Team Lunch Ladies, led by West Tisbury School chef Jenny DeVivo, is off to a strong start in the 12th season of The Great Food Truck Race, which premiered Thursday on the Food Network.

Creating meals in a food truck that looks like a school bus, the Martha’s Vineyard team of Ms. DeVivo, Nisa Webster and Eli Carroll emerged victorious at the end of the fast-paced first episode, set in Burbank, Santa Monica and Los Angeles, Calif.

“We crushed the sales in L.A., giving us the gold,” Ms. DeVivo told the Gazette Friday.

Hosted by celebrity chef Tyler Florence, the road-tripping reality contest pits three-member cooking teams against one another to see which can make the best-tasting dishes and sell the most food from their trucks in cities along the route.

One by one, the lowest-performing teams are eliminated until one remains to take the contest’s $50,000 prize.

Jenny DeVivo at the West Tisbury School, where each day she creates meals for the school kids. — Maria Thibodeau

The season was filmed last summer, with participants sworn to secrecy.

The current season’s first episode, titled First-Class Food Fight, introduces the seven teams to the audience and—in a dramatic unveiling at an airplane hangar in Burbank—presents them with the trucks they’ll be cooking in.

“Seeing our food truck for the first time was like opening your favorite birthday present,” Ms. DeVivo said Friday. “It totally took us by surprise. . . I never imagined that they would create a school bus as a food truck.”

Challenged to create an hors d’oeuvre worthy of serving on a private jet, Team Lunch Ladies earned high praise and a handshake from Mr. Florence for their bruschetta made with rosemary garlic seared flank steak, arugula and goat cheese with a citrus vinaigrette.

But it was their sales that put the Vineyard team on top at the end of the episode. Whether parked on the Santa Monica beach or outside a Los Angeles concert hall, Team Lunch Ladies found appreciative customers for beef kofta wraps, chicken shawarma wraps, falafel wraps and hand-cut fries with aioli.

“That magical school bus not only blew our socks off, but was a magnet for the most wonderful people — children, teachers, lunch ladies, educators, students, moms, families,” Ms. DeVivo told the Gazette.

While Ms. Webster and Mr. Carroll worked inside the food truck, Ms. DeVivo was the team’s barker and evangelist on the pavement.

“They knew that I was a little bit larger than life and wasn’t afraid of hustling and sharing the story of the food, because that’s what we do at the school,” she said.

While Ms. DeVivo tells customers, “We’re making school lunch not only healthy, but delicious,” one of the cooks on the meat-oriented Team Fat Boy chortles “We’re gonna clog arteries today!”

Other competitors Team Lunch Ladies will meet again on episode two include a soul food team, a trio of Latinas serving traditional Mexican food and an Indian food team whose “secret weapon” is a snarky drag queen named Mystikka.

This season of The Great Food Truck Race was filmed last summer, with participants sworn to secrecy. Ms. DeVivo said her team made fast friends with their competitors, joining them for a virtual viewing party online on Thursday night.

The second episode, March 26 at 9 p.m., takes the competition to San Diego.

Meanwhile, back on the Vineyard, Ms. DeVivo and Ms. Webster are back in the West Tisbury School kitchen under circumstances they could never have foreseen, making box lunches for Island children while schools are closed.

“Nisa and I have opened the kitchen and have been feeding hundreds and hundreds of kids on the Island,” Ms. DeVivo said.

Ms. DeVivo said they are serving both students from the Chilmark and West Tisbury schools. 

“It has been an enormous challenge, to say the least, but we are so fortunate to be able to share not only our love of food but the ability to feed these families who might not necessarily have food on their tables,” she said.

The West Tisbury School is serving drive-by lunch pickup Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., for all children under the age of 18 (Tisbury School, Edgartown School, Oak Bluffs School and the Regional High School are doing the same). There is a link on the school homepage at to order food but anyone can show up without ordering beforehand.