Monday, September 3, 2012

The Great Food Truck Race: Los Angeles, Flagstaff, Amarillo

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

So this season of The Great Food Truck Race is very different from the first two. The biggest change being that there are no established food trucks in the competition this time around. Instead, the eight teams of three from around the country are all new to the food truck game, with a variety of backgrounds and ideas. The winning team will get to keep the truck they use this season (the show decked out some basic trucks for them) as well as $50,000 to get started in their new businesses! I actually thought that the best concepts came from Pop-A-Waffle and Under the Crust, as I was curious as to how many waffles or pies you could make and sell to the general public. Turns out that I wasn't able to learn much about the Under the Crust folks, but the Waffle boys might just make it to the end! Similarly, I didn't care if the Barbie Babes went home or not, but I was getting sick of their ultra-feminine attitude toward things. Pizza Mike's was good, too, and I think that the only reason they got shut-out was because of the Speed Bump, but I understand it. I could do without Coast of Atlanta (the guy on that team is the only nice one!) and Momma's Grizzly Grub (I just don't see anything interesting about these people or their concept), and I'm a bit middle-ground about Seoul Sausage (though they're really putting their all into this!) and Nonna's Kitchenette (I just don't think they've got "food truck food"). Let me know which team(s) you're rooting for!

The Great Food Truck Race "3559 Miles to a Dream" (S03E01): They start in Long Beach and will travel to Maine this season. The trucks are bare and the teams need to find or buy all of their ingredients, supplies, and the items health departments require. [I hope that someone messes up here and they get called out on it later!] They get $1500 seed money to work with, and go 23 miles to sell in Los Angeles. No Truck Stop Challenge.

The Speed Bump hits with only six hours left in the weekend, and it's a challenge for all of the trucks to go to the same area of Hollywood Blvd. to compete head-to-head in sales! 

Seoul Sausage, Korean Sausages, Los Angeles, CA. Two brothers and a chef who regularly cook at local events. Because they can't really afford a sausage grinder yet, they plan to do burgers (and nacho cheese tater tots) instead, setting up in Koreatown both days for great business. They sell $1,896 of food.

Pizza Mike's, Italian Street Food, Columbus, OH. They have lots of restaurant experience and homemade recipes, but three years ago a fire destroyed the family business and they haven't been able to re-open. [sad story!] The first day, they try to park on Hollywood Blvd. but don't get the best spot. The second day, however, they have great business, totaling food sales at $1,285.

Nonna's Kitchenette
, Grandmas' Recipes, New Jersey. Three Italian grannies gave these girls their recipes. They have meatballs, Italian grilled cheese sandwiches, crispy goat cheese salad, and sausage pepper sandwiches, charging $8-12 per item. [I'm sorry... if we're not in NYC, it's going to be extremely difficult to convince me to spend eight bucks on a grilled cheese sandwich...] They weren't far from the "new location" after the speed bump, so they get there early and start giving out samples to drive sales. [love that they were asked "what exit?" when they said that they were from New Jersey!] They sell $983 of food.

Momma's Grizzly Grub, Homestyle Comfort Food, Wasilla, AK. [what, exactly, is comfort food in Alaska? Surely it's something specific, as what we consider comfort food in PA ain't the same as what's considered comfort food in the South!] They're into fusion. They have trouble parallel-parking the truck. When the time winds down, they just ask for people to set their own prices! [ooook...] They sell $916 of food.

Coast of Atlanta, Gourmet Seafood, Atlanta, GA. Three chefs who want to stop working in other people's kitchens. They head to the Venice Beach on Sunday and keep a limited menu with tacos and quesadillas. In 45 minutes, they've got nothing so they walk around selling water for a dollar, because they can't find any customers. [eep!] Late in the second day, they raise their prices to make up for lost sales earlier, finishing with a sales total of $802. 

Pop-a-Waffle, Gourmet Waffles, Los Angeles, CA. Two of the guys have no experience or culinary training. [you know what? sometimes that's better.] They head to Echo Park, find parking pretty easily, but have issues with only having one waffle iron, so things move slowly. Barbie Babes call them and want some help, so they tell them where they are. [nice guys... hope they don't finish last! cliche, I know. ;)] Sunday, they whip out a fajita waffle and their classic waffle. After the move to Hollywood Blvd, they cut portion sizes and prices so they can make more faster and have Scott act like a carnival barker to attract attention. [nice!] They sell $654 of food.

Barbie Babes, Australian BBQ, have a catering company in LA, but they're from Australia. They have no idea how to make the best use of the truck and struggle to even start the thing! Their shopping trip total hits $1752.79 so they have to put back quite a few things before they can be on their way. [I wonder how they managed to go over by so much... I guess they just weren't keeping track of the total?] They wind up deciding to not even sell anything the first night - just prep. [probably not a good idea, if you ask me.] They go to Silver Lake on the last day and want to partner with Waffles again, but their pilot light goes out and they can't grill until a passerby offers assistance. [yeah... I can't believe that they're having such difficulty using the truck! Didn't they at least read up on some basics before joining a reality show??] They wind up selling $531 of food.

Under the Crust, Sweet and Savory Pies, San Diego, CA. Two chefs (one who dreamed of running a food truck with her late fiance) and a mother. Lots of experience in sales, too. At the store, Hannah asks to borrow Coast of Atlanta's Health Dept checklist, and while Mike was okay with it, Lena was not. [as I noted above, Mike is the only nice one on that team!] They head to LA Live but can't find a place to park and wind up in a junky area. They cut down the menu and focus on mostly prepping that first night. They go downtown the next day, and when they get to Hollywood Blvd., they slash prices to $2. All in all, they sell just $195 of food. Generously, the show donates $5,000 in Keith's name to the American Cancer Society. [sorry to see one of the more creative food trucks go, but I didn't like Hannah's attitude or the truck design, so c'est la vie.]

The Great Food Truck Race "Attitude at High Altitude" (S03E02): 466 miles east, they're in Flagstaff, AZ, where teams get $400 seed money and will need to adjust their menus and prices for this very-different-from-LA area. The camp where the trucks spend the night only has one hose, leading to a fight when Coast of Atlanta grabs it when it should be Seoul Sausage's turn! [...okay, so maybe Mike isn't a nice guy after all...] 

The Truck Stop Cooking Challenge takes place on the afternoon of Day One, where Tyler calls and has everyone create a menu item that includes cactus, a local food product. [I have no idea how I'd incorporate that!] Each will be judged and the winning truck will receive immunity this time. Seoul Sausage and Pop-a-Waffle are the best, and Pop-a-Waffle wins immunity.

An hour or so into Day Two, the Speed Bump is announced - everything has to be Vegan for the rest of the weekend - no eggs, cheese, milk, meat, or animal products of any kind! [I was surprised that more of the teams weren't freaked by this sudden change!]

Seoul Sausage
, Korean Sausages, Los Angeles. They do cactus salad on a fried rice ball for the Truck Stop. With the Speed Bump, they just use tofu with their same marinade. They finish with $2,330 in sales.

Pizza Mike's, Italian Street Food, Columbus. They want 3-4 items on their menu for simplicity, like flatbread pizzas on the grill. With their cactus they put it on a steak sandwich to replace peppers. They finish with $2,157 in sales.

Nonna's Kitchenette, Grandmas' Recipes, NJ. One of the girls knows someone who gets them three parking spots downtown. They add the cactus to a relish they serve with sausages, which isn't all that innovative. They drop hot dogs to $2 at the end of the day. They move to soy sausage for the Speed Bump. They plan to use the exact same spot on the second day, but Momma's Grizzly Grub stole their spot! [with a car, no less. annoying!] They drop all prices to $5 at the end of the day, finishing with $1,410 in sales.

Coast of Atlanta, Gourmet Seafood. They attempt to sell at a kite festival but they don't have a contract with the city. Some random person gives them a suggestion of where to park. [... glad that worked out!] They do a cactus glaze on fish, which apparently could have used more cactus. They're upset that they're experienced chefs who lost a cooking challenge to waffle people. For the Speed Bump they just do all-veggie tacos, moving prices to $5 at the end of the day, topping out at $1,280 in sales.

, Gourmet Waffles, Los Angeles. They realize that the grocery store is packed and they decide to set-up right in front. [I think it's a Costco.] They put the cactus in salsa, which wins it for them! Their chef comes up with some ideas for working with veganism, but they settle on one item - a lemon waffle with strawberries and lime for $6. They finish with $745, so it's a good thing that they had the immunity this time! [I wasn't thrilled at trying that waffle, that's for sure!]

Momma's Grizzly Grub, Homestyle Comfort Food, Wasilla, AK. They want to team-up with another truck to draw a bigger crowd, so they try for Nonna's and Seoul Sausage. For the Truck Stop they do a pasta salad with cactus. [sounds odd...] They move to pasta salads to cope with vegans. They drop down their slaw and pasta salad and close two hours early, thinking that they're amongst the top sellers. [ha!] We don't know exactly what their sales totals were, but they managed to earn $170 more than the Barbie Babes! [good thing Tyler lectured them to never close early!]  

Barbie Babes, Australian BBQ, Los Angeles. They're charging $8 for an Aussie burger, and add a marinated and grilled piece of cactus to it for the Truck Stop, not even taste-testing it before it's judged! The burger is unmanageable. They feel like they've been slammed but they're not making enough money, wanting to up their prices to $10 and change their process. Of course, when the Speed Bump hits, they're last to the grocery store, have trouble getting "good items," and wind up in a poor location, though they do take over Momma's spot when they leave early. [yet another reason not to go home early, guys!] Again, no exact sales total was given, but they didn't earn enough to stay in the game.

The Great Food Truck Race "Even Food Trucks are Bigger in Texas" (S03E03): 608 miles eastward to Amarillo, Texas! All of the trucks meet at a baseball stadium, receive $500 in seed money, and are told to go shop and then come back and talk up their trucks at the 7th-inning-stretch of a sold-out minor league baseball game. Before the game is over, the Truck Stop is called, requiring each team to create a "ballpark special," something that you can serve at any ballpark across the country. So, they all have to create one more dish, even though some people have already finished shopping! The two best dishes were Seoul Sausage and Coast of Atlanta, with Seoul Sausage pulling out just a little more. [which you could tell ahead of time because of the promos showing them "knowing what a key is for," right after Tyler talks about "booting" all of the trucks.] They earn a key and an additional $500. The Speed Bump comes early in the second day, with Tyler saying each truck will receive a boot on a wheel, stopping them from being able to move from their current location... except for the key holders, who can remove the boot and dominate at the baseball stadium yet again. [I got tired of all of the shots of the boots!] The six trucks made over $21,000 in Amarillo. [weird place to learn the results - what's that colored cars half in the ground??] Oh, and the next stop is 408 miles east: Fayetteville, AR. [stupid girl giving Jersey a bad name by not knowing anything about Arkansas!!]

Seoul Sausage, Korean Sausages, Los Angeles. They wonder if there are Korean people in Amarillo, then talk about teaming up again. They go with their signature rice balls, then make a Kobe burger with onion rings and pineapple chutney for the Truck Stop, which is unique but might not cut it in all of the smaller markets. [believable.] They set-up a grocery store but move on to the baseball game because they can. They get huge orders that they need calculators to figure out, ending with a final total of $4,561.

Momma's Grizzly Grub, Homestyle Comfort Food, Wasilla, AK. They want to do better than they've been doing, so they make cookie truffles and chicken wings, doing a taco from the chicken wings and adding coleslaw that has dried cranberries for their Truck Stop. It's a flavor explosion! They set up at a grocery store for their second day, bringing in a total of $3,911.

Nonna's Kitchenette, Grandmas' Recipes, NJ. For menu, they think that meatballs take too much prep time, but they want to keep it on the menu, going with Texas-style meatball sliders and donuts, which are too generic for the judge but sell well to their customers! They spend their second day outside a hardware store, where they get so slammed that customers have to wait 45 minutes to get a grilled cheese sandwich! [no way I'd ever wait that long. EVER.] They eventually sell out and have to go to the grocery store to buy more food. Their final total is $3,661.

Pop-a-Waffle, Gourmet Waffles, Los Angeles. They love the creative fun involved in the Truck Stop, going with a churro waffle with dulce de leche and whipped cream. It's good but not for every market. [why not??] They also have a chicken-and-waffle that they peddle outside the grocery store. Their final total is $3,575.

Coast of Atlanta
, Gourmet Seafood. They do catfish, fries, and okra, with a lemonade that includes peaches boiled in brown sugar. [doesn't that sound fabulous??] Their Truck Stop dish is a Georgia dog (with sweet pickles), which is "different." They also set-up at the grocery store on the second day. They're worried about the long lines at the other trucks and start selling on the sidewalk, though they only bring in $3,176.

Pizza Mike's, Italian Street Food, Columbus. They want to simplify the menu, cutting down to just an Italian beef sandwich and pizza, which is fine but doesn't do them any favors with the Truck Stop. They don't get a huge line at the baseball game the first night, baffling them... but they ran out of food early anyway. [I don't understand how... I guess it's a good thing that they didn't have more customers??] The second day, they go to a dog-lover's event, but because it ends at 5pm, they wind up being stuck there because of the boot, trying to sell things at half-price but not bringing in enough to keep going. Their final total is $2,764... $412 short of Coast of Atlanta. 
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