The competition at "America's Next Great Restaurant" hit the streets this week with contestants having to serve their fare out of food trucks positioned either on Sunset Blvd. or Hollywood Blvd. As might be expected, there was little success -- and a few serious cooking surprises that brings to mind the obvious question: Wouldn't this show be more interesting had experienced food entrepreneurs been competing?
But first, the results: Sandy of Saints & Sinners, at right, was shown the door after grim reviews of her food, despite the new chef she had hired at the behest of the judges last week. Her bacon-mac-and-cheese seemed to be the final straw that resulted in her departure, as well as her ill-defined restaurant concept. (And who orders mac-and-cheese from a food truck?)
Joey of the restaurant concept formerly known as Saucy Balls gives up the name, again at the urgings of the judges. When he suggests "Joey Meatballs" as an alternative, the judges look a bit stunned. Together they settle on Brooklyn Meatball Company. Joey requests a mish-mash of graphic design on his food truck, which includes big images of his prepared food combined with the cartoon drawing of his grandmother, plus the Brooklyn Bridge and, well, it was a disaster and the judges told him so. Visuals clearly are not his strong suit (remember that last week he wanted a uniform that looked like an Italian gangster). He had a small display of his sandwich in a styrofoam container sitting outside the truck as an inducement to buy his food and he also served small packets of dried chiles flakes with his turkey meatball sandwich. The horror! The judges were beside themselves over this presentation. (Joey: right after "location, location, location," success is all about the visuals.) Despite the fact that the judges liked his food, Joey had the lowest sales of all the food trucks (once again, it's the visuals that make the difference when it comes to food -- and the taste, of course).
Jamawn of Soul Daddy was saved only because he had top sales with his honey mustard BBQ chicken. But he made the most serious cooking mistake of the contenders by serving canned green beans with the meal. In California. no less. Jamawn is on shaky ground. My prediction is that he will take the fall next week. His soul-food concept has far less universal appeal than that of the other contenders. That's true in the Twin Cities, as well, where soul-food restaurants have had limited success -- and this is where one of the winning restaurants would be located. If the judges are looking for a Chiptole-style mass appeal, they will be searching for a more viable outlet to span the U.S.
Stephenie of Harvest Sol had the second lowest sales with her falafel salad, which seemed an odd choice for her food truck offering (she said that she didn't think her concept lended itself to a food truck). She enraged the judges by making the falafel with canned chickpeas, instead of dried (which the judges apparently considered to be "fresh," which she said she did because of timing issues). Curiously, the question never arose with Sudhir of Spice Coast and his meal of cauliflower and chickpea tacos. Did he used canned or dried? We never find out. But the judges love his food. My bets are on him as the winner, or at least among the final two contenders. Indian food has become so popular and there's no competition for this in the fast-casual arena.
Greg and Krystal of Grill 'Billies came out shining this week, as they did in the last episode. Theirs was a simple grilled chicken sandwich and corn on the cob that was served from a well-designed truck that the judges loved. Still, last week their chef used diet cherry cola in their "pulled" pork sandwich, a fact visible in the video footage but not noticed by the judges. Not my recipe for success.
Did anyone else notice that one of the food trucks shown in the early scene at the parking lot of the food-truck company was for grilled cheese sandwiches? Shades of Meltworks (but this was a different name).
Tomorrow the Nielsen ratings come out and we'll see where ANGR has landed. Regardless of the national standings, these latter episodes have me hooked. Next week: The contestants cook for kids.
Update: This week's show dropped to # 84 in the ratings (last week it was # 78), and was watched in 2.5 million homes (last week it was 2.82 million households).