Brad Brutlag and Mike O'Neill have big plans for their Big Stuff food truck.
The Food Network stars of the competition reality show "The Great Food Truck Race" hope to open an “empire” of Big Stuff food trucks, beginning with their first, original Big Stuff to open in the Parker area in January.
Brutlag and O'Neill, both from Parker, appear on the Season 11 show of the Christmas-themed, New England-based version of the series. The show is currently airing. In the show, competitors try to turn the highest profit at the end of each competition for a grand prize of $50,000 at the series' end. The final episode is scheduled to air Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. MST on Food Network. Brutlag and O'Neill could not disclose anything regarding the show.
“It was a little nerve-wracking a times,” Brutlag said. “We had the three of us working in the food truck plus we had a cameraman right by your face…it was very nerve-wracking.”
Brutlag met O'Neill in 1994, where they both worked at the electronics store Incredible Universe. O'Neill just moved to Colorado from Frankfurt, Germany. They became best friends and went to University of Northern Colorado together. Brutlag dropped out and eventually earned a bachelor's degree from Johnson & Wales in food service management. O'Neill works in advertising and lives in Parker. They would reconnect during the holidays and stayed close.
Brutlag began working as a freelance chef for three private yachts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After traveling the seas, living out of a backpack and sleeping in bunkbeds for the better part of a decade, Brutlag wanted to try something new. He moved back to Colorado and applied for "The Great Food Truck Race."
Brutlag called O'Neill with the news he got accepted to be on "The Great Food Truck Race" and that he needed two partners. The third partner, Eddy Cummings, Brutlag met while searching for his replacement as a private chef in Florida.
The two professional chefs did most of the cooking and creating. O'Neill helped in the kitchen here and there but had a more multi-dimensional role as the truck's front man, interacting with customers on the ground.
Brutlag said now that the show is almost done airing, the two can get to work on their truck.
“I like to travel, I like to move. That's the biggest draw for a food truck is that I never have to see the same place every day at work,” Brutlag said. “This helps me grow some roots in my hometown, where I grew up.”
Cummings won't be joining Brutlag and O'Neill in the opening of the real Big Stuff food truck.
Brutlag describes his food as “global comfort food.” Everything at Big Stuff is thematically “stuffed” in some form. The original truck uses Colorado-style recipes. Stuffed green chile burgers. Meatball-stuffed sandwiches. Stuffed doughnut holes. More ideas come to Brutlag sometimes in a dream, he said. His next creation is a "Colorado banh mi."
Brutlag wants to have an army of Big Stuff food trucks, each with a different theme. He envisions a Mexican Big Stuff, Asian Big Stuff and more from a variety of palates and cuisines. At the end of the tunnel is a “colosseum” or convention center-type facility — his brick-and-mortar dream — that is a ”food truck hub” for any and all food trucks to park and sell.
His new Big Stuff food truck will have a different wrap on it from the show. Right now, it sits in Brutlag's garage, "naked," as the team awaits the proper permits and licensing from the state and health departments.
“We learned on the job quickly. We all kind of complemented each other really well,” O'Neill said.
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