I've long had a bit of a schoolgirl crush on Tyler Florence. His intensity about cooking and engaging narrative always make me want to whip up any of his "ultimate" dishes. (In fact, I've done just that several times—always to great success.) Though his past shows have all been cooking-related, Tyler's newest Food Network project is called The Great Food Truck Race. It follows seven top-notch food trucks as they race across the country, cooking all the way. I chatted with Tyler about the new show, which premieres on Sunday, August 15, his three new restaurants and more.
You opened your first restaurant, Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco, in June. How are things going? I love my restaurant. I really love my restaurant. We've been working on it for about a year and a half. We're excited about the space [which used to house the reputable Rubicon restaurant]. You can't top a great restaurant like Rubicon, you have to do something completely different. So, we decided to do a hybrid of a lot of different ideas—but basically this is an old style restaurant. We're not trying to be French or Italian. We're just trying to be this great American restaurant.
You have some other restaurant plans in the works, correct? We're doing two more restaurants this year. El Paseo in Mill Valley is going to be an old American restaurant as well. Then in Napa, we have a restaurant right next to Morimoto Napa—it's called Rotisserie and Wine, and will be the most casual of all the places.
Why all the Northern California love? You know, I've always loved the region. Shooting for the Food Network, I was in San Francisco a few times a year just to film, and I also have friends here and connection with the wine community—I just love it here. My wife and I have been in New York for a really long time and we wanted something different, new experiences. I love New York but there's something about California. I have a deep connection with food, and here it's about this refinement of my food and the connection with farmers and unbelievable products. Basically we came out on vacation one time and never went back.
Tell me a little bit about the concept of your new Food Network show, The Great Food Truck Race. It's a phenomenal show. We've been working on it since February. It's the best food trucks in the country in a race across the country. Basically it's a dash to the next city, and in the next city there's a 72-hour competition where everyone's given the same amount of money to start [their truck business from scratch]. It's a game of survival, and a business competition—whoever makes the most money in each city wins.
Were you impressed by what the chefs in these trucks were able to accomplish with such limited resources? I was blown away in every city because since it's a reality show and it's totally unscripted, I was surprised by who won every week. The results were up and down because sometimes people can't figure out the new city's clientele, or the new ingredients. It's amazing to watch these people work because we're watching them do what they do best—producing simple, delicious food.
So you've lived in New York City for a long time. How would NYC truck vendors stack up against the trucks featured on the show? We'll see how that plays out in season two! There's a lot of great cities and great food trucks, so that's why we made this show easily extendable into more seasons.
Tune in on Sunday, August 15th at 10 p.m. ET for the premiere of The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network.