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Four Questions About 'The Great Food Truck Race' Finale

by Joel Keller, posted Sep 20th 2010 3:30PM
Tyler Florence and the contestants of 'The Great Food Truck Race'If you've been following the new Food Network series 'The Great Food Truck Race,' you know that the fun summer show had its finale last night. I won't mention who won it until after the jump, but as I watched the finale unfold, something about it didn't seem right to me.

I didn't think I'd like the 'Food Truck Race' when it started, even though I like new trend of gourmet food being served out of trucks that used to only dispense hamburgers and hot dogs. But the personalities of the people on the various trucks sold me on the show, as did the fact that the twee and robotic members of the Nom Nom banh mi truck won every challenge leading up to the finale.

In the finale, they were pitted against the always-scraping-by heavy-metal gourmet burger guys from Grill 'Em All. And the contest was looking like a blowout until midway through the episode, which lead me to my aforementioned head scratching. Read on to see some of the questions I have about the finale that I'd ask the producers if I had a chance.

Did the producers make up the final "Truck Stop" at the last minute to even the playing field?
Almost every week, host Tyler Florence would call up the trucks and give them a "Truck Stop," which means they'd have to stop what they were doing and perform a task that was outside their comfort zone. One week, the trucks had to butcher a side of beef. Another week, they had to make a meal with catfish. This week's Truck Stop was simple: The Nom Nom crew had to make a burger and the Grill 'Em All guys had to make a banh mi sandwich for a guest judge.

The timing and nature of that Truck Stop was curious. Nom Nom was being badly beaten at that point; Grill 'Em All had traversed all five boroughs of New York City and were 20% of the way towards their money goal in Manhattan, while Nom Nom was staring a hard time in Staten Island in the face.

It felt like the producers were looking at the Grill 'Em All guys reaching the top of the Flatiron Building for the win with the Nom Nom guys stuck in Staten Island and they needed to even things out. So they picked a challenge that seemed to favor the Nom Nom truck -- who can't make a decent burger? -- so they could skip SI and set up the final showdown at Union Square.

What would have happened if the guest judge picked the Grill 'Em All banh mi? It just seems like that never would have happened. Luckily, Grill 'Em All ended up winning, but it felt like the producers decided to punish them for being so far ahead.

How did the trucks find such convenient parking spots? In New York, where parking is scarce, it seemed awfully convenient that both trucks happened to "find" similar prime parking spots.

In the Bronx, for instance, both trucks set up shop outside Yankee Stadium during a game, with Grill 'Em All situating themselves next to Stan's Sports Bar on 158th St. and River Avenue. I've been to dozens of Yankee games and I know that it's impossible to find parking at that spot right before a game, and I'm not driving around both a huge food truck and a support car. And during the final showdown in Manhattan, both trucks miraculously "found" spots in Union Square, a place where even a Smart car would have a place to find parking.

The producers really should have been up front all season and had the truck owners tell the audience that these spots were arranged beforehand. Otherwise, they're just insulting our intelligence.

Did the finale get rejiggered so Nom Nom wouldn't automatically win? There was no explanation why Nom Nom won every single stop. They didn't just win most weeks, they blew away the rest of the field. In every city it seemed like their marketing savvy worked to their advantage. But the penultimate challenge, in Jonesborough, TN, was a bit of a mystery. They didn't have a connection, they didn't have a pre-arranged spot. They looked like they got a late start compared to the other two teams. Yet, they beat out Grill 'Em All by a few hundred dollars.

Which leads me to wonder if the producers decided to change the formula for the finale so Nom Nom couldn't just station themselves in a spot and rake in dough. They knew the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and knew that Nom Nom was going to blow Grill 'Em All out of the water if left to their own devices in New York for three days. Indeed, we heard one of the Nom Nom crew talk about aligning themselves with New York magazine's Grub Street site so people would know where they were while they were in the city.

If Nom Nom wasn't in the finale, would the five-borough challenge cooked up by the producers have been used? It's hard to say, but it does seem like it was concocted to blunt the unstoppable force that was the Nom Nom truck.

When is Metallica going to sue Grill 'Em All for copyright infringement? Now that they've won, I wonder if they're going to be under pressure from the legendary band to change their logo. It's not the first time Metallica has sued someone, and it won't be the last.

What do you think? Was the finale of 'The Great Food Truck Race' fair to both teams?

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Jackie Godula Spadea

What a rip off. The finale was soooo unfair. Taste, in that challenge, is subjective. The finale should have been equal footing to see who the REAL winner would have been. Won't watch it anymore.

September 26 2011 at 5:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Leslie Ballard

I was very disappointed with the outcome as Nom Nom was consistently more successful than the other teams. It was interesting that it was so close at the end when Grill Em All had a $200 advantage from their start the night before. (Grill Em All was one of my least favorites...I also thought they may have cheated a bit by buying the banh mi meat already made, they whined soooo much in every episode, and I think they let down the Austin group when they had their "alliances." Think about Jonesboro - what an advantage they had by going to the car show, and they were still outsold bigtime by Nom Nom.) Question...what happened to the Nom Nom truck? Grill Em All observed when they were ready to head to the Flat Iron building that the Nom Nom truck was already gone. Where did they go?

September 28 2010 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh, one more thing:
6. What about that unusually accommodating New York cop letting the Grill 'em All truck get away with taking off someone's bumper? No ticket? No search for the car's owner? I'm thinking the producers were right there with money to pay the fine on the spot. Something was definitely fishy there.

September 22 2010 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not normally one for conspiracy theories, but there is just too much evidence that the finale was rigged to provided maximum suspense and the illusion of a level playing field.

1. The Nom Noms have proved to be brilliant in marketing, so how could they be so stupid as not to realize people coming out of a ball game would already be full on beer and junk food? Did the producers require them to pick Yankee Stadium as a late-night venue?

2. The serendipitous arrival of the bouncer from the same bar where Grill 'em All had made a killing the night before. Was he sent by the producers so the Noms wouldn't have to spend the rest of their lives in the Bronx?

3. The rather weighted Truck Stop. The Noms are, after all, Americans. They would unquestionably have a better chance with burgers than the Grill guys would with banh mi. Allowing the Noms to skip Staten Island evened the race and kept it from being a runaway for the Grill team.

4. The sudden disappearance of the Nom Nom truck after the Grill 'em All team made its $1,000 and was on its way to the Flatiron. Did the producers make the Noms move to instill panic in the Grill trio? If so, where did the Noms go so as to arrive at the Flatiron after the Grill boys?

I smell heavy-handed producer manipulation throughout the finale, and I want a replay.

September 22 2010 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had a few questions of my own:

1. When the Grill 'Em All guys left to head to the Flatiron Building, they saw that the Nom Nom truck had already left. Nom Nom didn't move their truck during the final selling period. So why didn't they get to the Flatiron Building first?

2. Is Tyler Florence really the best host they could find for this show? The show itself is engaging and fun. But Tyler, with his shiny, self-satisfied face and smug expression, not to mention his semi-sadistic delivery on the challenges, is totally obnxious. I vote for a different host for Season 2!

3. Is the front man for Grill Em All permanently stoned or possibly brain-damaged? The labored way he speaks--plus his nasty, "I give up; no one is as good as me; I can't believe the other guys won" whiny attitude--really did not make me want to root for that crew of hamburger slackers. Couldn't the producers have had the guy with the beard be that group's spokesperson? At least he can construct whole sentences without appearing to burn out his brain cells by doing so.

September 22 2010 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MichViewer's comment
Leslie Ballard

I am with you on # 1 and #3. The whining really got me down. I had hoped to see a Spencer and Nom Nom contest.

I do like Tyler Florence, though, and think he did a good job as host. I am not happy with the ending, however. Just didn't hit a bullseye for me.

September 28 2010 at 9:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think it was fair. Nom Nom would have won and it seemed like they rigged the finale so they wouldn't. Since they blew everyone out of the water it seemed unfair to put them in a position where they couldn't win. Grill couldn't win even with the advantage they had in Tennessee-don't think they would have won. And where was Nom-Nom if they had already left when Grill left? Nobody explained what happened. I liked the show but won't watch again since it seemed unfair.

September 21 2010 at 7:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just want to know why that Tyler all throughout the show talked about the "Final Total" which sounded like the final two teams would be judged on to find out who was the winner.

All of a sudden, the last episode, they come up a random competition where it becomes a selling race. It completely invalidates all other parts of the contest. I am over being disappointed, but it just seems a little "off".

I know a lot of people disliked Nom Nom, but I think they deserved to win. A major part of a business IS marketing. If you don't know your market, you won't have customers to sell to. I think they were brilliant in finding out where to go, and who to partner with in each city ahead of time.

Personally, I am surprised that some of the teams got the boot as early as they did. With some common sense, Nom Nom could have been defeated. I mean come on, Bahn Mi beats out Hamburgers and Wings? *shakes head*

September 21 2010 at 11:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to EbonyDad's comment

I watched the show last night for the first time. I saw them moving cones for one of the trucks to park, they had to have permits pulled etc. But a couple of times during the season, they were allowed to break traffic rules, park wherever and there were cones set up. I am glad Nom Nom lost, the guys were smart to look for drunk stoners, lol!

September 21 2010 at 12:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

NY is a big city and I want to know why the 2 trucks always wound up in the same places. I thought Nom Nom would wind up in Flushing where there is a large Asian community. They both were within blocks of each other in Union Square...this all had to be preplanned by the producers.

September 20 2010 at 5:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dee's comment

here's what i know: i live in union square, and was around the day they filmed the finale. i didn't notice nom nom truck, but where grill em all was parked on broadway and 14th, the entire street was blocked off for shooting beginning several hours before the truck showed up, and film permits were posted everywhere. you can't get those on short notice and the permits have to specify a very exact shoot location in order to be issued/approved.

September 22 2010 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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