For 17 years, Chef Andrew Ferenc has found comfort in the kitchen. For the past two-and-a-half years, that kitchen has been one he happily calls his own — and it's on wheels.
Ferenc's popular food truck, On The Fly Sandwiches & Stuff, recently claimed three awards at the June 15 Jax Truckies Food Truck Championships in Downtown Jacksonville. Competing against 13 other trucks, Ferenc offered smaller portions of his bestselling items. (Full disclosure: I am one of the founders of Jax Truckies.)
After a blind tasting of nearly three dozen items from the competing trucks, a panel of six judges named On The Fly, or "OTF" as regulars call it, the 2013 Overall Champion.
OTF also snagged two more awards — the Sweet Tooth, for its addictive sweet-and-salty chocolate caramel peanut butter pretzel bars, and the People's Choice, as determined by fans at the event via ballot. OTF won the Overall and People's Choice awards in the 2012 inaugural competition.
OTF's bestsellers include the overloaded sweet potato planks (with melted blue cheese, braised pulled pork, sliced scallions and the signature On the Fly sauce, a sweet chili and cilantro aioli) and firecracker sesame-seared ahi tuna (over crunchy wasabi napa cabbage that's drizzled with sweet-chile-and-soy glaze and pickled ginger).
Weekdays, you can enjoy these items near the new Duval County Courthouse in a lot at the corner of Adams and Jefferson streets, where OTF parks. The area is outfitted with covered tables and chairs. When the weather's right, a line can form quickly. But be aware: It moves fast.
"Don't be intimidated by the long lunch line," Ferenc said. "We pump out orders in less than 10 minutes!" "On the fly" is restaurant lingo for creating an order fast.
Aside from a recent batch of Butterfinger crème brûlée cups, his latest hit is a sweet-and-spicy avocado tostada with shredded lettuce, sweet corn, scallions, black beans, OTF sauce and a dash of Siracha. And there's the El Diablo, a massive hoagie loaded with pepperoni, hard salami, spicy mustard, melted cheddar, nacho cheese Dorito chips, lettuce, homemade pickles, onions, tomatoes and OTF sauce.
"A lot of my ideas and inspiration come from flavors and experiences from the past," Ferenc said. "The El Diablo was inspired by my grandfather, who always ate hard salami sandwiches. It's a memory I'll never forget. And who doesn't like Doritos and cured meat?"
Even OTF's pesto, brie and tomato grilled cheese is creative. The outside of the bread gets a generous sprinkling of shredded parmesan, before it's grilled, forming a cheesy crust when finished. Double cheese, double delicious.