Two years after his Uptown Westerville pizza shop burned down, Mike Evans was looking to get back into the restaurant business.
This time, however, the food-truck craze appealed to him.
“I just missed being around the kitchen, and I missed the customers a lot. I’d be out at church or at the grocery store, and people would ask, ‘When are you going to reopen?’ ” said Evans, who owned Michael’s Pizza on East College Avenue for nearly five years.
“I thought the truck would be a neat way to control the hours and have the flexibility.”
Evans said he began scouring Internet classifieds for used food trucks. Unsuccessful in his search locally, he began branching out to search cities across the country.
That’s when an advertisement on Los Angeles’ Craig’s List caught Evans’ eye: The Food Network was looking for participants for its third season of The Great Food Truck Race.
The winner of the show would be awarded a food truck.
“I thought, ‘Shoot, I’ve got to take a chance on that. It’s a free food truck,’ ” Evans said. “I didn’t ever expect to hear back.”
But something about Evans’ story caught the attention of Food Network producers.
“The next thing I know, I was at an audition in L.A.,” Evans said.
Evans was selected for the show, which will air its first episode of the season Sunday, Aug. 19.
Evans took with him long-time friends Pat Snyder and Carlo Borgia. Together the three formed the “Pizza Mike’s” team.
Those watching the show shouldn’t expect to see Evans’ signature pizzas, which won him accolades in pizza competitions in the United States and Italy.
“You bake, you bake pizza, and there was no pizza oven. There was no oven of any kind, so we just had to learn on the fly and improvise,” Evans said. “The trucks had a flat-top grill on them, and a fryer – that was it.”
Evans isn’t permitted to talk too much about the show in advance of its airing, but he was able to give insight into the first episode, which was shot on Hollywood Boulevard.
“It’s crazy out there. We were out there in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and they have all of the impersonators out there,” Evans said. “It was a riot. That area’s packed.”
From there, the food trucks visited a different city each week, competing their way to the East Coast.
“The trucks caravan across the country from city to city, so it’s pretty cool,” Evans said. “I’d like to have done it about 30 years ago. Most of the other cast members, the other teams, were in their 20s. We’re up in our 50s; we were the ‘Rolling Grandpas,’ Pat (Snyder) called us.”
Evans said he loved the trip, but for more information than that, Pizza Mike’s fans will have to watch the show.
“It was pretty physical. It was long days – 12 to 15 hour days – but it was fun. I wouldn’t trade it. We met a lot of great people,” Evans said. “Tune in Aug. 19; it will be good for a laugh if nothing else.”
Following the show, Columbus can expect to see more of Pizza Mike’s, Evans said.
“It won’t be too long before people see us back in business,” Evans said. “Probably right around when the show is done airing, people will be seeing and hearing from us again, so I’m excited about that.”