Carey Ofahengaue and Summer Prescott, along with Summer's daughter Autumn, established their Lehi-based company Lei Away in 2007 as a way to "promote the expansion of aloha" by selling flower leis and other Hawaiian products in the continental United States.
On Aug. 28, they'll undertake a different type of business as they compete for a $50,000 prize on Food Network's competition show "The Great Food Truck Race."
According to Food Network, six teams of families will compete for the grand prize in the upcoming seventh season of the show, but there's a twist — none of the teams have operated a food truck business before.
"We're actually lei vendors; we don't do food," Ofahengaue told the Deseret News. "Our first real venture with food and with the food truck was when we went on the show."
She explained the family's prior experience working on other reality projects sparked the network's interest in recruiting them for "The Great Food Truck Race."
Known during the race as the Lei-Away Leidies, Summer Prescott, who lives in Laie, Hawaii, explained they "decided to go with what’s trendy right now," for their menu. Main dishes include poke (pronounced POH-keh) bowls — a crawfish/tuna ceviche served over rice in a Hawaiian style — as well as teriyaki chicken, their specialty "Maui Wowie" and a variety of other dishes they refer to as "Hawaiian/Asian fusion." (A basic menu can be seen by searching for the company on Yelp.)
The Leidies will probably need to add a few new items to their repertoire to satisfy "Food Truck Race" host Tyler Florence. In each episode, teams are tasked with completing several unique (and sometimes unusual) cooking and sales-related tasks while journeying to set destinations across the country. According to Food Network, the seventh season will start in Los Angeles and finish on California's Catalina Island. At the end of each episode, the truck with the least amount of profits is eliminated.
Understandably, there are many challenges associated with operating a food truck for the first time.
"The cooking inside the truck, the heat, the little space wasn’t the greatest," Ofahengaue said. "I think all the other things were fun and anticipated, as far as the show and trying to find customers. I think we kind of figured that out, but I wasn’t prepared for the inside hot box that we had to deal with."
Summer Prescott agreed with her sister. "We had an advantage, as far as the stress factor because we already worked together pretty well, and so the (heat) element was something we (couldn't) really prepare for," she said.
Aside from the temperature, Autumn Prescott noted there were other complications imposed by the nature of the race.
"I think the biggest challenge with this competition was definitely having to map out popular locations in the areas that they asked us to be in," she said. "It was hard traveling in that big-sized truck ... and it was hard maneuvering in and out of different cities and traffic jams and keeping up with each other."
Despite the inherent difficulty of running a first-time food truck, the Lei-Away Leidies said the show allowed them to have many positive experiences and grow closer as a family.
"I’d have to say (the most fun aspect of the show was) all of us being together," Ofahengaue said. "We’re all family, so that was nice. There was no awkwardness, that’s for sure. I think how we treated each other on the show is how we treat each other in real life."
Summer Prescott said they were able to use the competition as a learning experience on a personal level.
"We definitely saw some different sides of ourselves that we were not prepared for, but most of all of it was positive," she said. "It was all a lot of fun. We are very proud of our performance, and we did our best."
Autumn Prescott described their time on the show as "a crazy family experience" and "an awesome opportunity."
"Hopefully (the producers) show us communicating afterwards if we get a little crazy with each other," she added. "There’s always going to be understanding and apologies and a loving, respectful thing going on. But … I definitely think I got closer with my aunt and my mom with this competition."
Ofahengaue hopes the popularity of programs like "The Great Food Truck Race" demonstrates what could have been a short-lived trend is turning into something more.
"Being in California and seeing the food truck capital of the world, downtown L.A., it’s a growing industry," she said.
She mentioned the continued success of another local food truck company, Provo-based Waffle Love, which took second place in the sixth season of "The Great Food Truck Race."
"We’re really able to see, throughout the nation, how popular these food trucks are becoming," Ofahengaue said. "I definitely think that food trucks are here to stay."
The seventh season of Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race" will premiere Sunday, Aug. 28.