Changing the Landscape of the Culinary Industry: Host Tyler Florence on Season 6 of The Great Food Truck Race
Now in its sixth season, The Great Food Truck Race (Sundays at 9|8c) is going back to its roots of Season 1, featuring professional food truck operators hoping to win $50,000 for a jolt of financing to make each of their businesses even more successful. This season promises some real drama, more than just bumps in the road, on the path to success. There's a lot to tune in for, according to host Tyler Florence.
Thinking back six years ago before the show began, Tyler noted that the food truck business was completely different, and he pointed out the significance the show has had on the industry. In just the length of the series, the industry has flourished, and more and more culinary-inclined folks are trying out the mobile eatery business to reap its fast rewards.
FN Dish caught up with Tyler to chat about the new season and the food truck industry itself, how it's evolved and what it's like today. Read the interview to find out what Tyler would be doing if he were starting over as a chef fresh out of culinary school.
So what can you tell us about the new season of The Great Food Truck Race?
Tyler Florence: We’re getting back to the roots of the show — we’ve got seven professional food truck teams, which we’re really excited about. We went from Santa Monica to Chicago on Route 66, so it was amazing just to check out that historical route through America’s heartland. And you can sort of just watch the transition going from L.A. to the desert, and then we’re in the desert for a long time and Texas, and then up to the Midwest. ... It’s a first for the show.
What makes this season different from the previous ones?
TF: We’ve never had better teams; we’ve never had better food. We’ve never had more emergencies throughout the season, like, situations got very real very quickly. Taking food trucks on a 3,000-mile trip has its ups and downs for sure, and our competitors fought like they wanted this like they wanted life. ... It’s a super-exciting season.
You mentioned these guys were professionals. What does it take to own and operate a food truck day in and day out?
TF: Well, you have to have hospitality in your blood. People who think this is just a business opportunity … may fall out of love with it fairly fast just because you have to really enjoy putting a smile on somebody’s face. What I love about it is we’ve disrupted the entire restaurant industry. Like, I own restaurants in San Francisco, and if I had to kind of (I’m 44 years old) ... redo my life, if I was 25, I think food trucks are a fantastic business model. Just the return on investment is insane. So instead of raising $2 [million], $3 [million] or $4 million for a restaurant, people are putting $25,000 or $30,000 into a business. ... And they can be in business the next weekend. So you lease a truck, you skin it, you’ll go get a food handler’s permit, then go to Costco and buy a bunch of stuff, and then you’re really on the road. And you can serve the same amount of units out of a food truck as you could [in a] restaurant.
Do you have a favorite food truck you like to go to in San Francisco?
TF: Well, you know, there’s a lot of really good food trucks, but they’re always kind of like turning over in a way. There’s a really good Korean barbecue food truck that just sets up on the corner from our restaurant a couple days a week, but it’s really exciting to see new crowds pop up.
How do you look at the food truck industry? What's your opinion on it, and how do you think it has changed over the years?
TF: Food trucks are this generation’s answers to American fast food. We’ve done it: We’ve created a whole other business model that a lot of young people are ... getting into, and it’s cool, it’s fashionable, it’s edgy. I was just reading an article the other day about how fun food trucks are at a wedding. And we actually have rented great food trucks for our children’s birthday parties just because it’s so fun and people really love it. ... I feel really proud hosting a show for six seasons and kind of looking back at what we’ve done to really change the American landscape. ... Six years ago, starting this conversation, doing television interviews and radio interviews, nobody got it — it sounded gross. And now there couldn’t be a trend that’s hotter in the food world than food trucks.
Tune in to The Great Food Truck Race, Sundays at 9|8c.