In RTÉ Player's Battle of the Food Trucks, presenter James Patrice was on a mission to find the best food truck chef in Ireland with the help of judges Eric Matthews, Head Chef at Michelin starred Chapter One Restaurant, and Instagram sensation and cookbook author, Gina Daly of The Daly Dish.

Over the course of six weeks, six contestants went head-to-head in a bid to be crowned Ireland's finest food truck.

Hoping to impress the judges, the mobile foodies went through a series of challenges to see who could win the crown and the coveted title of 'Irelands Finest Food Truck' and drive away with €5,000 prize money.

In today's episode, it was revealed that Kwanghi Chan, owner of Bites of Kwanghi, was named as the winner, beating out Louise Brosnan of Mex West in their final battle: Cooking for the Stars.

Speaking about the cooking competition, Kwanghi told RTÉ LifeStyle that he was thrilled with the chance to take part: "It was amazing just to be involved and get that opportunity to cook the food you want and show people what you're doing with your food truck."

"I'm so happy to win Battle of the Food Trucks," he continued. "Combining Asian and Irish produce and flavours has been a big part of what I've strived to do in the last couple of years."

"There were so many great food trucks involved, myself and all the team are delighted our food at Bites by Kwanghi has been recognised as the winners of the competition."

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The pandemic has forced businesses across the country to adapt how they operate in order to survive and chef Kwanghi Chan can certainly relate.

His restaurant, Bowls by Kwanghi, opened in Dublin city centre just a year before the pandemic hit and with restrictions and multiple lockdowns leading to a sharp drop in foot traffic over the past 18 months, a different style of serving food was explored to keep the business afloat.

With pressure to retain his staff amidst uncertainty in the restaurant industry, Kwanghi invested in a 20ft food truck to help expand their reach with customers on the outskirts of the city.

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"It just took off," he says of his food truck, Bites by Kwanghi, which offers punters Asian-style street food with a wide variety of options available from dumplings to tacos.

The concept for the food truck was inspired by Kwanghi's own experience with street food in Hong Kong. He explained: "I go to Hong Kong fairly regularly and the street food scene there is crazy and I always wanted to recreate that style."

"We had done a few festivals before with a pop-up stall and an opportunity came up to buy an old chipper van. We did it up and took it out and it was a hit straight away."

A keen interest in food was sparked at an early age for Kwanghi, who was born in Hong Kong and moved to Ireland when he was eight, where he learned cooking skills from his uncle who ran a Chinese takeaway in Buncrana, Donegal.

After finishing school he studied at Killybegs Catering College before gaining a wide variety of experience in a number of award-winning restaurants around Ireland.

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In 2015, Kwanghi established his own Asian-style sauce brand - ChanChan - which is available to buy online and has recently launched in Lidl and Aldi stores across the country.

He worked as the head chef in the Michelin star restaurant at Cliff House Hotel in Waterford for over three years before deciding to set up his own restaurant in Dublin.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, he began to focus more on the food truck to keep the business going, serving up food in the car park of the Leopardstown Inn while the pub was closed due to restrictions.

Kwanghi revealed: "We were quite popular with the locals all around and we got busier and busier."

The truck has since moved on to a sister pub premises - Baker’s Corner in Deansgrange - and has continued to gain momentum. Kwanghi says: "There’s so much interest in it, it’s crazy. So many people come up to us and say: 'We’ve heard about your food’."

While working in a restaurant obviously differs from operating out of a food truck, Kwanghi has learned a lot from the experience:

"You can really get in touch with the customers, they can see you cooking the food and I just think that’s the way to go forward. You can bring flavours and different styles of food to customers who don’t normally try it and change their mind about it," he added.

Kwanghi aspires to continue to grow his restaurant business and sauce brand in the future, as he explained: "We’re hoping to get back to normal but the food truck has saved us and we kept all our staff on, that’s the really good thing. It has also pushed our brand out in a different way than I thought it would have."

He added that he plans to re-open the restaurant in the coming weeks and bring the ‘bites’ concept from the food truck along with it.

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With so much uncertainty across the industry at the moment, it’s difficult to predict what food trends will continue, but it seems there could be potential for growth in the food truck scene in a post-pandemic world.

Kwanghi shared that while some vendors will likely go back to serving only in traditional dining settings, there is an opportunity to bring unique styles of cooking to new customers in different locations with food trucks.

"I don’t think many [food trucks] will stay around when restaurants reopen again but I do think there will be an extension for restaurants to bring their brand to a different market and to bring their businesses to younger people and to festivals with different concepts."

"There are some really good food trucks out there and everyone is really interested in food these days. It’s a huge thing and I definitely think it’s going to continue to grow."

- Written by Hannah Moran

7UP Free are proud partners of the Battle of the Food Trucks exclusively on RTÉ Player. Friends, food and 7UP Free. Clearly Great Moments. Clearly 7UP Free.

Don't forget to join host James Patrice each week as things heat up in the battle to crown Ireland's best food truck. Watch it here now on RTÉ Player.