By NANCY LUNA | OCRegister.com
It’s hard for any reality TV show to fly under the radar in the age of Twitter.
Consider the filming of Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race, which launched taping of its second season several weeks ago. I learned via Twitter that two Orange County food trucks (Seabirds and The Lime Truck) were competing in the reality show — where gourmet trucks try to outsell each other in coast-to-coast street battles.
At the time, Food Network reps — clearly underestimating the power of social media this year — repeatedly ignored the media’s attempt to confirm the lineup of trucks. Truck owners also kept quiet.
Understandably, the success of any reality show is sworn secrecy from contestants to prevent spoilers for TV audiences.
But when you’re hawking food to the masses in major cities like Salt Lake City, Denver and Memphis, it’s hard to keep details under wraps.
Twitter – the main communicating platform for food trucks — erupted. Loyal food truck fans like Michelle Reynoso of Anaheim began Tweeting details about their favorite trucks being on the show.
Sightings were impossible to ignore as fans shared photos of trucks selling food.
“The show is a competition, so of course we do everything we can to avoid spoiling the content of the show,” said Brian Lando, Food Network’s vice president of programming and special projects. “But, the fact is elements of the show are dependent on public events and social media chatter leads to speculation.”
The popular cable show eventually posted the eight-truck lineup not long after the viral Tweets spread to foodies in various cities. (List of 8 truck contestants). Show host, superstar chef Tyler Florence, regularly makes Twitter announcements about location shoots.
“The Great Food Truck people realized that Twitter is too powerful of a tool to ignore,” said Reynoso, 41. “I think they just tossed in the towel and made this year’s filming less of a secret since it was going to get leaked out anyway. Might as well get the buzz going right?”
And getting the buzz going on her beloved The Lime Truck is indeed what she’s been doing for weeks. Reynoso, who I consider the Queen of Food Truck Foodies in O.C., drove nearly 11 hours to Salt Lake City to support The Lime Truck during the Utah challenge.
When she and her husband arrived in Salt Lake City, she found her fave truck parked in front of a Petsmart selling a meatless menu of mac ‘n cheese, honey BBQ lettuce wraps and a mushroom cheese steak taco. The Lime Truck crew took one look at her and laughed, she wrote on her blog. The hometown team told her contestants were given only $100 to spend for the challenge so they went with a veggie menu.
The couple ate and stayed for about an hour before heading back home.
“It was 7 p.m. when I thought of the trip,” she told me earlier this week in between posting messages about the show’s next stop. “Talk about being spontaneous. I don’t know who was more shocked — the Lime Truck, my friends, or me.”
Besides Reynoso, media sites and other food bloggers have been sharing details about truck sightings via blogs and Twitter.
“The social media coverage of this season is really a testament to the show’s popularity,” Lando said. “Last year, viewers weren’t sure what to expect – but now there is a lot of anticipation for the amazing challenges, personalities and food that roll in with the trucks to each city.”
Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts joined the trucks in Denver for a segment that showed some of the action in the Mile High City. The piece included interviews with Seabirds and The Lime Truck — clearly still in the race. Roberts swooned as she took bites of beer-bathed mussels from The Lime Truck and beer-battered avocado tacos from Seabirds.
As live coverage continued on Twitter, The Lime Truck moved on. During a challenge in Memphis, one news site posted an image of The Lime Truck crew racing through city streets with a whole pig slung over their shoulders.
Reynoso and other Twitter foodies Re-Tweeted (Twitter lexicon for “reposted”) the images immediately.
As of this weekend, I can safely report that Irvine-based Lime Truck is still in the hunt. (It appears that Costa Mesa-based Seabirds got knocked out in an earlier round. )