8:01--Hi, I'm Tyler Florence, and I'm kind of a d-bag. But at least my sunglasses don't look like a 14-year-old girl's this week.
8:02-- Driving into NOLA, Grill 'Em All is feeling very confident. "We're going to go where the party is." Um, that would be everywhere, dudes.
8:04--Tyler tells the teams, "You are halfway to $50,000," and he hands each team $400 to get going, telling them that they get an extra night to sell in New Orleans, since people are up late drinking and hun-gray.
8:06--Nom Nom seem a little intimidated for the first time. They feel the competition from other Vietnamese sandwich shops in the city, but are planning to add shrimp to their menu and call their sandwiches po-boys instead of banh mi. Smart. Grill 'Em All and Austin Daily Press are teaming up again to get ingredients and work together. Um, Cory, do you not remember last time when the Grill 'Em All guys screwed you over? Apparently not.
8:07--Well, at least Cory's got the hook up for a muffaletta tutorial, and it's making me want to get in my car and drive to New Orleans. Grill 'Em All drives up to a crowded bar--apparently it's Tulane's graduation day--and announces over the bullhorn, "Let's f-ing do this!" They proceed to move a ton of product.
8:09--Austin Daily Press shows up to discover that Grill 'Em All did not save them a spot at the bar. See, Cory? I told you so.
8:15--The Nom Nom truck pulls up to the Spotted Cat and starts handing out samples. One customer declares a sandwich "the best thing I've eaten since I've been in town." Spencer on the Go is wasting time sitting around, waiting for a chef to show up so they can order from his supplier. They cook and sell nothing the first day.
8:16--The next morning, insane rain. The French guys finally get themselves frogs legs and sea bass, and they make risotto with crawfish (I'm sorry, I'm not going to call it crayfish like they did). The Grill 'Em All Truck is seriously leaking. "It's an old truck and it leaks a lot." Um, get a tarp, geniuses?
8:22--Look, they decided to go buy a tarp. Nice work! They also roll up to The Spotted Cat where Nom Nom was yesterday. Currently, the Nom Noms are parked near a Pinkberry, and it's raining so hard that people are actually driving up and ordering from their car windows. Instant bahn mi drive-thru!
8:24--The noise from Austin Daily Press's generator does not sound good. Grill 'Em All is selling the shit out of burgers and does not offer to help their so-called "partners," but luckily some slightly drunk guy has a generator at home a mile and a half away, which he donates so he can eat a sandwich.
8:25--French guys still doing so well. The Nom Nom truck shows up near the Spotted Cat, but everyone has already beaten them there and the crowd starts booing them, somewhat alarmingly. David, who's driving the Nom Nom truck, has a little meltdown about parking. Drama ensues. After a few scares, they manage to get parked and Battle: Burger/Banh Mi begins.
8:32--Everybody's hustling. Handing out coupons, grabbing mikes at the bars, trying to push product and outsell each other.
8:33--Time for Tyler's Truck Stop Challenge! He calls the contestants at what looks like two in the morning and tells them, "I want ya'll to go to bed. You're working with knives and driving trucks and I need you rested." WTF? Where did this "Mama Florence" act come from? The teams are pissed at being told they have to turn customers away and show up at the docks tomorrow morning.
8:35--Trucks roll into the warehouse...are you ready for this? And by this, we mean catfish, yee-aah. Each team has to filet and prepare a dish RIGHT NOW. And there will be a "punishment" for the loser.
8:37--These challenges bring to the surface the sharp contrast between those who truly love cooking and thinking about flavors and those who...make sandwiches. Grill 'Em All is putting together a blackened catfish sandwich, Spencer on the Go is crusting theirs in cornbread pieces, but Austin Daily Press doesn't even have proper cooking equipment; they cook their meager catfish filets on a sandwich press.
8:39--Jacques Leonardi, who owns Jacques-Imo's Café and shows up in a chef's coat, shorts, and sunglasses on his head, is judging the challenge. I love this guy already. The winner of the challenge gets $500, and the losers get what Tyler calls "the world's worst consolation prize."
Leonardi likes Grill 'Em All's sandwich overall, though it was a little tart. He compliments Spencer on the Go's fish, but says, "He's definitely a Frenchman, he doesn't know how to cook grits." See, I knew I liked this guy.
The catfish banh mi gets praise, though he wanted more fish--last place, you can tell, is Grill 'Em All's pressed catfish sandwich, which looks and sounds totally unappetizing. The kind Jacques calls it "interesting." That's an understatement.
8:42--Who wins? They make us go to commercial break, so annoyyyying. When we return, we learn that Spencer on the Go's butts are saved by winning the challenge. The Frenchies are released to go cook and sell food, essentially giving them a double advantage. Tyler announces the "consequence" for the rest of them, which is filleting 700 pounds of catfish. Misa from Nom Nom gets so wide-eyed, I'm afraid she's going to hurt herself. But this is definitely a punishment. Half these people don't know what they're doing, but no one gets to leave until the group finishes the work.
8:48--It's dark by the time the other trucks make it out to sell the last of their product. This one could really be a nail-biter...
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8:54--Okay, moment of reckoning. In first place , with $2103--the Nom Nom truck still beats everyone. Damn, these kids are good! Which just makes the rest of the teams annoyed. Which is kind of entertaining.
8:53--In second place, Grill 'Em All with $1307. Still a big gap between them and Nom Nom, which makes you wonder if there really is any question about who's going to win this competition anyway. In third place, Spencer on the Go with $1170 ($500 of which came from The Truck Stop Challenge). "We're very lucky to be alive," the Frenchies say. "You've got catfish to thank for it," responds Tyler the Wise.
This means, of course, that Austin Daily Press, who only earned $809, is going home. They are sad, and I have to say, I will miss Cory of the dirty bandana-ed hair.
8:59--Next week--The trucks are heading north to my home state of Tennessee. Just when I think they're going to say "Nashville," Tyler says "Jonesboro" instead. Seriously? You have got to be kidding me. Of all the places...Jonesboro? Population 5,000? Well, it's a brilliant move, because it will definitely pose a challenge. Grill 'Em All thinks they'll have an advantage because they sell "All-American" burgers, but we'll see...