.
  • Hell Of a Big Bite with Pulled Pork Sliders, from Syracuse.

Honorable mentions in the Judges’ Competition went to:  Mexican Street Corn from Tortilla Jacks, ‘Cuse Salt Potato Pizza from Toss N’ Fire Wood Fire Pizza, Bandit Seasoned Chicken from Chicken Bandit and the Finger Lakes Taco from Global Taco Truck.  They said, “It was really commendable the efforts Global Taco Truck went to in using New York ingredients.”

Judging was done by the following four food experts:

  • Tom Kiernan, who was awarded 2015 Chef of the Year by the Syracuse Chapter of the American Culinary Federation.
  • Chance Bear, Head Chef at Lincklaen House and Organizer of Empire State Feast in NYC. Bear was also awarded 2012 Chef of the Year by the Syracuse Chapter of the American Culinary Federation.
  • Christopher Cesta, Head Chef at the Inn Between. Cesta is the Winner of the 1989 and 2009 Chef of the Year by the Syracuse Chapter of the American Culinary Federation and is the first to ever receive the award twice.
  • Don Cazentre, food editor and notable journalist for

The first place prize for People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice was a $750 gift card provided by Maines Food & Party Warehouse. A 3,500 watt portable generator was awarded to the People’s Choice second place winner.

The New York State Fair, operated by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, is going on now through tomorrow, September 7, 2015. The Fair’s mission, reflected in its theme “Summer’s Best in Show,” is to showcase the best of New York agriculture while providing top-quality entertainment.

The home of the Great New York State Fair is a 375-acre exhibit and entertainment complex that operates all year to host dozens of agricultural events, including some of the Northeast’s most prestigious horse and livestock shows. A year-round schedule of events is available on the Fair’s website at

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