New York City-based food truck Korilla was eliminated from The Great Food Truck Race‘s second season in the episode that aired Sept. 11, 2011, having been disqualified after being accused of cheating in a very strange conclusion to the episode.
But Food Network didn’t let the disqualified and accused contestants tell their side of the story—though they have now.
As Tyler Florence explained during “the weirdest elimination yet,” he said that one team put “$2,700 of your own money in the till” and, in a voice-over, explained that money has to be “matched by a legitimate receipt.”
So, “slipping your own money in the cash box is a clear violation of the rules,” he said, adding, “Korilla, you guys tried to cheat and you got caught.”
The truly weird part, though, was that Korilla didn’t actually respond in any meaningful way.
One of the guys said, “Are you serious right now?” right before Tyler accused them, and before they drove away, another said, according to a translated subtitle, “He just made us look really bad.”
Adding that much money to the cash box seems like a pretty ridiculous way to cheat because it’d be so obvious.
Tyler did not directly suggest they faked receipts; in fact, his voice-over (which seemed added in post-production) emphasized that proceeds had to match “legitimate” receipts, though that could have been an oblique way of accusing them of faking receipts.
Korilla, disqualified for cheating, insists “we would never cheat”
However, it’s clear that Korilla objects to the editing, the accusation, and/or their elimination. On Twitter, they wrote, “WE WOULD NEVER CHEAT ON YOU NEW YORK,” a clever response but one that offered no details or explanation.
That’s because, as a subsequent tweet explained, their “1st Amendment Rights went on a hiatus and won’t be back till Spring.” They hashtaged that #itaintoveryet,” suggesting that, next year, they’ll tell the full story.
That’s an obvious reference to their contracts, although the first amendment doesn’t apply when you sign your life away on a reality TV show, of course.
Those contracts we’ve seen (read Big Brother’s contract or Survivor’s contract) include clauses that prevent contestants from talking to the media without permission at the very least.
What’s most interesting to me is the disproprtionate’s response: Korilla’s inability to talk and Food Network’s strong, unequivocal statement that they cheated (which was repeated in question posted on the show’s Facebook page said, “Why do you think Korilla attempted such an obvious violation of the rules?”—a question that prompted some predictably awful and racist comments).
If Food Network and the producers have clear evidence, they should produce it, but at the very least they should let Korilla talk and defend themselves.
Forcing the truck to remain silent only causes conspiracy theories to grow and the show to lose credibility—though it also gets people talking and watching.
What happened, according to Korilla
Update: Aug. 22, 2021 While Korilla’s disqualification was in 2011, and their social media posts suggested they’d talk the following spring, I kept searching and never found any further explanation—until now.
First, a brief recap: In the fifth episode, which took place in Memphis, Tennessee, Korilla was one of four trucks left along with Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, Hodge Podge, and The Lime Truck. The “Speed Bump” challenge required the teams to stop serving meat and convert their food to vegetarian dishes.
At the end, Korilla’s final total was $5,258, which was higher than fourth-place truck Hodge Podge, which earned $4,961. Yet Korilla was eliminated.
When Tyler Florence accused Korilla of cheating, he did so in a voice-over recorded in post-production, in which he said their sales were not “matched by a legitimate receipt” and directly accused them of “slipping your own money in the cash box,” which would be “a clear violation of the rules.”
It seems absurd to think that the team would just get $2,700 in cash and try to secretly slip it into the cash box, and the “legitimate receipt” part seemed to point toward something else.
All Food Network said at the time was that “a strong, qualified team made an unfortunate decision and in doing so, left us no choice but to continue the competition without them.”
So what actually happened?
Korilla’s Eddie Song was interviewed by KoreanAmericanStory.org in 2016, and explained what happened.
I found that interview linked in a Reddit thread while when reviewing a new, better food truck competition series, which reminded me of The Great Food Network Race and thus made me think of Korilla.
When asked about the show, but not specifically about their disqualification, Eddie began by explaining the challenge: “They’d basically created this roadblock where we can’t sell any barbecue, any meat, so you gotta be completely vegetarian,” he said.
“We decided to form a little partnership with one of the top Southern barbecue, a Memphis-style barbecue,” he added, and then said, “They didn’t appreciate that.”
It’s not entirely clear who “they” refers to, but I’m assuming it’s the show’s producers. It’s also not clear what the partnership entailed.
But Eddie explained what Korilla actually did:
Our strategy was: We can’t sell any meat? We’ll sell you two tortillas for $8. You can get the protein from our partner, who’s doing this Memphis-style barbecue.
So they made money—$2,700 worth?—by selling meat-free tortillas. This sounds like a pretty brilliant strategy, especially if the other truck give away meat just to help Korilla out. (It’s not clear what the partnership actually entailed.)
If this is the full story, I can understand why that may not have been allowed, as creative as it was. It also aligns with Food Network’s 2011 statement, which referred to “an unfortunate decision” and didn’t repeat Tyler Florence’s accusations, which never seemed credible.
But I still don’t understand why the production and network wouldn’t just show that and instead decided to accuse a team of cheating. Perhaps we’ll learn that in another five or 10 years.