The Lake Charles lakefront recently played host to The Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race," where seven food trucks, led by star chef and host Tyler Florence, competed over two days. This event brought the excitement of competitive cooking to Southwest Louisiana and highlighted the area’s Cajun and Creole culture, scenic beauty and Southern hospitality to a national audience. The episode, filmed in Southwest Louisiana, is scheduled to air on the Food Network this June. 

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National Spotlight  

Locals Ana Mallett and Ashanti Griffin eagerly waited in line to experience the visiting food trucks.

For Mallett, the show provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience.   

“What great exposure,” she said. “[Viewers] get to see our culture, food, the amazing people.”   

Griffin echoed the sentiment, expressing, “It’s good. Yes, we have New Orleans, but people will start seeing there’s Lake Charles, too.”   

The event not only drew local interest but also attracted visitors.  

KPLC-TV covered the event and spoke to attendees, including Jillian Elliott, who traveled from Baton Rouge as a devoted Food Network and “The Great Food Truck Race” fan.  

“I drove in from college because whenever I heard they were having it, obviously, I had to be here as a big fan,” she said.   

As a challenge in the competition, the chefs of the food trucks were tasked with incorporating a local item into their menus. Food Network chose Bayou® Rum as the special ingredient for this leg of the race.   

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Business Impact  

Pasta Lab owner Michael Gardner operates under the philosophy of “Hire good people, get out of their way.” Lane Buckels, an employee at Pasta Lab, discovered that "The Great Food Truck Race" was coming to town, he took the initiative to promote Pasta Lab through social media.  

Gardner said that Sunday afternoon before the first day of competition, Chef Ken James from Plates on Deck contacted Lane to utilize Pasta Lab’s products.  

“Lane opened the shop, sold the product and informed me of the event,” said Gardner.  

Gardner took a moment to grasp the positive impact of the competition. When he visited the lakefront wearing a Pasta Lab apron, he realized the decision had a significant effect on his business, stating he started, “shaking hands with new fans, I realized a very good thing was happening.”  

Having lived in a city where such events are common, he expressed joy in seeing Southwest Louisiana in the spotlight, adding, “Happenings like this give the people of Southwest Louisiana a chance to say, ‘We’re cool, too!’”   

Gardner believes these events attract attention to the uniqueness of Southwest Louisiana, emphasizing that Pasta Lab is here for the community, and such occurrences showcase the community’s offerings.  


SWLA’s Food Truck Race   

Responding to the community’s call for a local food truck race, Crying Eagle Brewing Company President Eric Avery and his team are spearheading the initiative.     

Drawing inspiration from their popular past monthly food truck roundups, they are launching a one-day event called Food Truck Face-Off: SWLA Edition. Participants will compete for a chance to win $4,000 in prizes.  

Strategically scheduled during Texas spring break, Avery expects the event to draw thousands of locals and visitors, resulting in a boost to our local economy, food trucks and Crying Eagle University.   

“This event has proven to be one of the most talked about and energizing events we’ve ever hosted,” Avery said.   

He believes the event will benefit both the trucks and brewery, all while elevating the cultural and culinary scene in Southwest Louisiana.  

“The Great Food Truck Race” by Food Network is making its way across the country, with Lake Charles being the only Louisiana city featured in this season. 

Food Truck Race

Marketing Outlook Forum: the Future of Tourism Marketing  

Timothy Bush, the chief marketing officer, spoke at the Travel and Tourism Research Association's Marketing Outlook Forum in Houston. Bush was the speaker for the Marketing Manager’s luncheon and shared insights on Visit Lake Charles’ use of data to drive marketing innovation. The conference focuses on providing tourism industry leaders with the latest data and insights to build stronger marketing strategies.   

TB Speaking at Marketing Outlook Forum

ABA in Nashville 

Kaitlyn Gallegos, the director of global sales, attended this year's American Bus Association Marketplace in Nashville. During the event, she connected with motorcoach tour operators and planners from various parts of North America, including Canada. Gallegos used scheduled appointments, networking and volunteered at the Louisiana Office of Tourism booth to promote Southwest Louisiana. Alongside fellow state partners, she highlighted the area's attractions, presenting Southwest Louisiana as a top destination for motorcoach tours.  

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Chuck Eats Culinary Tour

What better time to host a culinary tour of Southwest Louisiana than during Chuck Eats Restaurant Week? Matt Young, the director of public relations, hosted media guests to experience the rich food and culture of the region. During their three-day visit, the writers got to sample a diverse range of the area’s culinary delights. In addition to dining at some of the region’s most popular restaurants, they also explored local attractions, immersing themselves in the vibrant culture of the community. Hosting media is a vital component of tourism efforts, aiming to inspire compelling stories across various media platforms and enticing leisure travelers to discover the unique charm of Southwest Louisiana.  

Matt Fam Tour

Tourism Works February 2024