A Denver pop-up and its 'approachable vegan food' just won Food Network's 'Great Food Truck Race'

Denver's The Easy Vegan hopes to use the prize money to build a brick-and-mortar store.
'The Easy Vegan'.jpg
Posted at 12:26 PM, Jul 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-01 13:33:09-04

Denver's own The Easy Vegan was named the winner of the 16th season of The Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race: David vs Goliath" in Sunday's season finale.

The Colorado-based, queer-owned business took home a $50,000 prize – which, coupled with an additional $14,000 they won in the show's second episode, the restaurant's owners said they'll use to build a brick-and-mortar store.

The Easy Vegan is co-owned by Alexi Mandolini and Taylor Herbert.

"I feel so humbled to have competed alongside some of the greatest teams, I think, that have ever been on the show," one of The Easy Vegan's co-owners, Alexi Mandolini, told Denver7 over a video call Monday. "We loved that experience. We learned a lot from it. I think we just did our best to kind of not get into too much drama and just go on the show, cook food and show people how diverse vegan food can be."

This is the second time a Colorado team has won. Big Stuff Food Truck from Parker won back in 2019. It's also the second time a vegan truck has won.

The Easy Vegan's origins came during the COVID-19 pandemic when both Mandolini and Herbert lost work during shutdowns. The truck, they say, makes "approachable" vegan food.

"Vegan food can sometimes have this pretentiousness to it and we really want to work hard to overcome that," they said. "We do really approachable, plant-forward street food."

Tyler Florence hosted the 16th season of "The Great Food Truck Race: David vs Goliath" in Los Angeles. Nine teams from across the country competed, pitting pros against rookies.

Mandolini and Herbert made up one of the rookie teams – though the duo has nearly three decades of experience in the food service industry between them.

When the team made it to the finale of the Food Network show, they said, "Here’s what we are most proud of at this leg of the race: remaining a solid team throughout the most challenging experience of our lives, staying focused on cooking the best food we possibly could, pushing ourselves to make brand new menu items each week, & making awesome connections with the amazing folx we met in LA. we couldn’t have done it without the support of all the people we met for the first time there," on The Easy Vegan Facbeook page.

If you're thinking you haven't seen the Easy Vegan food truck around town – you're right. It's technically a pop-up food stand that operates at local farmers markets. They have a mobile kitchen that fits under a 10x10 tent.

"You can find us all over town working alongside food trucks and serving up the same type of food," restaurant co-owner Taylor Herbert told Denver7. "It still moves around. It just doesn't have wheels.

You can catch the pop-up next weekend:

Sat. Aug 5 | 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. City Park Farmer’s Market

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Sun. Aug 6 | 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. South Pearl Street Farmers Market

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'The Easy Vegan' named winner of 'The Great Food Truck Race'