Skratch Labs join US food truck frenzy
Biju Thomas cooking in the early morning hours of Tim Johnson's Ride on Washington (Jamie Kripke/Skratch Labs)
Dr. Allen Lim, a former consultant for both Garmin-Transitions and RadioShack professional road teams, along with Skratch Labs partner, and professional chef, Biju Thomas, have just launched the Skratch Labs mobile performance food trailer, which is supported by Nissan.
The first event for the new Skratch Labs food trailer: feed the 45 hungry athletes, and staff, participating in Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington, a five day, 500-mile advocacy ride from Boston, MA to Washington D.C. in support of Bikes Belong national bike advocacy efforts.
Lim and Thomas provided breakfast, ride food, dinner, and all of the recovery food for the entire ride; a feat that required the two be up at 3am and work through until 10pm. “We had a day where we didn’t have to get up until 4:30, and it was like, ‘sweet, 4:30,’ it’s definitely been a challenge,” Dr. Lim co-founder of Skratch Labs told BikeRadar.
Lim, like Johnson, and many long-time industry veterans see the bicycle as more than a tool for social change. That shared belief brought Lim and Thomas on board for the Ride on Washington. “I think Tim, Biju, and I share the same value of bicycles,” said Lim. “Not only do we love bicycles because they’re inspiring, and hard, and an amazing tool for competition — we also believe that the bicycle serves a greater good as a tool for transportation, social change, and basic physical activity. So after all these years of pro cycling, I’ve gotten more and more interested in the bicycle — not as a way to win — but as a way to make real change in the world.”
Skratch Labs hit the road, to cook
The culinary and nutritional duo just picked up the 20 foot long ‘carny style’ kitchen trailer in South Carolina, their plan: to travel the US cycling circuit providing mobile food for hire to all kinds of athletes, ranging from event participants to custom culinary support for professional teams’, and their specific events.
“We bought it in South Carolina, where they make this kind of stuff,” said Lim. “Nissan trucks were kind enough to give us a big V8 Titan, so we’re pulling this thing around with a big old Nissan and we’re going to be hitting different events to promote Skratch Labs, our exercise hydration mix [Secret Drink Mix], the new book [The Feed Zone Cookbook], and all things food and drink, as they relate to cycling and sports performance.”
Lim and Thomas working their new kitchen trailer
Though Lim has an almost iconic reputation among athletes — one that led Lance Armstrong himself to hire Lim away from Garmin when he came back with RadioShack — he is no longer working with a single pro road outfit. Currently Lim and Thomas are working full-time on Skratch Labs, though, Lim also maintains coaching/consulting relationships with a number of athletes. “I’m basically a free agent right now,” said Lim. “The idea [for the food trailer] basically stems from my experience working with the professional cycling teams, and that experience was that no matter what we tried to do in terms of getting them information and knowledge about nutrition, and their diets unless we actually showed them how to do it, and actually cook for them all of it goes to sh*t; that’s what the cookbook is all about and what the Secret Drink Mix is all about — real food, less crap.”
Lim and Thomas acknowledge that they’ve just turned onto a hard road. “We’re a start up company,” he said. “We’re really, really small. We’re financing this all on our own with what we can sell and what we can make; and we though how can we promote this concept and what we’re doing in a different way, and how do we service these athletes that I’m still working with?”
Lim's rice cakes have been a staple of his program since his days with Garmin-Transitions
That’s where the food trailer comes in. Lim says that for most athletes things go awry when they hit the road and start eating at restaurants. So his solution is to show them that ‘performance’ eating is relatively easy to do, should they find its reasons compelling enough; and like with the pros Lim worked with on the teams, he figured that the easiest way is to show them. And he sees it as a natural marketing venue.
“Rather than just another tent at an expo, we can draw a crowd by offering people with great nutritious food at these events, rather than having them go to the Denny’s,” said Lim.
“The bigger thing though, is that Skratch Labs is about innovation and education. We’re super interested in better ways to take care of athletes. It’s about creating a culture that looks at sports nutrition in a different way. Instead of micro and macro elements and chemicals, and trying to push the new hot chemical or idea, it’s about getting back to our basic roots of eating real food, whole foods, and cooking from Skratch.”
Trial done, full season ahead
Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington finished up on 20 March and from there Lim and Thomas packed up their new food trailer and Titan for the 1,700 mile journey back to headquarters Boulder, CO. The duo has plans to use the weeklong experience of feeding 40 riders, to further kit the trailer, before they wrap it in logos: ‘Performance foods Skratch Labs driven by Nissan,’ and head for California. “Cooking for that many people, is a lot more than cooking for eight guys at the Tour of California,” he said. “It’s been a great experience, it’s been worth it, but for Biju and I it’s definitely been a challenge.”
Surviving 5 days working 3am to 10pm served a true trial by cooktop for Lim and Thomas
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After re-kitting the trailer, Skratch Labs will attend the Sea Otter Classic, where they will feed the Primal Wear/MapMyRide women’s road team and offer food for sale to the festivalgoers. From there it’s two weeks working exclusively for Levi Leipheimer, who, at that point, will be in his final preparations for the 2012 Amgen Tour of California. For those two weeks, Thomas will cook, and Lim will pilot a scooter to polish the riders' form.
“We’re giving these guys not only the nutrition, but the nourishment they need after these long events,” said Lim. “Nutrition is thinking that we’re smarter than nature; that there are X, Y, and Z compounds that we need to get back in the body after a hard event. Nourishment is thinking about the big picture, and thinking about the whole, and the person, whether or not they’re happy, whether or not they’re excited about the food, and thinking about whether or not they feel good after they eat the food we provide them.”
After their work with Leipheimer, Skratch Labs will hope to support a team in the Tour of California. “Anyone that’s interested can hire us out,” said Lim.
From there they’ll jump from event to event, including charity rides, bike races, triathlons, and marathons. You’ll see them at Colorado’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge and maybe an event near you. “We’re way beyond just racing,” said Lim, “and that feels good for me, where I am right now in my career, to be more socially responsible and to start to be an advocate for different causes.”
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