Sunday, September 20, 2015

Disappointing Season of the Great Food Truck Race

America has a very complicated relationship with food, especially in terms of taste and culinary standards. We are truly a nation of Zagat Guides and dollar menus. Some Americans appreciate and craft true culinary masterpieces, and they seek out artisan talent in the food they eat. Others de-value food - and really themselves - as worth no more than a buck and will shove anything in their mouths as long as it contains sugar, salt, and fat. That said, you would expect culinary icons and purveyors of fine food like Tyler Florence to appreciate and promote culinary excellence. That's clearly not the case with this season of the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race.

Let's be clear:  the boys from Utah selling some "Waffle Love" are not by any measure - other than simple sales - a contender for the "Best Food Truck in America." The title of "Best" should indicate some degree of talent, beyond simple sales. And, that's why I've been quite disappointed in this season of the Truck Race, specifically because Tyler (in a mystifying move for a culinary artist) included three un-skilled waffle makers alongside some obviously talented chefs. Tyler and his producers found five really interesting and unique food trucks who can create numerous eclectic dishes filled with flavors. And then they threw in a group of rather simple boys who sell a basic waffle covered with Nutella or some cookies spread and whipped cream. Sure it sells - but then so do Twinkies and Chips Ahoy cookies. Sales are not the indicator of quality - people eat crap in this country. By Tyler's apparent measure for this contest, McDonald's sells the "best hamburger" in the country. And, we know that no one, including Tyler, would ever put the Golden Arches on a "best" list when talking food.

On this week's episode from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tyler could not have found more ways to dishonor the efforts and talents of the two legitimate food trucks - Pho-Nomenal and GD Bros. Throughout the contest, the Waffle-kids have not won a single cooking challenge when it came to be judged on quality and talent. And Tyler "warned" them that they needed to "take it seriously" because it's going to matter. But it didn't. They were not judged on quality - they were judged on how many chick/waffles they can sell to hot rod owners in Tulsa, OK. Give us a break, Tyler. Those car show people would choose chicken & waffles any day of the week and twice on Sunday. It was crass and cluless for Tyler to ask Pho-Nomenal and GD Bros "why you lost the challenge." It wasn't their food or their marketing Tyler. It was because people at a car show in Tulsa have very simple tastes, and they would never try something remotely "foreign." Send the Waffle-makers to Chinatown or the Village, and we would have a different result. The only reason that GD Bros lost was because it was in Tulsa.

Now, let's be clear. I'm not saying the Waffle-dudes don't have a thriving business. Heck, Dairy Queen and Entenmanns make millions. But they don't top the lists of "Best" ice cream or pastries. Because they're really not that good - they're just sweet in a nation with a big sweet tooth ... and expanding waist lines.

So, the Great Food Truck Race will end next week in St. Louis. And the Waffle-kids will win by making a lot of money selling a product for which they have invested almost no skill. They will profit from selling processed foods, and the talented ladies from Pho-Nomenal will lose out despite whipping up culinary excellence and promoting it with marketing skill. And Tyler will basically ignore any shred of respect for the culinary world by awarding these guys a title of dubious authenticity. Let's hope next season Tyler tries to restore some culinary integrity to the show he promotes.


jade said...

He and his partner, Tomas Ruperto, had a truck outfitted with a brick pizza oven which can bake up to 4 pies at a time at temperatures of 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Food Trucks In Los Angeles

mmazenko said...

Interesting. Thanks for the update and the link.