Even though he’s never operated a food truck of his own, Food Network’s Tyler Florence knows a thing or two about what it takes to make it work. He’s the host of the network’s Great Food Truck Race, which will be premiering its fourth season Sunday, Aug. 18, at 9 p.m. This season, eight teams will fight for the grand prize of $50,000 as well as their very own food truck. The first challenge will have them selling their signature dish in Beverly Hills, Calif., for $20 each, and the second will bring them to San Francisco, where they’ll be selling a different dish; whoever sells the least over the two challenges will be sent home.
"This is hands-down the best race we ever had," Florence told us. We had some really talented chefs with good food ideas, practicing their craft."
The competitors have challenges thrown at them along the way as well, but they’re not just ones that are chosen at random. "We only give them well-researched problems that you can bump into when you run a food truck," Florence said. "We want to make sure they they’re vetted, that they’re smart and hungry, and that they’re better than their competitors. It’s really like a boot camp for them, and it’s always amazing to watch them grow and learn over the course of the competition."
The show has done a great job of tapping into the zeitgeist of this burgeoning food truck phenomenon, which has taken over the country in recent years, but when it first premiered, Florence was met with a lot of skepticism. "Folks initially were telling me that they just didn’t understand; why would we want to do a show about the trucks that are near construction sites? But we’ve seen it become a huge trend, and a great way to celebrate local entrepreneurs," he added.
As for why the food truck trend has taken off recently, he’s got a few ideas. "First of all, brick-and-mortar has become too expensive for a lot of people," he said. "Food trucks are democratic. Anybody can get their foot into the restaurant industry now. There’s also a lot of diversity at the $5 to $10 fast-casual price, and people want a choice with their dollars. It also looks like a carnival! There’s a perfect storm of social media. Everybody today lives and dies by it, and you can really use it to tap into a very devoted local following."
But when you’re buying your lunch from a food truck, it’s nearly impossible to know what really goes on behind the scenes. To get an insider’s look into what it takes to make a food truck work, make sure to tune in on Sunday.