Words & Deeds

‘We gotta work our butts off’: Caldwell men compete on Food Network series

Craig Smith blames his newfound reality TV fame on his wife, Katie.

It seems like almost yesterday when the Caldwell couple noticed an Idaho food truck, and Katie suggested an idea for one combining franks and sliders.

“I said, ‘You know what? You’re much smarter than I am,’ ” he remembers, laughing.

Rather than pursuing the idea herself, his wife contacted Food Network.

“Behind my back, she signed me up for ‘The Great Food Truck Race,’ ” Smith says.

So he enlisted two other Canyon County men — Kyle Mower and Steve Weston — and led the charge onto season 10 of the series, which premieres at 7 p.m. MST on Sunday, June 9.

Like putting “Cannonball Run” and “Top Chef” in a blender, “The Great Food Truck Race” pits teams against each other chasing $50,000 in prize money. This year’s series starts in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, then moves on to other seaside cities. Contestants attempt to sell as much product as possible, conquering challenges along the way.

Smith, Mower and Weston drive the Frank n Slides truck, which specializes in gourmet hot dogs, inventive sliders and fancy fries. The show provided the truck; none of the men were previous food-truck operators. Smith owns Life44, a spices and rubs business, and works part-time as a chef at The Tower Grill in Nampa. Mower is an electrician. Weston, who is director of community relations at the Nampa Chamber of Commerce, authored an outdoor cookbook, “In the Wild Chef.”

But the Treasure Valley trio brings a key Idaho quality to the show, they say: Work ethic.

As the team’s 6-foot-3, goateed hype man, Mower lured customers by playing up the potato angle.

“Hey, we’re Idaho boys,” Smith explains. “We know our fries.”

Rosemary garlic fries, to be specific — called Vampire Fries. Frank n Slides’ foods all have monster-related names.

Behold the Frankie: “Our big thing,” Smith says, “was hot dogs wrapped in bacon, deep-fried, and then we placed it on a bed of cabbage on a nice toasted bun. And we put some handmade pico on top of that, then avocado creme and then sriracha.”

Smith, Mower and Weston aren’t able to get specific about how they fared on the show, which began filming in April. You have to keep watching to see who gets eliminated each week.

But one thing is clear. The experience was fun but tough.

“Everybody, along with us, thought it was going to be easier than what it was,” Mower says. “We realized, like, ‘Dang, we gotta work our butts off, man.’ ”

Smith now officially has the food truck bug. He and his wife hope to launch a Frank n Slides truck in the Boise market by the end of the year.

It has to be easier than competing on “The Great Food Truck Race.”

“It was probably the second hardest thing I’ve ever done — other than the military,” Smith says. “Just getting with the flow, that stress and pressure of knowing if you don’t do well enough, you’re going home.”

Online: foodnetwork.com, facebook.com/franknslides.

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Michael Deeds is an entertainment reporter and columnist at the Idaho Statesman, where he also has been a sportswriter, entertainment editor and features editor. Deeds co-hosts “The Other Studio,” a one-hour music show, at 8 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.