Korilla BBQ Represents on ‘Great Food Truck Race’

by David “Rek” Lee

Sometime in the last couple of years, food trucks have witnessed a renaissance of sorts.

These “mobile kitchens” went from providing the convenient lunchtime alternative to popping up on foodie hot lists and snagging gold stars on Yelp. Last year, the Food Network elevated them to pop culture status by giving us The Great Food Truck Race.

It’s your typical competition-based reality show (yawn), but on season two we found a reason to watch. New York-based Korilla BBQ, the “mobile Korean grill,” is representing for their people as a competitor.

These baseball cap-wearing high school buddies — founder Eddie Song with Paul Lee and Stephan Park — often begin and finish sentences with “yo.” Call it a New York thing, but don’t call it unprofessionalism.

In the first two episodes airing earlier this month, the team has finished in second and first place, respectively. They utilized teamwork founded on their longtime friendship and executed tactics that would make your Go-Stop-playing-uncle proud. But there’s a third factor that especially keeps the team rooted: Korilla BBQ was a product of the recession.

“I graduated with an econ-math degree and couldn’t find a job anywhere,” said Song.

It’s a helplessness that has taught many recent grads about opportunity. When you see it, you’ve got to seize it.

New Yorkers line up in midtown Manhattan to taste that sweet, sweet meat.

“I knew food trucks were hot and thought if no one attempts to do a cool Korean concept in NYC, I’m just going to do it myself,” he said.

Two years passed, still no kimchi tacos to be found. So Song rounded up the guys and they made sure to assemble the necessary parts (a menu, crew, graphic designers, etc.). By October 2010, Korilla debuted on the streets of New York.

Ten months later, websites and magazines alike were raving about Korilla’s burritos and Chosun bowls, a choose-your-own protein rice bowl with up to seven veggies. Their operation has expanded to three trucks that prowl through the city, tiger stripes and all.

But with $100,000 on the line as contestants of The Great Food Truck Race, the pressure is really on. But it’s bigger than prize money.

“I want to overcome the learning curve that most non-Koreans have when eating Korean food,” said Song. “I can’t help but feel the need to represent.”

Keep an eye out for David “Rek” Lee’s weekly recaps and Q&As with Korilla BBQ.

The Korilla BBQ food truck in all its tiger-striped glory.