As the host of The Great Food Truck Race, Marin County’s Tyler Florence watched the cranky culinary competition travel more than 1 million miles and cross the country a dozen times in 14 seasons.
Only once in this period did the Food Network series manage to make a quick and early stop in the back yard of the Bay Area of Florence.
But for this newest season – an All-Star edition – the race is sitting in the Bay Area from start to finish, and Florence is in awe of it.
“As much as I love traveling, it was nice to sleep in my own bed and ride the motorcycle to work while the audience could experience my perspective on the world,” says Florence, who is next to his TV host she is the owner and chef of the Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco.
“The Great Food Truck Race All Stars” (9 pm Sundays, Food Network), which started a six-part season on June 6, welcomes seven outstanding alumni teams to a culinary journey with high octane numbers. The action started with a Bread Bowl Battle at Fisherman’s Wharf, and this weekend heads to Napa Valley for a grape-pounding challenge.
In the coming weeks, food trucks will stop amid the Santa Cruz Redwoods for a foraging adventure, Ocean Beach for a seaside bite competition, and a tire shooting competition at the Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors. Ultimately, they end up in Chinatown, where a team will land $ 50,000 and a glittering championship belt.
“They are the best of the best,” says Florence of the teams that made it. “They are proven winners and all of them are super savvy. You see the fire in their eyes. You roll up your sleeves and get started. “
All-star trucks, each with three crews, include Aloha Plate from Lanai City, Hawaii; Irvine’s Lime Truck; The Middle Festival from Los Angeles; Mystikka Masala based in Santa Monica; NOLA creations from Shreveport, Louisiana; Seoul Sausage in Los Angeles; and Waffle Love from Provo, Utah.
Filmed during the pandemic last September, the show was anchored in the Bay Area largely due to COVID-19 considerations.
“In trying to figure out how to do this as safely as possible, the Food Network was really friendly,” recalls Florence. “They said, ‘We’ll keep you off planes and we’ll come to you.’ Everyone was a little nervous at first, but we found out and it was great to be outside again. “
The result, he emphasizes, is “one of the most beautiful seasons we’ve ever had in terms of looks”.
Looking back on the roving range that began in the summer of 2010, Florence prides itself on its success and perseverance.
“We didn’t think it would go so well. That first season was kind of bullshit, ”he says. “Our first pitch was: ‘Food trucks meet’ Cannonball Run ‘.”
But the timing turned out to be just right.
“Restaurants across the country were closing and many owners and chefs switched from four walls to four wheels,” he says. “They got into grab-and-go stuff and set the world on fire. And we were there to tell the story. There are now over 47,000 food trucks in use. We didn’t invent the trend, but we gassed it. “
It’s not so surprising, then, that Florence herself switched to a meals on wheels approach in the early months of the pandemic, when restaurants in the Bay Area and elsewhere began to feel the adverse effects of COVID-related restrictions. To keep his Wayfare Tavern going, he bought a truck and reached out to customers craving for supplies in the neighborhood.
“We drove to a neighborhood, put up a tent, and made it happen. The (patrons) were super kind and we were super grateful, ”he said. “We had never thought of (a delivery system). But now it will be part of our future business. “
That doesn’t mean Florence isn’t still interested in branching out with additional stationary locations. In fact, he’s busy preparing a steakhouse called Miller & Lux, which is located near the Chase Center on Terry Francois Boulevard in San Francisco’s Mission Bay.
“It will be almost 7,000 square meters, extend over two levels and face the water,” says Florence energetically. “We’re going to serve big, thick cuts and fantastic booths.”
He adds that the restaurant’s name reflects a bit of San Francisco and California history. Henry Miller and his partner Charles Lux were German immigrants who ran the country’s largest integrated beef and meat packaging company in the late 19th century. It went out of business in 1926, 10 years after Miller’s death.
“They were known as the Beef Kings of California,” says Florence, who bought the corporate brand to use in conjunction with his restaurant.
NOTE: In addition to the broadcasts on the Food Network, “The Great Food Truck Race All Stars” can be streamed on Discovery + on the same day. Fans looking to delve deeper into the Bay Area culinary scene can check out the online addendum series, The Great Food Truck Race: The Extra Mile, in which Florence visits areas like the Ferry Building Farmers Market while she is away from the set are .