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Great Food Truck Race - Season 2
Updated with response to the finale at the bottom of the post.

The second season of The Great Food Truck Race started yesterday on Food Network. Heather and I enjoy quite a few food competition shows (like Top Chef and Chopped). We caught a couple episodes of Food Truck Race last season but it never really grabbed us. This season I made it a point to set up the DVR to record every episode. The food truck fad hits close to home for us as my dad started running an ice cream truck a few years back.

As the show kicked off, knowing what I know about the expenses my dad goes through maintaining a truck, I had to ask, is a chance at 100 grand worth the wear and tear on the truck? Most of these trucks look basically brand new. I would guess they are valued at at least 30 to 50 grand. The contestants are driving them all the way across the country. On top of that, the race started in Los Angeles and several trucks hailed from the east coast. Did they have to drive across the country only to drive back? This financial commitment has me seriously wondering just how much Food Network helps them out. Is it possible that the network purchased brand new trucks for each of them? Would they go that far? What about gas? Those trucks are definitely getting less than 10 miles per gallon. It's all very puzzling.

I'm sure Food Network also manages to get all of the local health permits for them too. What strings are they pulling to do that? Are there health inspections at every stop that they just don't televise? I know for a fact that here in upstate New York a food truck needs to have a different permit for every county they sell in. That's a lot of red tape for cross-country traveling trucks.

I hate to start out with so many rants, but also, why are all the trucks savory? The ice cream truck is the original food truck. Some sort of dessert should be represented. It would be really cool to see them compete for total sales against savory vehicles.

Other than that, I really think they got a pretty good mix of food and personality styles represented in the cast. It's kind of fun to see tacos against grilled cheese against korean against vegan. It makes it relatively easy to choose sides early on based on my own personal favorites (or annoyances).

So what annoys me? The vegans! I'm a strong supporter of a balanced diet. Every single meal sure as heck shouldn't include red meat. But the elitism present in some vegans can really turn me off. One of the first onscreen interviews of the Seabirds team put them on the bottom of my rooting list. I just didn't like hearing that one of their primary goals of the race was to "educate" America. How about you just make the best food you can and let it speak for itself.

Taking it too personally? Yeah, I probably am. The biggest bummer I got from watching this episode was seeing how critically detrimental a random act like a flat tire can be to a team. I guess most reality competition shows have a lot to do with chance though. While real issues like that cramp my style, I do really enjoy the concept of speed bumps presented in the show. Taking away random things and seeing how they adapt is totally awesome. That said, it didn't really work all that well in this first episode. Yeah, all the teams lost the right to propane, but half of them just borrowed cooktops from other, non-competing trucks. Roxy's should have got some bonus points for doing their grilled cheeses on a Foreman grill.

Overall, I don't think it will be too hard to keep watching this show. I'm eagerly anticipating seeing what other speed bumps the producers thought up. And heck, the teaser for the next episode showed the vegans going to a meat packing plant where they will be forced to make their own sausage. Could you ask for better TV?


Episode 2 Response

Well, episode 2 of the latest season of Great Food Truck Race has come and gone. I love the way this episode started with a truck stop. It's like a quickfire in Top Chef and I really enjoy seeing two competitions per episode.

That's why the fact that two teams totally bailed and several others underperformed on the challenge angers me so much. Seabirds couldn't take the smell? Korilla decides they should just wuss out and keep the meat? Both teams should have been given huge penalties for the main competition. Instead Korilla was praised. It just isn't in the spirit of good competition to not compete.

Korilla then followed up that poor performance with making an arrangement with a local shop that had them receiving free food to be vaguely paid back "tomorrow." There are just too many things in this show that happen outside of a controlled and competitive environment.

So how does it end? Korilla wins the day by a landslide, cementing how much those issues bother me. Then Devilicious goes home after losing by less than $200. This show is a lot of fun but it desperately needs more transparency with how the final values are calculated. Did Korilla actually pay back the place they borrowed food from out of their total revenue? Are teams properly explaining their expenses in general?


Episode 3 & 4 Response

Episodes 3 and 4 were interesting. Overall I'm realizing that this show just can't be what I want it to be. Drawing people to the trucks isn't a problem because the cities prep for the excitement of having the show come. As such, the competition is based more on the speed at which trucks can make the food.

Korilla is the team that can make the food the fastest and so they do the best. It seems that they rely on the uniqueness of their Korean street food while the other teams are more focused on showing that gourmet food can still come out of a truck. It's hard to have a problem with this on the surface, but you combine that with all of the ways Korilla attempts to bend and/or break the rules and it's hard to root for them. I was quite happy to see Hodge Podge go over and swipe some of their sales at the end of Episode 4. It really served them right.

Cafe con Leche went home in episode 3. They were never really able to compete so this wasn't that big of a surprise. Seabirds only snuck by by a tiny bit, which really torked me off as they continue to annoy me. Episode 4 brought an interesting twist though. I believe the vegan evangelists made it a point to not be preachy based on a concern that it would alienate the small town. As such, they were much more likable for me. I was oddly bummed to see them go home. Does that just affirm my small town sensibilities?

I still have a lot of problems with the design of this competition, but there is a lot to like too. How great would it have been if Lime Truck's snobbiness sent them home?


Final Response

So I realized I hadn't taken the time to update this post with my final feelings on the series after the finale. But before I get to the ending, how crazy is it that the Korilla got kicked out of the race? After all that complaining I did about how it was lame that the show let them bend the rules, they finally took it too far.

It's quite intriguing how they handled it on the show. There were no "Did they really cheat?" cuts to film. Tyler just matter-of-factly said they cheated and told them to leave. On top of that, Korilla made no attempt to deny it. Is that proof of guilt?

It sure seems like it, but we have to remember that the producers can cut the show any way they want to. Was I really a profit or did the producers just lead us all into viewing them as the cheaters in the group? Most likely the latter. Regardless, I definitely think they got what was coming to them.

The final episode came down to a true race between Hodge Podge and the Lime Truck. I say true race because it's the first episode where they were racing to a dollar amount ($15,000), as opposed to selling as much as they can within a time limit. I hadn't thought about it before, but that's the way the entire show should have been. There is nothing about the rest of the show that made it a race. Watching teams race back to a finish line is much more interesting than the semi-dramatic reading of the final dollar amounts.

Given that, they sure made the finale seem insanely close. Heather and I were pulling for Hodge Podge. While the main guy came off as a chauvinistic prick early in the season, he grew on both of us. It seemed like Lime Truck was the favorite for the entire season and, honestly, who likes to root for the favorite?

The truck stop had a huge advantage associated with it. It was a major bummer to see Hodge go down. The prize was $1,500, a full 10% of the entire goal for the race. That was just too insurmountable of an advantage, so Hodge lost. I hate it when reality competition shows end on a downer.
This post was updated on October 15, 2011 at 3:24pm EDT
By Mike on August 15, 2011 at 8:51pm EDT Topic(s): yum tv food trucks reality tv competition

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