The Daily Stream: The Great Food Truck Race Is A Whole Different Flavor Of Cooking Competition

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: "The Great Food Truck Race"

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu with the Live TV add-on/Discovery+ 

The Pitch: Cooking shows have become a good way to unwind in the midst of whatever the heck is going on with our world. One of the most satisfying to watch is "The Great Food Truck Race," which originally aired on Food Network. A lot of cooking competitions are copies of each other, especially the ones on some of the streaming services which reuse hosts and sets, just to fill our need to see people cook things we can't eat. (Humans are a very weird species.) This one, though, has contestants out and about, traveling across the country. They're not going to exotic locales like, say, the competitors on "Top Chef." Here we have people who have always wanted to run a food truck, some of whom have lost a restaurant, and others who just want to start a business with their friends and/or family.

The show is hosted by Tyler Florence, and features several teams hoping to win a big chunk of money to fund their dream, and in many of the seasons, their own food truck. Each team gets a truck, customized for their concept, some seed money for supply shopping, a car for other team members, and a city to begin in. As each team is eliminated, the competition moves to an entirely different city. Sometimes there are places set up for the trucks to park, but other times they have to figure it all out while doing research on their phones. 

Trucks versus restaurants

The restaurant business is difficult to get into. You've got menu planning, location overhead, decoration, supplies, tables, hosts, waiters, and more. You have to make sure you aren't opening a pizza place next to another pizza place, or that you're in a spot that is going to get traffic. There's your signage, your advertising, and getting the right personalities in the kitchen and in front of the house. Food trucks are a different beast entirely. There is less overhead, you can do your advertising on social media exclusively, and if your location doesn't work, you can move to another one. They allow lesser-known cuisines a chance to shine, or at least test themselves out in a new city. They're certainly a cheaper way to find out if the food business is for you in the first place. 

Food trucks also present crazy challenges, many of which have hilarious and/or heartbreaking examples in the show. What if you run out of food, but you're in a great location? What if you parked in a place that doesn't get foot traffic, but moving will cost you an hour of selling time? What if your competition knows the area and you don't? There was even once when a team from Hawaii called in Hawaiians in each city they visited for a taste of home, guaranteeing a line at their truck every day. 

Have food, will travel

For me, it's less about who wins than it is watching the incredible innovation and creativity that these competitors find within themselves, learning more as they go along. Teams have done everything from wearing costumes and hyping their truck with every ounce of personality, to calling other local truck owners for help in finding locations, to asking bars to let them park in front for the day.

Trucks break because of bad parking. Fuel goes out last minute and teams have to work around it. The weather turns bad and people leave the street. Plus, Tyler Florence always has some trick up his sleeve. Sometimes it's using a local ingredient, and others, it's only letting the teams shop in local stores and working around the things they can't get for their menus. I'd never considered what happens when you have a great concept, a cohesive team, and delicious food, but your dishes that require a fork and knife in a place where there's no place to put down the plate to use them. 

'Food truck road trip!'

Sure, there are some jerks that show up, but they usually get ousted early on. Mostly, this show is inspiring. It's about people starting over, or starting out. It's watching friends and family learn new things about themselves and each other. It's seeing people do so much with so little. Sure, other shows will give their chefs filet mignon, truffles, and caviar, with money as no object. Here, the teams are usually working with comfort food and serving it on paper plates with lots of paper napkins and plastic forks. The focus really is on the food and ingenuity more than anything.

Add in Tyler Florence who clearly knows the business and cares about what happens to these team members, and the whole thing is incredibly heartwarming. Working on a food truck is a singular job that is hard to prepare for, but one that brings cuisine from all over the world to the average person who doesn't have $38 for a steak at a fancy table. I guess, for me, it restores a little faith that you can create something new with your life, and it's lovely.

Now if someone could just explain to me why they yell, "Food truck road trip" at the end of the opening credits instead of "The Great Food Truck Race," making it seem like that should have been the title, all will be well in my world.