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The Modular Trailer v. Guest Chef: Throwing It Down at Grand Prize Bar

Kim Chi Wings by Team Les Sauvages' Chef Justin Basye. Six wings for $6, or 12 wings for $10
Kim Chi Wings by Team Les Sauvages' Chef Justin Basye. Six wings for $6, or 12 wings for $10
Photos by Mai Pham

Despite the growing number of "gourmet"-type food trucks in Houston, the fact that I follow most of them on Twitter, and the many crave-worthy Facebook posts by friends, I haven't really been inclined to chase down food trucks in Houston.

I think it's partly because of the heat. Do I really want to be standing in the heat waiting for food and then scarf it down on a sidewalk? It seems like it would be fun in theory, and in Southern California, it's not an issue, but when the heat index is 108 outside and I feel like I'm melting by walking just a few steps to my car, I'm not jumping at the bit to get in my car so I can chase down a food truck. Sorry.

The past several Wednesdays, however, there has been one truck whose tweets finally got me behind a wheel. The Modular Trailer, also known as the shiny tin can and brainchild of Joshua Martinez, former GM at Kata Robata, has taken things out of the truck and into the kitchen with offerings of chicken wings, ramen, more chicken wings, and this week, macaroni and cheese. I know this because I have been following their tweets and it's precisely because of said tweets that I found myself on the road to Grand Prize Bar last Wednesday night.

The kitchen area was full in front and behind the counter!
The kitchen area was full in front and behind the counter!

You see, it's not just chicken wings, ramen and macaroni and cheese that they're offering. It's a chance to actually exchange words and see the chefs in action. Martinez has been getting local guest chefs to come in for an informal cooking throw-down, and I came as much to see the chefs and the outcome as I did to try the food.

Would it be the underdog shiny tin can's offerings or the offerings of the star guest chef that would reign supreme?

Katharine Shilcutt wrote about The Modular's attempts to compete with Chef Jason Hauck's handmade foie gras ramen noodles topped with shaved Perigord truffles last week. I was there that night as well, but came late, so everything was sold out. "Who won tonight?" I asked Martinez, who shook his head in mock self-disgust. "[Chef Hauck] didn't play fair. We can't compete with truffles," he said.

Chef Lyle Bento from the Modular vs. Chef Justin Basye of Les Sauvages
Chef Lyle Bento from the Modular vs. Chef Justin Basye of Les Sauvages

This past week, knowing that there would be a chicken wing face-off between The Modular and Chef Justin Basye of Les Sauvages, I made a point of arriving well before 10 p.m. Even then, I was faced with a sold-out situation, my order slightly delayed while Martinez made an emergency grocery store run after selling out of 50 pounds by 9:30 p.m.

The delay may also have been in part because I ordered too much. I was greedy, ordering five orders of wings all to myself: Kim Chi, Kung Pao, XO sauces from Les Sauvages, and Chicken and Waffles and Pok Pok fish sauce flavors from The Modular.

"How does this competition work?" I asked Basye.

"It's nothing formal, just whoever sells the most at this point," he replied.

"And who's ahead right now?" I asked.

"We are," he said with a somewhat mischievous, self-satisfied smile.

Chicken and waffles by The Modular. Ground gluten-free waffles and honey coated these wings, my fave of the night
Chicken and waffles by The Modular. Ground gluten-free waffles and honey coated these wings, my fave of the night

This Wednesday night, The Modular will once again be in the Grand Prize Bar kitchen and the dish du jour will be macaroni and cheese. According to a recent tweet: "MAC and CHEESE Beat Down Wednesday 8pm @GrandPrizeBar with Mark of Bootsies vs @themodular . working on this today we will not lose this one."

The gauntlet has been thrown and I can't wait for the showdown. May the best team win.



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