In this edition of Ask Andy, where I try to answer your reality TV-related questions, we have two questions about Food Network competitions:
- the winter staple Holiday Baking Championship,
- and the summertime road trip The Great Food Truck Race.
My answers are below. If you have a question about reality TV, e-mail me!
How do I apply for Holiday Baking Championship?
Hi Andy. Do you have any idea who I would contact about casting for upcoming seasons [of Holiday Baking Championship]? —Lise
All four Baking Championship shows—Holiday Baking Championship, Halloween Baking Championship, Spring Baking Championship, and Kids Baking Championship—are produced by Center Drive Media, which owns two production companies.
In addition to the usual application questions and video, it asks applicants for “three photos of your best baked creations.” Kids who apply to Kids Backing Championship need a parent or guardian to also sign.
Currently, the filming dates for all four shows are “TBD 2022,” and the application is open.
However, the shows film months before they air. Last year, both the Halloween and holiday versions filmed in the summer at a resort.
If you’re curious about the process, a person who was recruited to apply for the Halloween and holiday versions briefly described their experience on Reddit.
Why is Great Food Truck Race no longer cross-country?
Hi Andy, long time fan of the site and also a long time reality TV junkie.
I’m watching the latest season of The Great Food Truck Race right now and I used to love this show so much in the earlier seasons. But the thing that has bothered me more and more each season as time has gone on is how they no longer road trip across the country. It’s basically The Great California Food Truck Race now.
Do you have any insight into why they don’t go across America anymore? That used to be such a great part of the show by placing them into unfamiliar cities and really putting them to the test. Thanks! —Rob
Great question, Rob. I watched The Great Food Truck Race during early years, and remain invested enough to occasionally look around, searching for an answer to this season-two mystery. But I eventually stopped watching, so I didn’t realize how much it’d changed.
In its first six seasons, it definitely moved across the country. Season one began in Los Angeles and ended in New York City, stopping in four cities along the way. Season six followed all of Route 66 from its start to its finish, Santa Monica to Chicago.
The Great Food Truck Race’s current season is staying in Los Angeles—quite a difference!
(For the record, season 15’s locations are mostly in the L.A. area—Laguna Beach, Venice, Long Beach, Redondo Beach—but it’s also going to the Glamis Dunes and then to San Diego for its finale.)
I asked Food Network about change, and a spokesperson told me that “while earlier seasons went cross country, routes for the past few years have been more themed.”
The spokesperson said that “Producers always looking for fun themes and locations,” and noted that fans are still watching: The June 5 “premiere was the highest rated premiere in more than 2 years, so the show continues to be a hit!”
My first thought was that maybe the shift away from long road trips and toward themed seasons might have had to do with the challenges of filming during the pandemic, especially before vaccines were widely available.
But then I started looking back, and its routes have steadily been getting smaller over the years.
Themes began with season 7 in 2016, the “Family Face-Off,” which stayed in California, though most of the subsequent themed seasons traveled through several states:
- Season 8’s Battle For The South filmed in Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia
- Season 9’s Wild West started and ended in L.A., but went to several places in Arizona
- Season 10’s Summer Beach Battle went through South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
- Season 11’s Holiday Hustle traveled through New England
However, the last pre-COVID season, season 12’s Gold Coast, had a fancy title but was basically filmed in L.A, with San Diego and Las Vegas added on.
The first season filmed during the pandemic, season 13’s Alaska: Battle For The North stayed in, well, Alaska; season 14’s all-star Battle of the Bay was set in San Francisco.
That brings us to The Great Food Truck Race season 15, which is in L.A. and titled “Hottest Season Ever.”
My educated guess is that—besides the creative challenges of finding new approaches for a 12-year-old series—it’s also cheaper to stay in a region than to move an entire production cross-country or even to multiple states.
The producing and editing can attempt to compensate by leaning into twists and drama, though for me those make the show worse, as does the change to having people who aren’t actually food truck operators competing. But I digress.
Now it’s cut back filming from 39 to 26 days, a change caused by COVID quarantine requirements.
Since CBS can get the same number of episodes while paying for 13 fewer days of production, and still gets a popular, top-10 show out of that, there’s no reason to go back.
Perhaps The Great Food Truck Race will go back to a cross-country road trip some day, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see more L.A.-based seasons ahead.
Update: After this story was published, host Great Food Truck Race Tyler Florence responded to one of my tweets about it with his answer to the question: Cross-country routes, he wrote, are “expensive and hard on the teams.”