As street food has become more and more popular across the U.S., it was only a matter of time before the Food Network caught wind and dedicated a show to it. This Sunday sees the premiere of the latest in a slew of food-competition shows sweeping cable: The Great Food Truck Race, hosted by Tyler Florence.
The premise is this: Seven food trucks race across the country with overnight stops in cities along the way. In each city, the trucks have to restock their kitchens and battle it out to make the most money in 48 hours. The truck to rake in the least must hit the road. So is it any good? We previewed the first episode.
The trucks hail from across the U.S., and their style of cuisine is wide ranging. Austin Daily Press makes hot pressed sandwiches in Texas and caters to an after-hours crowd. Similarly rough-and-tumble is Grill 'em All from Los Angeles, which serves up burgers and sides with a rock-and-roll theme. Bringing some serious banh mi, the Nom Nom Truck (which we profiled last year) from Los Angeles presents a real threat to the other trucks.
Crêpes Bonapartes bring a French theme to California, serving crêpes while decked out in suspenders and berets. Nana Queens, also from California, specializes in wings and banana pudding—10 varieties of it. Ragin' Cajun brings the flavors of New Orleans to California, featuring generations-old recipes. And Spencer on the Go, a high-end French bistro truck from San Francisco, tries to class things up with outdoor seating and plated food.
As you may notice, the vast majority of these trucks are from California. When asked, Food Network insiders told me that this choice primarily had to do with the trucks' proximity to the first competition city (San Diego). If the show is extended to another season, trucks from a more diverse geographic region will be highlighted.
There are a few fun things about this show. For one, there is no prolonged judging process. No official review of the food, or the means of selling the food (as long as everything's legal, I assume). If you make money, you stay in—if not, adios. I like this straightforward approach. It lets contestants focus on being innovative and entertaining food purveyors. After all, half the skill involved in owning a food truck is figuring out how to get people to the window in the first place.
Also, host Tyler Florence plays a minimal role on the show. Not that I don't love Tyler (believe me, I do), but it's nice to see the contestants highlighted on the show. Tyler only really makes appearances to introduce the challenge, and announce the winning and eliminated trucks.
I give this show a somewhat-wary recommendation. A few of the contestants seem like odd selections, and a couple probably should not be on television. But food trucks are a major part of the food scene, and to get a behind-the-scenes look at how they operate is exciting.
The Great Food Truck Race airs Sunday (August 15, 2010) at 10 p.m. ET. Check it out, and report back!