Two days after graduation, Ashanti Dixon was already miles away from Main Campus on a flight to New Orleans.
Dixon, a 2017 advertising alumna, made the journey to compete in the eighth season of “The Great Food Truck Race,” a cooking competition on the Food Network.
The show, which airs Sunday nights until the season finale on Sept. 24, follows seven food truck teams competing at locations in the southern United States for a prize of $50,000.
Each episode, the teams travel to a new city to sell their food over the course of the week. At the end of each week, the team with the lowest profits is eliminated from the show.
Before the food trucks hit the streets in each city, they compete in a special cooking challenge, like preparing meals for 50 service members at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. The winning team is awarded additional cash toward its weekly profits.
Dixon joined her friend Mikey Robins, a professional caterer and graduate of Temple’s event leadership executive certificate program, in the competition. Together with Taylor Randolph, a Penn State sophomore, the three form a team called The Breakfast Club.
Despite having never operated a food truck, Dixon and The Breakfast Club won the first challenge of the competition after earning the greatest sales profit from their menu items, including their take on a “hurricane,” a popular alcoholic drink in New Orleans.
“I was definitely shocked when we won the first challenge,” Robins said. “You have no idea how the other trucks are doing the whole time so you really have to focus on yourself and what you’re doing in order to succeed.”
Dixon said food has also played an integral role throughout her life. Growing up in a Jamaican household, she said her family “always came together over the holidays to cook.”
“Food has just been a big part of who I am, and I love to eat,” Dixon said.
Prior to entering “The Great Food Truck Race,” Robins had been a familiar face on the Food Network.
In 2013, Robins became the youngest winner of the Food Network series “Chopped” at 14 years old, and was later featured on the show “Kitchen Inferno.”
“I come from a large cooking family where we’re constantly entertaining,” Robins said. “Cooking has just been a huge part of my life.”
Now 19, Robins said he created menu items that could be eaten on the go, hassle-free.
“It was important for me to utilize a menu so customers would be able to walk and eat without it being messy,” Robins said.
As part of their travel-friendly menu, Robins creates mocha donuts topped with chocolate syrup and cinnamon sugar. Other menu items include iced mochas and breakfast nachos topped with cheese, bacon and a fried egg.
“I decided we should do brunch because it’s a meal you can really get away with selling at any time of day,” Robins said.
Combining her passion for food with advertising, Dixon’s role on the food truck has involved “market[ing] the concept of selling brunch all day to the masses,” Robins said.
“I believe that advertising can be applied to any aspect of life,” Dixon said. “When it applies to something I’m passionate about, it just makes it fun and I find that is when I am able to come up with my best ideas.”
Amid the chaos of the show, Dixon acted as “the mom of the group,” she said.
“Sometimes you have one person who is like, ‘Alright, deep breath in and out, you can do this,’” she said. “I knew someone had to pick up that role, and it was me.”
While acknowledging his occasional hectic moments as a chef, Robins said he and his team ultimately make cooking a fun experience.
“Cooking obviously is about skill, talent and passion,” Robins said. “But at the end of the day, you should have fun while cooking.”