The Great Food Truck Race Recap: Trucking Ain’t Easy

Last year’s Great American Food Truck Race was a short-run reality series that tapped into the growing popularity of food trucks in America. One year later, the series now returns with more trucks and more wrinkles. Oh, and they’ll now be competing for $100,000 instead of last year’s prize purse of $50,000.

Tyler Florence, who is the definition of neutral returns as the host. I like Tyler, and always enjoyed his Tyler’s Ultimate show for not having a lot of bells and whistles.One of the first shows on Food Network shot in HD it’s just him in a kitchen making simple American food. That being said, “his staff has no color”.

Eight trucks appear this season, running the entire spectrum of cuisines and geographic locales. They all have one thing in common, they describe themselves as “gourmet”. There is also an incredible California slant to this collection of competitors with 5 of the 8 trucks calling California home.

Roxy’s Grilled Cheese – The Boston Bros epitomize virtually every Boston stereotype making them perfect foils for the rest of the trucks.

Sea-birds – The ladies of Seabirds serve up vegan cuisine which will definitely separate them from other trucks, but one wonders if they’ll have trouble appealing to some consumer groups and if ingredient challenges will ever trip them up.

Hodge Podge – This food truck out of Cleveland, run by a guy, his girlfriend and his sister serves up all manner of eclectic cuisines, but namely comfort foods.

Lime Truck – The green headband boys from California are a completely ingredient driven truck and don’t keep to a static menu. While that certainly will give them diversity in the challenges and help them adapt to new regions of the country, creative blocks could be a danger.

Sky’s Gourmet Tacos – Not your average taco truck, serving up Mexican delights with a “splash of soul food”.

Cafe Con Leche – Serving up Cuban cuisine led by their Cuban coffee which they use to lure in potential customers.

Devilicious – Nothing more straight forward than down home comfort food from this group from San Diego.

Korilla BBQ– Korean BBQ truck from New York City, its owners seem to be channeling a young Beastie Boys with their dress and slang. That or they might just be like most of the other hipsters you find in NYC.

With the trucks all introduced and Tyler handing out just $500 each in seed money for the first leg; the trucks head off to Las Vegas. Maria from Cafe Con Leche is supremely excited. On the way we learn several interesting things. Lime Truck and Korilla BBQ both call ahead to food trucks that they know in Vegas and get themselves a partnership going. Seabirds and Lime Truck form the first alliance of the contest and most of the other trucks make similar plans to try and get meet-ups or events going that they can take advantage of.

One thing is abundantly clear though apparently “the strip” is not an option. Meanwhile, the Boston bros are just going to wing it, but it is fine because they’ll rock it out anyway. Sure, why not.

Our first tragedy strikes as Sky Taco breaks down and is out $185 for a new tire, having to spend some of their seed money, not mention being now hours behind the other trucks.

The rest of the teams arrive in Vegas and quickly go about acquiring ingredients and setting menus. This might be the most fascinating portion of the show – seeing where people go to get ingredients. Unfortunately we don’t get anything more than a quick montage of scenes before moving on. Most of the trucks have uneventful first stops and are selling food at a reasonable pace, while the Cuban truck is forced to drive around before finding a Latin festival.

Unsurprisingly, the Boston Bros are left with virtually no customers and are forced to quickly move, coming upon the same food truck meet-up that some of the other contestants have. The Boston Bros continue to stuggle and hitch their wagon to a random stranger with a different food truck who tells them of another meet-up the following day. Sounds like as solid a plan as “winging it”.

Sky Taco finally makes it into Vegas, but misses out on an exclusive opportunity they would have had to serve 1,500 students. With time and money short, it doesn’t look good and they take some time to think.

Day 2 brings the trucks back to most of the same spots they were before. Sky Taco decides to piggyback on Korilla Trucks’ spot which angers the boys from Queens who explain their displeasure. Or they were just free-style rapping, it is hard to tell.

A similar “turf war” breaks out when the Boston Bros roll into their secret meet-up only to find that Lime Truck is already there. Apparently showing up second at a random parking lot you’ve never been to before makes it YOUR SPOT. The maturity level in this exchange is amazingly low as the Boston Bros act like 12 year olds and park their truck right in front of Lime Truck, blocking them from view. Lime Truck retaliates with the maturity of a 14 year old by repeatedly telling the boys from Boston how much more money they have.

After failing to bring in the big bucks at the Thomas and Mack Centre (the stadium for UNLV basketball) Hodge Podge also rolls up onto the same food truck meet-up. One wonders if the producers do any behind the scenes work to try and get the trucks to the same place. Wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

The selling frenzy continues before finally Tyler reminds everyone that he’s on the show too. He calls each of the trucks to introduce “the speed bump” which is this year’s additional wrinkle. The speed bump will be some sort of extra variable thrown at the drivers throughout the competition that will cause them to rethink everything from “their menu to their pricing”. This week’s speed bump takes the form of a “wheel of misfortune” which when spun will insert any number of monkey wrenches into the works. Reading the outcomes on the wheel has led us to rename it the WHEEL OF DOOM. Results include being towed, not being able to make change, or having two tires slashed!

With that Tyler embraces the dark side of hosting and spins the wheel reveling in the chaos that is to come. The wheel stops, indicating that all the trucks are out of propane and must now finish the competition without it. A few of the trucks scramble and procure grill space from other trucks or vendors while some others simply resort to using electric griddles or butane. The Seabirds are the least affected given that they “have a raw chef on board”. Lucky them.

With a frenzy of discounting and promotions like “free kiss with purchase of taco” the competition ends and the food trucks return to find out who is making the lonely ride home. With over $3,000 Lime Truck dominates the first competition, followed by Korilla truck and Hodgepodge. Seabirds does a respectable fourth followed by Devilicious who I’m not even sure competed. After the introductions they were never seen from again until this point in the show.

The Cuban coffee proves to be a winning strategy for Cafe Con Leche who avoids elimination, bringing the contest down to the Boston Bros and their grilled cheese, versus the perpetually cursed Sky Taco who has been behind the eight ball since jump street. The blown tire proves to be their undoing and Sky Taco is sent off as the first casualty.

Next up is Salt Lake City, where surprise surprise the vegan girls will have to work with meat and complain the whole time. Lime Truck and the Boston Bros shift their feud into overdrive and hopefully Devilicious actually gets some screen time. Also, I hope the Wheel of Doom returns. I know they will probably tailor the Speed Bump to each region, but seriously the Wheel of Doom was fantastic. I want one so I can make Jesse have to deal with ridiculous challenges when writing up posts.