“Food Truck Face Off” cast (L to R) Steak Shapiro, Jesse Palmer, Alpana Singh and Andrew Gruel. (Photo courtesy Food Network)
Former “Check, Please!” host Alpana Singh is headed back to the small screen, this time on a new Food Network series.
The master sommelier and River North restaurateur is a judge on “Food Truck Face Off,” premiering Oct. 2 on the foodie-focused cable net.
“I wasn’t looking to get back on TV,” said Singh, who opened The Boarding House eatery and bar almost two years ago.
“I just wanted to take part in this concept,” she said about the show. “It’s like ‘Shark Tank’ meets food trucks, and that really appealed to me.”
On each of the 13 episodes, four teams pitch their food-truck concepts to the show’s panel of judges, who evaluate everything from the teams’ business plans to their culinary creations.
Two of the teams are picked to square off in a two-day showdown, which includes putting their ideas in motion on the streets of whatever city they’re filming in. Season one was shot in Miami, Los Angeles, Toronto and Austin, Texas. (What? No Chicago? “Hopefully in the future,” Singh said.)
The team deemed to have the best food, service and presentation gets a special advantage in the final round, where competitors have to mix it up with other local food trucks in the area. The team that rings up the highest profits at the end of the two days wins the prize: their own food truck for a year.
“It really empowers people to have an entrepreneurial spirit,” Singh said. “After opening my first restaurant I could relate to what that feels like.”
Former NFL quarterback and sports broadcaster Jesse Palmer hosts the program. Joining Singh on the judges’ panel is Atlanta television and radio personality Steak Shapiro, who landed in hot water last year after a self-described “stupid” and “offensive” radio bit that made fun of a former New Orleans Saint with ALS. The third judges’ post is filled by a rotating roster of folks with real-life food truck experience, including Andrew Gruel (Slapfish Restaurant), Robyn Almodovar (Palate Party) and Zane Caplansky (Caplansky’s Deli and Thunderin’ Thelma).
Singh has never operated a food truck; her experience has been on the consumer side.
Her favorites in Chicago?
“I was really partial to the empanada truck, and I really liked DucknRoll,” she said.
If Singh ever does get into the meals-on-wheels biz, she said she already has her food truck name picked out: House of Carbs.
Singh stepped awayearly last year from her decade-long run as host of “Check, Please!,” WTTW’s “real people” restaurant review show. She passed the baton to Catherine De Orio, whose second season as emcee kicks off Oct. 17 on WTTW-Channel 11.
“Food Truck Face Off” premieres at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 (sneak peek at 10 p.m. Sept. 28) on Food Network, who’s getting a lot of mileage out of the food truck craze. Its series “The Great Food Truck Race” is in its fifth season.