Monday, September 24, 2012

TV Takes: The Great Food Truck Race (Spoiler)

Recently I mentioned that I was enjoying Season 3 of the retooled Great Food Truck Race, which pits teams of aspiring food truck entrepreneurs — rather than established trucks, as in the first two seasons — against each other, with the truck itself and startup funding as the prize. The new format retains the best elements of the existing show and adds the element of starting a new career/business that's common in other occupational reality competition shows, including such non-food shows as America's Next Top Model and Project Runway, as well as NBC's one-season America's Next Great Restaurant.

Unlike the latter, Food Truck doesn't attempt to mentor or develop the trucks' concepts: While the precise menu varies from city to city and challenge to challenge, each team came into the competition with its branding, concept, and truck in place... but, of course, they only got to keep the truck as long as they avoided elimination.

Tonight I watched the last episode before the finale, and I'm pleased with the way the competition has progressed. Of the three trucks that made it to this penultimate challenge, two of them — Pop-A-Waffle and Seoul Sausage — have seemed like the most distinctive and sharply defined concepts from Day One, and, along with the early-eliminated Under the Crust, the ones whose food I was most intrigued to try.

Seoul Sausage, in particular, is a favorite of mine for a variety of reasons: First, I just love Korean food, and while their menu doesn't include any strictly traditional Korean dishes, the flavors and techniques are all there. I would travel nontrivial distances to try their deep fried kimchi rice balls, to name just one example. Second, the Seoul Sausage crew strike me as the having the best combination of passion and focus of all the teams. And finally, their success is compensating for the disappointment of last season's Korean team, the similarly impressive Korilla BBQ truck, being disqualified under allegations of stuffing their till.

Pop-A-Waffle is slightly less appealing to me: Despite being a child of the South, I've never quite "gotten" the chicken-and-waffles thing (which was, interestingly, the original concept of what eventually became Soul Daddy, the winning [albeit ultimately unsuccessful] Next Great Restaurant concept). Even so, though, the idea of building a truck around waffles, both savory and sweet, seems appealing.

As it turned out, Pop-A-Waffle was eliminated tonight in third place, with Nonna's Kitchenette advancing to the finale instead. Nonna's has not been one of my favorites, but I confess that's probably just a result of my own personal prejudices: The homestyle Italian comfort food that forms the heart of their menu and concept isn't especially enticing to me, and neither are the team members' self-described Jersey girl (not to say Jersey Shore) personas.

All that said, it looks like they'll be tough competition for the Seoul Sausage guys, and I can't wait to see how the finale comes out. You can count on me commenting here.

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