Great American Food Truck Race III Recap: Humble Beginnings

A new season of the Great American Food Truck Race kicks off, and Tyler Florence is back on the case, Top Gun shades and all. One of our favorite cooking contest shows returns, but in year three they’re switching up the formula.  This year, all the contestants are newbies. None of them own food trucks, or have ever operated, cooked-in or even driven one. (Don’t you need a commercial license to drive these? What are the chances these teams all passed the commercial test on the first try…5%?)

The prize this year is not only a chunk of change ($50k), but also the food truck of their dreams. I’m really hoping Xzibit shows up and we get a “Pimp My Ride” episode in the finale, complete with a trip to West Coast Customs.

For those new to the show, here’s how it works. Each week the teams compete in a new city, serving food to the locals. Aside from planning menus and cooking food, the teams have to scout locations and try to drum up customers however they can. Along the way there are side challenges. In the end, the lowest earning team goes home.

As the Race starts in Cali, Tyler informs us that the winning team gets to keep the truck they are being lent for the show (Goodbye Xzibit!).While the teams lack experience, Tyler assures us that they all have “a concept…and mad skills.”  Speaking of concepts, here’s a breakdown of our teams:

Pizza Mike’s Italian Street Food: Three friends with tons of experience. They’re not quite the stereotype pizza guys, but they’re close enough. The black fedoras help though.

Momma’s Grizzly Grub: A mom, daughter and best friend trio making comfort food from Alaska. The mom is a Race super-fan, which is always an interesting wrinkle when competition shows like this reach later seasons.

Pop-A-Waffle: Balding buddies making waffles and sporting captivating facial hair (old timey twirling mustache) and Kangos. They may not be Wafels and Dinges, but they’ve got style.

Barbie Babes: Hayley, Jasmine and Skye. Three Aussie girls who started a bbq catering company as a way to try and stay in the United States. When strapped for cash on a Visa, most people probably start filling out retail applications. These ladies kind of went the other way on that.

Under the Crust: Another mother daughter combo, this time bringing along the “culinary school buddy” on their sweet and savory pie adventure. The daughter, Hannah, lost her fiancee to illness, giving the pie mavens more motivation than most.

Coast of Atlanta: A trio of trained chefs from Atlanta (does the ATL have a coastline?) bringing seafood and southern comfort to food trucks. They seem determined to remind us that the South has a “whole lot of flavor”.

Seoul Sausage: Korean sausage and burgers, from a pair of brothers and their best friend. This is the “our parents aren’t totally cool with our career choice but we’re all in on making this work” team. Sausage or bust

Nonna’s Kitchenette: Three girlfriends from Jersey, can I please stop here? Oh wait, they make meatballs as big as their attitude, don’t want to forget that.

So there we have it, eight pretty distinct teams. A little overlap in the Italian concept between the Fedora Friends and the Jersey Girls, but there are plenty of unique teams that should make for great competition.

The teams arrive and rush up to hug/touch Tyler inappropriately. He explains the rules and all the teams promise that they won’t be going home. After explaining the prizes, Tyler unveils the loaner trucks, which are hidden behind a lighthouse (don’t ask).

The teams get their trucks and all have nervous breakdowns, these trucks rock. Along with the trucks, the teams also get matching cars to drive along with them, but some teams get SUVs and other teams get what look like old Crown Victoria cop cars. How did Food Network make that decision? Also, they all drove up in other cars, what happens to those? Are they going to stay in California for the duration of the show? So many questions…

While people inspect their trucks, the Aussie girls notice that they don’t have any training on this truck and that this might be “really hard”. I’m in love with the Aussie Girls accents, please have them narrate all the shows.

Once the teams calm down, Tyler drops a bit of a bombshell. The trucks are all empty and the teams have to do their own shopping, for both equipment and ingredients. They’re only given $1,500. Oh, and they have to do their first challenge in LA, the west coast food truck capital.

We get a montage of teams looking for groceries and equipment, complete with a Jersey Girl exclaiming “I’ve never bought so much food in my life!” and one of the Aussie Girls saying, “Some fat fries with red desert dust.”

We get our first competition moment when the Atlanta trio refuses to share the list of health code required equipment with the pie mavens. The game is afoot!

With the teams stocked up, the cooking is underway. Seoul Sausage heads to Korea town because “Korean people love to eat, they love to drink.” Meanwhile the Aussie Girls are over budget (I’ll donate to their cause!) and the pie mavens can’t find a place to park.

The Fedora friends get cooking and send out crazy dancing Carlo to corral customers. Somehow his walk down the street yelling “you wanna eat? We got some good food” routine works.

Bobaloo (the mustachioed one) is rocking the waffle iron, while both the pie mavens and Aussie girls are stuck having to prep all night and put all their faith in day 2.

Sunday brings bad luck at the beach for the Atlanta seafood trio. Meanwhile the Jersey Girls are fretting over turning out grandma’s recipes in large quantities.

Pop-a-Waffle is courting the kid vote, but the problems continue for the Aussie Girls whose pilot light is out, preventing them from grilling. I think I might cry.But fear not, another Aussie chef materializes out of thin air and fixes the pilot light. That man deserves a medal.

(What are the chances that Food Network rigged it so one pilot light would break to create drama? I mean, these are brand new food trucks, what gives?)

Tyler unleashes the first Speedbump of the season, a salesmanship showdown on Hollywood Boulevard, with all the trucks next to each other.

There’s some strange pricing going on, with the pie mavens pricing everything at $2 while the Jersey Girls have jacked the prices up because that’s what they think is fair.

After a commercial break which reminds us that Robert Irvine is basically the Oprah of the Food Network, Tyler is back to tell the teams that 7 of the 8 lost money on the first challenge. He pulls out a ledger (an actual accounting ledger, guess Food Network blew too much on the trucks to afford an iPad) and reveals that Seoul Sausage won the first challenge going away.

As the rest of the teams eek out passes, we are reminded that if you don’t appear on the episode, you were in the middle of the pack, as evidenced by the Alaskan trio that had 2 minutes of screen time and came in fourth.

The pie mavens and the Aussie girls are at the bottom, with the pie mavens being sent out after making just under $200. Tyler takes the keys to their truck, but not before announcing a $5,000 donation to the American Cancer Society in the name of Hannah’s fiancee.

With the Aussie girls safe for now, the teams head for Flagstaff Arizona where next week promises cactus, waffle related smack talk, and the Jersey comes out as the girls threaten to put someone’s head in the cement. If they’re talking about the Aussie girls I’m going to flip out.

Results: Week One
1 – Seoul Sausage (winner)
2 – Pizza Mike
3 – Nonna’s Kitchenette
4 – Momma’s Grizzly Grub
5 – Coast of Atlanta
6 – Pop-a-Waffle
7 – Barbie Babes
8 – Under the Crust (eliminated)

(all images courtesy of FoodNetwork.com)