Popular chef, known for 'Taco Bus,' injured in food truck blast

- The chef who helped start Taco Bus and Tampa's food truck craze is still recovering after an explosion back on March 10 left him severely burned. 

Chef Rene Valenzuela showed Taco Bus to the world on TV shows like "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," "Man Versus Food," and "Street Eats." Many independent food trucks would follow. 

"Before there was a food truck scene in Tampa, there was Rene and he made Taco Bus into this empire," offered longtime friend Jeff Houck. 

Rene is no longer with Taco Bus and was beginning a new business called Rene's Mexican Kitchen. He recently showed of the new food trailer on Facebook

But when he lit the pilot light inside the trailer, there was an explosion. 

"It burned his face, his arms -- from the sleeves down -- and his legs," said Houck.  

Houck says Rene is in quarantine in a Bradenton hospital after receiving a series of skin grafts. But he says the chef is still planning his new menu. 

“This is about a man rebuilding his life through that food and I don't think there’s a more powerful story," continued Houck. 

Rene has several children and medical bills are mounting. Houck says Rene's sister set up a GoFundme page.

Up Next:


Up Next

  • Popular chef, known for 'Taco Bus,' injured in food truck blast
  • From war to whiskey, former Green Berets will open St. Pete distillery
  • Florida Poly hopes to change future of transportation with new research center
  • Tampa's flood control canal gets 50-year checkup
  • Power outage reported at Busch Gardens
  • Fan Fest fires up lightning faithful
  • Port Tampa Bay sets passenger record
  • Pinellas man arrested for wrong-way DUI
  • Deputies: Bicyclist killed in hit-and-run in Brandon
  • Missing Hernando man found