A chat with … ‘Great Food Truck Race’ host Tyler Florence
As you guys may know, I was a big fan of the first season of The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network. This series is a reality show dream: It combines the best parts of Top Chef and The Amazing Race by making food trucks compete with each other on a delicious, heated road trip.
This week I chatted with GFTR host Tyler Florence about Season 2, which kicks off Aug. 14 (Sunday). He offered some info about what to expect this time around, where the prize has been doubled and the journey takes the traveling chefs to new destinations.
Me: I’m excited that your show is coming back. I was a big fan of the first season.
Florence: I’m telling you, I just did voiceovers for the show and I don’t know what I like more: shooting the show, doing voiceovers and actually seeing the drama coming together or actually watching it on television like everybody else.
I know, I was hooked after 15 minutes. What do you think makes the series so compelling?
I think it’s the American dream of four wheels, to be completely honest with you. Back in 2008 when the economy started to take a downturn, restaurants were closing like crazy and disposable income was tightening up and chefs were out of work. So the new evolution of a lot of these very talented people practicing their craft … Instead of going after the old business model of raising a few million dollars for four walls, they said, “God, I could be in business myself for a couple grand and four wheels next weekend.”
So what it’s turning into is the new American answer to fast food, which I think is fantastic. Because, you know, these guys just got back from the farmer’s market. The food is absolutely fresh, and these people are genuinely sincere about what they make. Also, in every major metropolitan area there’s this food truck culture, which is fantastic.
That being said, the competitiveness about it … It’s really about eight teams doing what they have to do to make the most money. And it is cutthroat. The shenanigans this season are at an all-time high. There’s no rules to the show whatsoever, so anything goes, and it’s really thrilling to watch because you put yourself in that team situation.
How will Season 2 be different from the first?
It’s bigger. Last season we had seven trucks, this season we have eight. The grand prize last season was $50,000; this year it’s $100,000. Have you ever seen $100,000 in cash?
It weighs about 40 pounds. It’s heavy. So we had a couple security guards … we had $100,000 in cash in a briefcase.
Wow. And do you travel to new cities this time?
Yeah. We start out in Malibu and we went to Las Vegas after that … and then we go to Salt Lake City, which couldn’t be more opposite. (Laughs) From Salt Lake City we go to Denver, and (then) to this tiny little town called Manhattan, Kan. And then we went to Memphis, Atlanta … we wrapped it up in Miami. All this time Gaylord Security supported us.
Do you think the contestants learned from last season at all? The Nom Nom truck really set the precedent for what you’ve gotta do.
It was amazing on two different fronts: The teams watched the shows. Episode by episode, they knew exactly where the teams screwed up what they would do differently and what their strategy would be. And also when we went to a city — because it was such a successful first season — the crowds were epic. We would show up in a town and have lines around the block. Hundreds and hundreds of people. And then a hashtag started on Twitter — #greatfoodtruckrace — it went on for nine or 10 weeks. Every time we went to a new city, people would follow the hashtag and play this game of trying to find all the trucks.
The great thing about this … you know, on Top Chef you’re competing next to someone you’re standing next to and you’re watching what they’re making. These trucks have no clue what the other team is doing. They’re on the other side of town.
In terms of personality, it’s gonna be hard to beat the Grill ‘Em All guys, isn’t it? I kind of loved them.
We’ve got really good trucks this year. We’ve got one truck called Hodge Podge: It’s Chris Hodgson, he’s based out of Cleveland. He worked for Michael Symon and The Spotted Pig in New York, and the guy is a wicked cook. He’s also a little eccentric and kind of funny, and a little off the cuff and a little irreverent.
We’ve got another truck called The Lime Truck, and they’re based out of Orange County. These kids are unstoppable. The food this season is brilliant. To watch these guys cook, it’s like nothing else.
We’ve got really hard-working guys from Boston on a truck called Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, and these guys will stop at nothing to win. They’re just determined with really big hearts.
This year the personalities are just as big as last season. The food’s better, the money is bigger. Where Nom Nom last year were bringing in $3,000, $3,500 for the weekend, that’s the amount of money teams are getting eliminated for this season.
Find the entire interview at USA Today <here>