A family-owned food truck serving uniquely Pueblo cuisine took first place in a competition at Mineral Palace Park last week, earning the right to compete in the 2022 Governor’s Plate competition at the upcoming Colorado State Fair.
The Pork Chop Lady/Sam’s Street Tacos, a truck owned and operated by Sam Hernandez Jr. and his parents, Sam Hernandez Sr. and Marylou Hernandez, was crowned winner of Friday’s event after receiving the most votes out of nearly two-dozen trucks that competed.
By winning the competition, The Pork Chop Lady/Sam’s Street Tacos secured a “golden ticket” to compete in the second annual Governor’s Plate competition, which was created by Gov. Jared Polis in 2021 to showcase Colorado-sourced foods.
“We found out Monday (that we won),” Hernandez Jr. said. “We’re really humbled and we’re blessed and we’re thankful to our customers, our loyal fan base.”
Another Pueblo food truck, Papa Mario’s Grilled Cheese Food Truck, won the governor’s competition last year.
“We cannot wait to taste all the wonderful Colorado Proud dishes our food truck competitors come up with this year,” Scott Stoller, general manager of the Colorado State Fair, said in a statement. “Congratulations to The Pork Chop Lady/Sam’s Street Tacos, our Golden Ticket winner from this past weekend’s event.”
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Showcasing their food offerings at the Governor’s Plate competition will be a significant accomplishment for the Hernandez family, which has operated the popular food truck for less than a year.
The family’s tradition of serving food to the Pueblo community began much earlier.
Hernandez Sr. and Marylou Hernandez started The Pork Chop Lady about 25 years ago, selling foods like their signature “loaded pork chop,” which consists of a succulent pork chop on a tortilla with grilled veggies and Pueblo chile from Musso Farms.
The couple primarily sold their food at Musso Farms, as well as at annual events like the Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival.
“I’ve grown up helping my parents at the festivals and stuff and in 2019 we were at Musso Farms and I thought, ‘What more can I do to bring something special?’” Hernandez Jr. recalled.
“And I’ve always done street tacos at home so one weekend I just set up next to my parents and sold street tacos and Sam’s Street Tacos took off from there.”
Last August, the Hernandez family decided to combine their two businesses into one and have since sold Marylou’s pork chops and other dishes alongside Sam’s Mexican fare. Many of their dishes incorporate foods from Pueblo businesses.
“I think that’s what makes our truck special, because we have the grilled foods, the kielbasa, the bratwurst … the pork chop and the Italian sausage, and then we’ve got the Mexican side, which is street tacos, the carne asada fries, the burritos … the menudo on Sundays,” Hernandez Jr. said.
“People come and the kids want a hot dog, the dad wants a taco and the mom wants a pork chop. So we’ve got it all in one stop. And we like to support local, so we go to Musso Farms and (El Rodeo Meat Market). If we want the local community to support us, we’ve got to do the same with the local businesses.”
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Hernandez Jr. said winning last Friday’s competition “definitely builds faith” that his burgeoning business is headed in the right direction. But, he noted, there’s “always room for improvement.”
He knows his food truck will have another tremendous opportunity to put its best foot forward when the Governor’s Plate competition kicks off on Aug. 30 at the State Fair.
“That competition is going to be a big competition, not only for Pueblo food trucks but Denver food trucks, Colorado Springs food trucks … so I’m just hoping to bring out my best and continue to keep growing and doing better,” Hernandez Jr. said.
“I know a lot of people think Pueblo is small and we’re a little underdog, so I’m going in with the mindset we’ve got to go in and win.”
Chieftain reporter Zach Hillstrom can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ZachHillstrom
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Colorado State Fair: Pueblo food truck in Governor’s plate competition