Tyler Florence Says 'Great Food Truck Race' Is 'Boot Camp, Rock-and-Roll Business Show, Epic Road Trip' Mashup
There can be only one winner of Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race." But, according to host Tyler Florence, even the seven teams who don't take home the state-of-the-art mobile kitchen and $50,000 prize aren't leaving the cross-country competition empty-handed.
"This is food truck boot camp, a rock-and-roll business show. We take [teams] from knowing very little about operating a food truck to being road-ready tested and vetted operators in about six weeks," Florence explained to Yahoo! TV exclusively via a telephone interview from his San Francisco home base. "When we release them out in the world, especially the top four teams, they are probably more capable than most operators out there with experience, because they've had it all thrown at them at a fast and furious rate. We've helped them turn unbridled passion and a good idea into a competitive, marketable brand, and that journey is fantastic to watch."
As someone who knows how hard it is to get a restaurant off the ground, Wine Enthusiast Magazine's 2011 Restaurateur of the Year says being part of a show that helps dreams come true feels pretty fantastic, too.
"The bar to raise the capital to build a four-walled restaurant is just too high for most people, and even if you get a location and start a restaurant, it's a struggle to run. I mean, I'm famous, and it's still a struggle for me, so imagine how hard it is for some supertalented but not wildly connected chef. The 'Race,' and food trucks in general, is their opportunity to get a foot in the industry, be their own boss, and showcase their food. I'm proud to be part of a show that helps people take hold of their own destiny and where there is a chance for a real outcome. [Teams] fight like they are being chased by a tiger. You feel the energy, and you fight with them as you watch."
He believes food trucks are a playing field-leveling culinary trend. "It isn't white tablecloths and molecular gastronomy. It is solid, good food that means something to the chefs personally. It's an entrepreneurial spirit and a new genre of restaurant that is adding creativity and diversity to the industry. It's also quality for everyone. If you had $7, would you rather give it to the clown or to a food truck where the CEO of the company is cooking after getting back from the farmers' market?"
Florence promises that Season 4, which premieres Sunday, will be the "most epic road trip" yet. It's also the longest at 4,181 miles. It starts in Los Angeles at the Hollywood sign and ends in Washington, D.C., in a finale that incorporates the U.S. Capitol building. Along the way, teams stop in San Francisco, Portland, Idaho, South Dakota, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Chicago (where Mayor Rahm Emanuel and NFL icon Mike Ditka join in the fun).
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"We've tracked a very different route this season, and the scenery is stunning. We went places I'd never been before and places that have never seen food trucks. It was amazing to bring this cultural revolution to people and watch them have a good time," he said. "We had the best weather we've ever had, the best teams we've ever had, the same level of high-energy fun, diverse and creative dishes, and some really rugged challenges. I felt a little bad sometimes that they were so rugged, but then again, so is life in the food industry on a daily basis."