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The Battle is on! James Patrice returns to our screens with Justine Stafford in RTÉ’s Battle of the Food Trucks

The Battle is on! James Patrice returns to our screens with Justine Stafford in RTÉ’s Battle of the Food Trucks

By Cathriona Murphy

RTÉ’s “Battle of the Food Trucks” has returned for a second series hitting our screens this Summer, July 5th. With James Patrice returning with his new co-presenter, Justine Stafford, this series is bigger and better than ever. I sat with both James and Justine to ask them what we can expect in this upcoming series!

Having been so well received with season 1, Battle of the Food Trucks is returning for season 2. James and Justine, can you tell our reader’s here in Connect what to expect and how was your transition into the show Justine?

James; It’s great that its back for a second year, I’m delighted because it’s always a nice surprise when you get a good response because you never know how these things are going to go. I think it just goes to show that there is a demand for a show about food trucks in general. Even with a return to normal life, food trucks are going nowhere because people are still loving them. It definitely opened Ireland up to a cosmopolitan way of living. With the show itself, it’s a bit of escapism for people where in that they can download it and binge watch it all at once. Last year’s contestants were absolutely incredible and this year there is even more variety again amongst them, our new judge Gráinne and of course my lovely new co-presenter Justine! The show is twice as long so double the entertainment, the challenges are exciting, it’s just bigger and better than ever before. So whether you want to lash into it in one go or treat yourself to a little bit every now and then, you will not be disappointed! I love the drama and the tension the show gives. I am definitely one for the dramatic pause before I reveal the results, very X-Factor of me!

Justine; For me, it’s been so much fun in that James is such a natural and a great person to be paired with and the fact he had presented the show last year, I felt like I was in really good hands. He really showed me the ropes, made me comfortable and helped me to ease into the whole thing. We really bounced off each other so just really had a lot of fun with it! What I tried to bring to it was my comedic flair and I hope that translates to the audience. My background is in comedy so I tried to bring that across and integrate it into my presenting style.

What do you think sets Battle of the Food Trucks apart from other culinary programs out there?

James; With Battle of the food trucks, it’s not only their culinary skills, it’s their personality that is being judged too. The food truck is an extension of themselves, it’s something that they have created and that they are incredibly passionate about. The show becomes almost a bit fly on the wall because you really get to see everything they do, with other cookery shows the chefs are put into different environments whereas with Battle of the Food trucks you really get to see them at home as such. You are seeing them with their own equipment, their own recipes in their natural habitat and just challenged and put under pressure without giving too much away! I think that’s what makes it so exciting because we really get to know their story, how they got there etc? Some of the Chefs may have started their food truck due to the pandemic, they may have lost their job or even had an entirely different career before setting up their food truck. So you are getting to see a very present talent but also a very present passion which is fantastic to see.

Justine; When I sat down to watch it last year, I watched one episode and got so invested in these trucks and had to watch it all! I’ve always had an interest in food, I am involved with a YouTube channel called The Try Channel where we would try different foods from around the world. It just shows that there is a huge appetite for these kinds of shows. I think what sets Battle of the Food Trucks apart from other food shows is that these trucks are representing their local areas, they are travelling around Ireland and bringing that local pride with them. Its really very interesting because it’s a different format of bringing very different styles of cuisines together, there is no two food trucks on the show that are alike. So it’s really giving the individual an opportunity to show off their skills, their food and the area they are coming from. Also, with other shows, the chefs are put into a designed set with a huge focus on the aesthetics whereas with food trucks, everyone is within their own environment. I think that brought a lot of colour to it, even as a presenter it didn’t feel like a production set? I almost felt like I should be queuing up to order food! We were so blessed with the weather, everything just came together to make it so colourful and just some stunning visuals overall. It’s exciting to see the participants get a platform to show the world what they have done so then in turn, inspiring others to take those risks.

What did you both enjoy most when working on the show?

James; When you look at the foods they are producing and where they have gotten their inspiration from be it travelling, foods that are available near them or they just want to create something new. But ultimately the variety is amazing with foods such as Mexican cuisine, sushi, BBQ. I was very jealous of the judges getting to sample everything! I was trying to sneak away bits here and there for myself! I think it really shows as well with the rise in prices everywhere, people might not be able to go out anymore and spend €80 on a meal as frequently as they did. With food trucks, you are getting access to amazing chefs, high quality food at a fraction of the cost.

Justine; There is most definitely a great variety. For example, we had a girl from Limerick who had moved back from London. She really enjoyed sushi and after moving home quickly realised there was no one really in Limerick making sushi. So she set up her truck to bring sushi to the people of limerick and beyond. That’s what I loved, hearing their back stories and finding out what led them to start a food truck business. We have seen people who never had previous culinary experience and because of the pandemic just took that leap and changed careers, it’s very inspirational to see.

In addition to yourself Justine joining the show, you were also joined by new judge, Gráinne Mullins of Grá Chocolates. How did Gráinne settle in and work alongside other judge, Eric Matthews?

James; Gráinne is amazing, she is just so passionate and so talented. The thing about the food trucks is that obviously you want to see them do well but you want to see how they conduct themselves in business, how they market themselves and how they are selling it. Everytime a food truck owner meets a new customer it’s a chance to sell. In that respect it was great to have Gráinne on board because she has all that wealth of knowledge with her own successful business, Grá Chocolates. Herself and Eric have definitely butt heads more than once! Myself and Justine just stood back awkwardly and watched them row with each other which will make great TV altogether! But with a show like this, having everyone neck and neck each week, drama with the judges it all just works together to produce an amazingly entertaining program.

Justine; Gráinne was brilliant, she really took it all in her stride. It was a bit of a comfort for me really to feel like I wasn’t the only new person to be brought in this season, so we had that in common. She absolutely held her ground, there was great camaraderie between herself and Eric, but as James said, they had difference of opinions at times! They were both very quick and easily confident in putting across their opinion or validating why they felt that way. There was some points were they had different views on the food completely but they navigated it very well. But its moments like them that really grip the audience, its exactly why I watched it all in one go last year!

Justine, you previously mentioned giving up your full time job to focus on your work as a comedienne. Do you think this helped you identify with the contestants on a personal level?

Justine; During the pandemic I did leave my full time job that I had, to try and go into comedy full time, it was a huge risk to take at the time and I know I would never have taken that risk if it hadn’t been for the pandemic. I had left Dublin and moved home, I wasn’t paying as much rent and didn’t have as much expenses so I felt like I could take the chance with it. It paid off for me, so far so good! So for me, it was great to get involved with a show that celebrated people that took these risks too? It’s encouraging and couldn’t come at a better time really, I felt like I really had something in common with them and could understand the emotions that come with taking a risk like that.

James, your career has gone from strength to strength. From contributor to lead presenter, how has that journey been for you?

James; It’s been great, I love everything that I do from having recorded for the Today Show, Dancing With the Stars, I love doing those things. But with Battle of the Food Trucks, it was great to stand there myself and now with Justine and just put my own mark on it, an opportunity to really show people what I am capable of.

As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, do you feel there is adequate diversity on our TV with representation of all communities?

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James; That’s a very good question Cathriona, there definitely is more inclusion and diversity but we do have to be careful we are not going into “token LGBTQ+ Person” territory and if it is then so be it, you cannot think that and question every job you get hired for? I like to think we are all hired for our ability and personality, not our sexuality and to tick a box. I had a near death experience as a child that has given me a sense of perspective. I always say that if we all had a bit of perspective, the world would be a fantastic place.

Having an experience like that gives the mindset that if things are not going my way, then so be it! We all just have to motor on and do our best and not dwell on things.

Will we get to see you again in your backstage correspondent role for RTÉ in this year’s Rose of Tralee?

James; Apparently so! Yes, I am very excited about that, The Rose of Tralee festival is such an amazing festival and to be involved in even just a small role is fantastic. I love it, there is such a great dynamic down there and they are so lovely, I always say if you haven’t been down, don’t judge it!

James and Justine, it was a pleasure having you both and I know our readers will be so excited to see Battle of The Food Trucks on RTÉ Player, July 5th

James; Thank you so much for having us! Just to finally say, Battle of The Food Trucks is back this year, its bigger and better than ever! There is grit, glitz and some absolutely amazing dishes so be sure to tune in!

Justine; I completely agree with James! It is going to have you hooked from the very first episode, it really will be a trucking great series! I am so excited for the public to see it.

You can find Battle of the Food Trucks on RTÉ Player from July 5th, season 1 is currently available for download


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