The food truck genre is one that’s quickly becoming as packed as a mall parking lot on a Saturday. Travel + Escape has Rebel Without a Kitchen, and Food Network is jam-packed with Eat St. and The Great Food Truck Race, and every cooking competition on the channel devotes at least one week to a food truck challenge. Is there really room for another one? Well, yeah.
Debuting Sunday on Food Network, Food Truck Face Off combines aspects of Dragons’ Den with the home chefs featured on Masterchef. Hosted by former Recipe to Riches host Jesse Palmer, this project from Peace Point Entertainment Group (Fresh with Anna Olson, Colin & Justin’s Cabin Pressure) awards one winning team their own food truck to operate for an entire year, a pretty unique twist.
Sunday’s first episode takes place in Miami Beach (future stops in the 13-episode run include Toronto, Austin, Los Angeles and Niagara Falls) as four teams of rookie chefs pitch their food truck ideas and business plan à la Dragons’ Den–along with samples–to a trio of judges (in this case TV and radio personality Steak Shapiro, Chicago restaurateur Alpano Singh and food truck owner Robyn Almodovar) before the quartet are trimmed to a duo. Those two final teams move on to the next test: manning a food truck for two services with the most amount of money raised by them winning the vehicle for a year.
These being home chefs or people who cook for fun, they’re quickly overwhelmed by A) shopping in bulk, and B) learning to make food on the fly while collecting money and keeping up a patter with customers. What entertained me the most about Food Truck Face Off was wondering whether I could do what these contestants were trying to. In short? Probably not. I like eating stuff from food trucks too much to be hemmed in by making my own. Palmer is an affable enough host, but he’s largely relegated to just announcing what wrinkle the producers are throwing at them and hitting the button on a bullhorn.
Of course, the show isn’t about who’s hosting; the real stars are the yummy-looking dishes being served up for hungry customers.
Food Truck Face Off airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network.