Knoxville's food truck community, recently nonexistent, is gaining popularity – enough to catch the attention of the Food Network television show "Eat St."
With its roots in Canada, the show features food trucks from cities across North America.
"It's sort of overwhelming that they found about us," said Kiki Sambat, co-owner of Savory and Sweet, one of two Knoxville trucks to be featured in the fifth season of "Eat St."
Sambat and her husband, Byron, opened a bakery in 2011, but by 2012 they had decided to include more than sweet treats on their menu. With the acquisition of a van in March 2012, the two took to the streets of Knoxville.
The addition of entrees allowed the Sambats to incorporate more local produce, meat and dairy. Everything they produce is made from scratch.
"We saw how much food farmers at farmers' markets had left over at the end of the day," Sambat said, "and we wanted to try and show the people of Knoxville that local food and how wonderful it is."
Using local and seasonal foods is a trend in the food world right now. Chefs have recognized the quality of fresh ingredients, and the Sambats work to use only the latest harvest or produce they preserved while it was in season.
The "Hot Knox" is a twist on the "Hot Brown," an entree made popular by the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky.
Sliced tomatoes top the classic, but Savory and Sweet made tomato jam to use on their sandwiches after the season ends.
"The jam is beautiful, bright red and tasty," Sambat said.
Savory and Sweet focuses on the best ingredients, while "Eat St." accumulates the best food trucks for each season.
Keero Birla, the show's director, said, "Researchers scour the blogosphere to see what's hot.
"They found them," Birla said, "and we realized they were the real deal."
The process of production started less than a month ago. Birla's team asked Savory and Sweet to come up with a pitch for the producers. The presented dishes convinced Birla that a trip to Tennessee was necessary.
"It's the first time we're in Knoxville," Birla said, "and this is a beautiful town."
With the truck parked on Market Street in downtown, the production team recorded both Byron and Kiki while they prepared entrees. The menu consisted of pumpkin ravioli, BBQ whiskey burgers, the "Hot Knox" and deep-fried cheesecake.
"This is a great truck because they do really high-end foods off a food truck," Birla said.
The pumpkin ravioli sauce overflowed with the savory flavors of oyster mushrooms, sage and garlic. Stewed apples with cinnamon accompanied the fried cheesecake, holding up the sweet end of the palate.
However, Knoxville is currently working towards an agreement on the regulations for food trucks. Some claim they reduce the business restaurants are able to attain, but others disagree.
"Food trucks fill a niche," Martha Kern, frequent customer of Savory and Sweet said. "They're easy, quick and way better than drive-thru fast food."
Despite the limitations on daily operations, food trucks can be found at farmers' markets and other large events. Savory and Sweet serves lunch and dinner from different locations, and they keep their audience updated with social media.
Another aspect of the business is their new "moveable feast" supper club, where they will pick different dining areas and offer a multi-course meal.
Still, Savory and Sweet looks to the future with high hopes, and with an upcoming segment on a national network show, they have every reason to be optimistic.
"A lot of people in our own town don't know we exist," Sambat said. "So the possibility of reaching new audiences is really exciting."