Any foodies worth their weight in Himalayan pink rock-salt know that one of the biggest trends in the culinary world these days is food trucks, which has gotten a boost from a new generation of chef-entrepreneurs, the explosion of social media, and a little Food Network show called "The Great Food Truck Race."
For the last two seasons, the reality competition series has pitted operators of food trucks offering everything from vegan tacos to escargot against each other as they try to outsell one another in cities across the country. But for the third season, which premieres on Sunday, August 19, the rules have changed, and according to host Tyler Florence, the stakes are even higher since all eight teams are operating a food truck for the first time in their lives, hoping to take home the truck and a $50,000 prize in order to finally make their dream of running a food truck come true.
Florence talked to Yahoo! TV about why the upcoming season is the most exciting yet, the biggest mistake contestants make, and why food trucks aren't going away anytime soon.
Why change the format now to include contestants who have no experience with food trucks?
We were watching the kind of online conversations that people were having about "The Great Food Truck Race" and the comment that came up often was "How do you start this whole thing? I would love to own a food truck, but what's the first step?" So we were kind of kicking around ideas about what the big theme for Season 3 should be and we just all go, "It feels almost kind of like a risk in a way, but let's think this through -- let's have eight teams that have never operated a food truck before."
What feels like the biggest change to the show now that you have these participants who aren't food truck operators?
We found great stories, great concepts, and great drive from each individual team because they have everything to lose. They've completely dropped everything that's in their life, left their families at home, quit their jobs to be in the food truck business -- and this is boot camp, and it's so exciting to watch. Because when you see these people really dig deep and try hard and fight to compete, you're seeing these people work like they're being chased by a tiger. With the other teams [from previous seasons], if they lost they'd just go back to their city and they'd be in business tomorrow.
Do you think a lot of the teams from the past seasons were trying to get publicity for the businesses that they were already operating? Winning wasn't as important?
I wouldn't say that that's their main focus, but when you're on television that's one of the wonderful perks about it. People would definitely recognize your truck for what it is, so that's like sort of an ancillary prize for not committing, not being able to finish the race or win the race. At least you're going to get publicity out of this.
Have you kept up with what happened to some of the previous trucks that participated?
Not too recently, but we went to a couple different festivals and I've seen a couple of our guys that were in Season 1, Season 2. And they were like, "Oh my god, man, this just completely blew up -- I now have three trucks and we're exploding and it's all from the show."
What seems to be the biggest challenge for the teams this time around?
They are in over their head in a nanosecond, which is, from a television stand point, really fun to watch. They have no idea how to turn this truck on, they have no idea how to shop, they have no idea how to spend their money, they have no idea where to position the truck, they have no idea about their competition.
Do the teams have any restaurant experience?
Some people have restaurant experience. There's Pizza Mike, who had a pizza shop in Columbus, Ohio, for 25 years and it burned down one day, and this is his chance to kind of get back in the business. And so he's kind of like this salty dog who has no problem pumping out two or three hundred pizzas and just banging it out and everything is really top-notch quality. And we have a team of guys called "Soul Sausage" from Los Angeles and they've been big in the festival circuit in L.A. They make this sort of kimchee-inspired sauce that is delicious and then they put them on a roll. There's a team called "Under the Crust" from San Diego. She creates these little pies and fruit pies and savory meat pies, and she's got a pretty good business.
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What's the biggest mistake you've seen competitors make?
They don't really know how to manage their money, which is what the show's all about. The show, it's pure democracy. It's not about a panel of judges saying, "I like this and I don't like this." It's really about who can make the most money on the streets. It's not like we can say, "OK, what's better: a taco or crepes?" You can't really even compare them, but what you can compare is how much money they generate, right? So that is what the roots of the show are based [in]. It's like this rock 'n' roll business show. I love it.
Food trucks have become so much more popular just in the few years your show has been on. Do you see an end to the trend?
When Season 1 was on the air, a lot of people were saying, "Oh, this is just sort of a trend and a fad," but I really see this as the answer to America's fast-food problem.
Watch the Season 3 trailer:
"The Great Food Truck Race" premieres Sunday, August 19 at 10 PM on The Food Network.