My favorite show on Food Network starts back tonight: The Great Food Truck Race. The show kicks off its fifth season at 9 p.m. EST and is hosted by the affable Tyler Florence, also of Food Court Wars fame.
There are three reasons why I prefer The Great Food Truck Race to Food Network Star or Worst Cooks in America, the two other Food Network programs that have earned a season pass on my TiVo.
This show is excellent first and foremost because it uses the ultimate unbiased metric to judge teams and decide a winner: money. Eight teams drive from city to city selling their gourmet food out of trucks designed by Food Network. The team that makes the least profit in each city is eliminated. It’s as simple as that. There’s no panel of judges or fans voting online. Teams advance based strictly on merit, which is a beautiful thing.
The teams are also more likable on this show. It’s the same phenomenon I watched happen with The Amazing Race and Survivor, two shows on the same network. While Survivor struggled to cast memorable contestants past Season 20 (and went back to its star-studded alumni list far too frequently), The Amazing Race keeps finding engaging teams time and time again. I would argue casting is the key to that show’s success.
Perhaps casting teams is easier since you have more than one personality to draw on, but whatever the reason, The Great Food Truck Race has excelled at finding compelling characters and capable cooks. That’s more than Food Network Star can say with its two or three star-worthy cast members, and while I think Worst Cooks in America is stocked with great characters, those people are clowns, not cooks. Finding people who are amusing and have culinary expertise is a much harder game.
The Great Food Truck Race also has a likable host. Tyler Florence is there solely to host the show and make the teams miserable at times by throwing in crazy challenges and wrinkles. He doesn’t parade around as a mentor like the three stars on Food Network Star. I enjoy the role Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell play on Worst Cooks in America, but you once again run into the weird coach/judge/team captain dynamic. Tyler’s job is cut and dry: teams give him the money, he counts it, and declares a winner.
If you ever wondered what a cross between Food Network and The Amazing Race would look like with food trucks involved, I highly recommend checking out The Great Food Truck Race tonight. You’ll get to see the best of what Food Network has to offer.