The twins of Seattle’s Anchor End food truck were surprised when Guy Fieri’s people called, but running a restaurant that’s not “real” has its advantages.
Amanda and Jessica Lewis of Seattle food truck Anchor End say that the bombastic peroxide hedgehog of the Food Network, Guy Fieri, is actually really nice. Last fall, the producers of the show “Guy’s Grocery Games” Googled “food truck twins” and found the Lewises listed among Zagat’s Seattle “30 Under 30” (subtitle: “Rock Stars Redefining the Industry”). Then, “they contacted us,” Jessica says. “It was weird as hell!”
“We thought it was hilarious,” Amanda interjects. Jessica continues, “Because they said, ‘I’m sure you get contacted about these things — “Then Amanda and Jessica say, almost in unison, “All the time!” And they laugh. The episode, called “Twin It to Win It” (“Three pairs of twins team up to show that two head chefs are better than one…!”) was shot last October and aired in June.
The Lewis twins are 27, and their truck makes sandwiches — super-delicious sandwiches, served on pretzel-bread buns they make themselves. Jessica has eight years’ experience in bakeries, including at Macrina, as assistant pastry chef at Stoneburner, and at Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Workshop; before that, she was a cake decorator for a couple years. Amanda previously was the kitchen manager at Ballard’s Kiss Cafe. The other sets of twins competing on the show were older, male and running “real” brick-and-mortar restaurants. The episode’s challenges: Use birthday-cake ingredients to make a dinner (because twins share the same birthday!), then make a classic duo dish (because twins are a duo!) under “crazy culinary restrictions” determined by a dice roll (because food show!).
Anchor End Pretzel Shoppe
Regular stops include Monday lunch at Starbucks headquarters in Sodo, Monday evenings at Ridgecrest Public House in Shoreline, Friday lunches at Westlake Park and Saturday lunches at Chuck’s Hop Shop in Greenwood. Find the full schedule at anchorendseattle.com.
Amanda and Jessica anchored their birthday-themed dinner of pepper-crusted filet mignon with a cayenne-spiced chocolate pudding, then made an apparently awesome rendition of the twinned dish shrimp and grits. They emerged triumphant, winning $16,000.
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They say it wasn’t even that hard. Both of them felt super-comfortable on camera, for reasons they couldn’t really explain. But when you witness them working a busy lunch on the truck, it makes sense. The window of a food truck is a little like a stage: The patter matters, and it’s stressful, but if you’re not having fun up there, you’re in the wrong line of work. At Westlake Park on a recent sunshiny Friday noontime, music was blaring so loud for a performance on the plaza, you could barely think. An order was up: “Jordan!” Jessica shouted. No Jordan steps forward. “JORDAN!!!” she yelled again, comically loud. A half-dozen hollerings later, Jordan finally claimed his sandwich, and Jessica just laughed. “It gives me some good vocal-cord strengthening!” she said.
The twins think their background gave them a different advantage on the Food Network show. “The food-truck owners are kind of underestimated,” Jessica says. “We were happy going into it, because we were confident, and we knew that we might be underestimated. And then we killed it.” Amanda says, almost in unison: “And then we killed it!”
Another edge up: If twins supposedly have a psychic connection, there’s not much that strengthens that more than working together in a 7- by 15-foot roving room. “The other twins didn’t necessarily cook with each other every day,” Jessica points out, “And we’re constantly balancing and checking each other,” Amanda finishes the thought.
In October, it’ll be two years together in the tiny, tidy crucible of a kitchen on wheels, housed in a converted 1969 Shasta trailer. She’s nicknamed Miss Shasta and has a cute yellow-and-white paint job, but she’s also made of metal, with a sizable grill, and the heat gets hellish inside during the summer. How hot does it get? “We don’t put a thermometer in here,” Jessica says. “We don’t want to know!” says Amanda. They guess it easily reaches 105. And in the wintertime, there’s no heat — they keep the window closed except for a sliver to talk through or to quickly hand sandwiches out, and they take turns hovering around the bun toaster to warm up. “It’s so frickin’ cold!” Amanda says. The low ceiling doesn’t bother them, as they’re only 5-foot-4. But Corey Rachon, Jessica’s husband — as of the beginning of this month, that is, when Anchor End took a rest for the wedding — joined the truck crew a while back to help out, and he’s taller. Every ball cap he owns eventually gets the little button on top ripped off by the bar across the trailer’s roof.
The pretzel-bun making and prep work happens in a catering kitchen — Anchor End makes everything from scratch, except for ingredients they source from other local companies. (Despite the dismay of customers when they run out, they can’t bake on the truck.) Their combinations, carefully calibrated, look to hit all the spots: sweet, spicy, salty. They love converting people to their most popular sandwich, the Dictator: pulled pork and fried pork belly, Swiss, stone-ground mustard, pickled jalapeños, and dill pickles (from Seattle Pickle Co.), all on a pressed cinnamon-sugar pretzel bun. It’s the cinnamon-sugar that freaks people out — some insist that it must be a joke. “They’ll see ‘cinnamon sugar’ and honestly think we’re trying to pull a fast one on them,” Amanda says. “They think we just want to see them take a bite or something!” Jessica continues. Then people try it and see that the little hit of cinnamon-toast sweetness is what makes the sandwich magic.
The Lewises love their regulars. “What keeps you going are the people who keep coming back, week after week,” Jessica says. “It’s easier to be nice when you’re running your own —” Jessica starts. “Yeah! Jess and I have never been as nice to people as we are now that we own a business!” Amanda finishes. They both laugh. Their sandwiches have also been known to convert other food trucks’ regulars — one guy would sneak past his old-flame truck to come to their window, then give a fake name for them to shout when his order was up. He didn’t want the other truck to feel bad.
It’s not glamorous, like killing it on TV. “It’s a lot of hard work,” Jessica says. “We cry at least once every couple of months. But we’ve been generally very lucky. We feel very lucky.”
Another thing that keeps the sisters going, Amanda says, is that “We’re doing it for ourselves.” Stay tuned for news, coming very soon, about their own brick-and-mortar spot in Shoreline. The Guy Fieri prize money will help with that — when it comes. “That check’s still in the mail, by the way!” Jessica laughs.