You might think you’ve stumbled upon an episode of The Great Food Truck Race if you tune in to the middle of an episode of the new Discovery+ reality show Burger Truck Brawl: people lined up at food trucks, chefs enthusiastically working the crowd, food going out windows, anxiety inside the truck about ingredients that are running out, shopping trips for ingredients, a timer counting down.
But Burger Truck Brawl is a simpler, better version of that format, focusing on one food truck, Billionaire Burger Boyz, and its three engaging proprietors—Davidlee Kitchen, Derrick Bivens, and Jennifer Johnson—who travel to a different city in each episode and face off against a local food truck over two days.
The title is a little misleading because this is not a brawl between burger trucks, but instead a burger truck that’s in a brawl with a variety of food trucks all over the west coast. Burger Truck Brawl’s Eugene, Oregon, competitor, for example, is a truck called Sammitch, and the show went on to Seattle from there; the competition started in San Diego against The Craft Taco Truck.
The show comes from executive producer Guy Fieri and Lando Entertainment, the production company that now produces Restaurant: Impossible, plus shows like Tournament of Champions and Guy’s Grocery Games, and there’s perhaps good reason for that: The Billionaire Burger Boyz previously competed on Guy’s Grocery Games.
Burger Truck Brawl is on Discovery+, but was developed by OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network—which is one of Discovery’s cable channels—so it’ll be curious to see if it one day ends up on Food Network or OWN or both. (Most Discovery+ “exclusive original series” have ended up on cable after a few months.)
The Great Food Truck Race lost its way
I was a long-time fan of The Great Food Truck Race, which has aired 14 seasons over the past 11 years, but has unfortunately devolved into a mediocre Food Network cooking competition that happens to that take place in food trucks.
What started as a competition between actual truck proprietors in the first two seasons became a competition between amateurs who don’t own their own trucks, and now they don’t even win the truck any more. Its quality started to slide in season two while Tyler Florence’s smarminess has increased. And then there have been sketchy things like the (finally solved) mystery of Korilla’s disqualification for cheating.
The point: I love the idea of food trucks competing, since it’s a small business in a vehicle, and that inherently involves talent and drama. But The Great Food Truck Race isn’t that show any more, but Burger Truck Brawl actually is.
In each episode, both the Billionaire Burger Boyz trucks have to create entirely new menus, and each truck gets to pick one day’s challenge.
In the first episode, the guest truck choose an ingredient every dish has to include, while on the second day, the Boyz’s challenge was to take two of the opposing truck’s dishes and transform them: the burger truck had to make two new burgers out of two of the taco truck’s tacos, and vice-versa. Each truck puts up $1,000, which goes to the winner (and which presumably is ultimately coming from the money they’re earning across the two days.)
Those challenges allow the trucks to show off their creativity and their existing food, though I would have liked a little more focus on the actual menu-planning and developing of dishes. The middle parts of the episode can blend together too easily, especially with how similar to parts of The Great Food Truck Race it is. Instead of that, I wish the show would have spent more time with the opposing truck—though it also makes sense that, in the first episode, it’d spend more developing its season-long stars rather than the three people on the guest truck.
And the episode does do a good job of telling us about Davidlee, Derrick, and Jennifer—their relationships, how they met, how they got started, and where they’ve come from. They were all homeless at one point; now they have popular trucks and stores.
Their interaction and the inside of their truck is non-stop joviality, and they take the competition with the other truck seriously while absolutely making it a friendly fight.
Ultimately, they’re the reason to watch. While there’s not a whole lot that’s completely new on Burger Truck Brawl, it’s doing everything quite well.
Burger Truck Brawl
Burger Truck Brawl is a fun, friendly competition B
What works for me:
- A great format that shows off both teams’ food and creativity
- All of The Great Food Truck’s strengths with none of its many flaws
What could be better:
- Either less filler, shorter episodes, or more attention to details
- More character development for the opponents