In an economy where it’s tough to launch a small business, reality TV is there to help. In its early seasons, Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” went to existing operations for its contestants, making it a competition among those who already had a level of success.
Last season, the show changed the ingredients, and the new recipe worked out so well that the producers decided to turn to it again in the new season, premiering Sunday, Aug. 18, on Food Network.
Chef Tyler Florence returns as host, as eight teams of cooks are sent on a 4,181-mile road trip from Hollywood to Washington, D.C., to serve customers and for the winning team to prove it has what it takes to win the food truck — already constructed with a concept and menu developed by Florence, the producers and the contestants — and a $50,000 nest egg to start a business.
This year’s trucks are Aloha Plate (Los Angeles and Hawaii), Boardwalk Breakfast Empire (Sea Bright, N.J.), Bowled and Beautiful (Los Angeles), Frankfootas (New York), Murphy’s Spud Truck (Los Angeles), Philly’s Finest Sambonis (Philadelphia), The Slide Show (Los Angeles) and Tikka Tikka Taco (St. Louis).
In the first challenge, the teams go to Beverly Hills, Calif., to sell a singular signature dish for at least $20 a serving. Then they head to San Francisco to sell their own choice of a signature dish.
Future guests include Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former football coach Mike Ditka.
“We’re putting people in business,” Florence tells Zap2it. “At the end of the day, I only want to work on shows where I’m making a difference in people’s lives.”
But not just anybody can apply.
“They all send us a sizzle reel,” says Florence, “a demo tape of themselves, and we’ll take a look at that. Do they have a good story? Do they have culinary chops? Can they actually cook? What’s their concept all about?
“Then we work with them and come up with a good logo. We basically skin a truck for them, which is the launch of your brand, in a sense. Then we vet the whole process. We want to give a food truck away to the team that has the highest likelihood of succeeding.
“We’re creating little celebrities, too, and I love that. I love the idea of turning the lights on for people. So you create these situations. It’s entertaining to watch on television, because it’s competition reality. People love that kind of thing.
“But at the end of it, it’s not just a show that is for the sake of the glory [of winning], there’s a real, physical, life-changing prize at the end of it.”