Sugar Vermonte – David Gedert’s drag alter ego – wasn’t planning on going so big so soon with his new venture, named “Maybe cheese was born with it.” The first mac and cheese food truck owned by a Midwestern drag queen, the business started as a pop-up concept in Toledo last summer for three months. Sugar and his team were just getting their feet wet and just getting started, and then the opportunity presented itself.
“I’m over everything food truck groups on Facebookand someone kept posting these links, “Apply for The Great Food Truck Race,’” she said. “And one evening I clicked on the link and everything started rolling like a snowball from there.”
The snowball eventually led to Maybe Cheese Born with It being one of nine trucks participating in the new season of The Great Food Truck Race, which begins airing Sunday, June 5 at 9 p.m. on Food Network. Hosted by chef Tyler Florence, the show sees teams work to complete challenges and stay in the race, with the last remaining truck winning $50,000.
“I’m just learning in front of these TV cameras,” Sugar said. “We were against teams with…decades of experience and awards, and we’re the little macaroni and cheese truck that could. We were really learning in front of everyone, so everything was a surprise.
Obsessed with cheese
Perhaps Cheese Born with It is just the latest stop for Vermonte, who entertained Toledo audiences for nearly 20 years as a drag performer. Before launching the food truck, she had worked for seven years at the Autism Model School in Toledo.
“When the ‘Rona came, we had this long break. And when we came back, like a lot of Americans I think, I kinda looked around and realized I really couldn’t. doing this job for this amount of money, even though I like it. So it was time to branch out, and that’s mac and cheese,” Sugar said.
Choosing a signature dish for his new venture was obvious to Sugar. “I’ve been obsessed with cheese all my life to an unhealthy degree, as you can tell from my thickness,” she laughed. “To me, mac and cheese is love. It’s the ultimate comfort food. My mom, whenever we did family gatherings or whatever, she always brought these giant things from his homemade mac and cheese, and people were ranting and raving.
To help him with the new venture, Vermonte reached out to his friend Keith Logue, whose job title is described by Sugar as “somewhere between personal assistant and vice president.” Logue, which appears on The Great Food Truck Race alongside Sugar, is an indispensable right-hand man in the operation.
“I’ve known Sugar for probably the better part of ten years, and I’ve worked with her at several gay bars in Toledo and as a bartender while she did her shows,” Keith said. “And we’re such good friends, basically, when she needed help, I’m like a jack-of-all-trades, so she just came to ask me.”
“He’s been my rock through all the craziness of filming and everything,” Sugar said. “This man, let me tell you, he was kind of my first choice because I’ve seen him throw glasses at a dollar party, and I’ve never seen anyone move faster or work harder, so it was a natural fit.”
A gigantic opportunity
Filming for the series began in March in California. Even for a seasoned performer like Vermonte, the pressure was on when the cameras were rolling, especially with a company she still had relatively little experience in.
“Doing drag for so long here in Toledo definitely prepared me to be ‘on’ and to be bright and ready for the cameras at all times, but beyond that it was just intense focus. Because I knew that The Great Food Truck Race is such a gigantic opportunity, I wanted to make sure I made the most of every minute.
“It was a lot of pressure, but I’m really proud that we bonded and stayed super focused, and it was a great experience.”
“Honestly, I’ve never worked so hard in my entire life,” Keith said. “We were working crazy hours every day, and just the motivation and the drive to keep going and having that stamina every day, and wanting to be successful – I think that was pretty amazing.”
“And let me tell you, honey, poverty is a big motivator,” Sugar added with a laugh. “We were too broke to fail!”
Sky is the limit
The couple also said they learned a lot of wisdom from conversations, both on and off camera, with host Tyler Florence. “He is absolutely the industry expert when it comes to food trucks, restaurants and construction companies. And the advice he gave us was truly invaluable,” Sugar said.
“I learned so much, so quickly about everything – about cooking, and about running a food truck, and about running and owning a business, and marketing – we learned so much, so quickly during this show, and now we’re just applying that here in Toledo.
Back home, Maybe Cheese Born with It began preparing for her new year of service. The team will be one of the participating food trucks at the Old West End Festival on June 3, 4 and 5, the same weekend The Great Food Truck RaceThe season premiere will air. Naturally, Sugar is tight-lipped about how she and her team fared in the competition, but win or lose, she said the sky was the limit from here.
“Oh honey, all I want is that!” All I want is the whole world! One of my main goals was to start a business and hopefully cross my fingers, build an empire. I have this concept that Tyler Florence called “scalable and very intelligent”. And what Chipotle did for the burrito, I want to do for the mac and cheese.