After watching the first two, back-to-back premiere episodes of Deep Fried Dynasty, I can confidently tell you that this show is 10 percent interviews with our State Fair of Texas concessionaires, 10 percent OU Sooners saying “Oh my God,” as they eat fair food with powdered sugar all over their faces, and 90 percent slow-motion pull-apart zoom-ins and 360-spins of fried snacks. Fried peanut butter and jelly has never looked better. They hired a McDonald’s commercial food stylist for this one, for sure1.
Deep Fried Dynasty follows a whole cast of concessionaires as they navigate State Fair of Texas season one grease trap at a time.
While this isn’t technically a competition show, it’s shot like one. We start with Abel “Fried Jesus” Gonzales serving a long line of happy customers while Rick Stiffler stands at the booth next door with no line whatsoever. Tami and Rick Stiffler talk about how they’ve had a booth next to Fried Jesus for years, and that it’s been hard to watch his booth take off. Story as old as time. I bet the Apostles felt similarly.
But it’s hard to understand how they’re worried about Gonzales as competition for them when he only has two booths and a $300,000 goal for the whole fair season versus The Stiffler’s 10 booths and $2 million goal.
Pressure can make a puppy pull a freight train.
It’s actually surprising to hear that Gonzales had such a low goal for his fair season these days. There was a time when he brought in $200,000 just for his fried lobster. This illustrates how fleeting success can be when it comes to fried goods. If you’re not constantly bringing something new to the game, you’re not going to bring in those huge numbers. Fairgoers want the new, shiny object. Preferably on a stick. And dusted with powdered sugar.
In addition to Gonzales and the Stifflers (which is my new band name), we get introduced to Juan and Brent Reaves from Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que. Every time these guys make a dad joke or drop dad wisdom, I want you to drink. Highlight from this episode was, “Pressure can make a puppy pull a freight train.”
And there’s plenty of pressure. In between powdered sugar montages, the fine folks from Fernie’s Funnel Cakes cry over a funnel cake crisis before buying emergency pre-made funnel cake mix from Ace Mart to save the day. We also see the Reaves brothers deal with a late shipment of turkey legs. And a PR rep promises Chef Cassy success if she gives free food to influencers, followed immediately by influencer Courtney Kerr calling Chef Cassy’s fried greens “crusty.” It’s OK—she meant it as a good thing.
While the showrunners want me to be interested in the stress that the Reaves brothers are under as their staff forgets to plug in the rotisserie and another staffer calls the police when his toe gets stepped on at the turkey leg booth, I can’t help but focus on the ridiculousness of State Fair of Texas coupon currency.
When you go to the Great State Fair of Texas, you’re not paying in cash: You pay for food and beverages using coupons. One State Fair of Texas coupon equals one American dollar. Fairgoers pay for their food and drinks in coupons, and concessionaires collect the coupons in a locked box.
At the end of the day, the coupon box is taken to an undisclosed location that appears to be many moons away from the concession stands. There, it’s weighed on the saddest scale I’ve ever seen. You’d really think that the State Fair of Texas could come up with a flashier way to weigh these boxes.
I mean, there’s a big ol’ midway full of light-up games right there. Maybe you put the box on the scale at the bottom of a light up tower and it dings like a strongman game if you break even for the day. Or strap the box into the first seat of a rollercoaster once it’s been weighed. At least shoot the coupon confetti out of a cannon once it’s been weighed.
How was the State Fair of Texas marketing team not on this? Can we get Cassy’s PR lady to help out here?
One pound of coupons equals $2,100, and the total weight of the box tells the concessionaire the money their booth brought in for the day. Because it isn’t the future, and we just simply don’t have a better way to take money at the fair.
The idea that we’re still dealing in coupons in 2022 gives me far more indigestion than a deep fried, chocolate-covered strawberry waffle-ball-on-a-stick ever could. Each of these concessionaires is hoping to bring in tens of thousands of dollars a day at these booths. That’s so many tiny coupons to lose.
And we just weigh the locked box and go with that? What if the scale is wrong? Scales can’t be trusted. I know the one in my bathroom is a lying bag of Fernie’s expired funnel cake mud. Even Chuck E. Cheese is like, “Y’all. Reloadable cards exist. It’s not that hard. Ask Skee-Ball.”
At the end of each episode, we find out how much each booth made per day and whether each concessionaire has brought in the cash they need to hit their goals by the end of the fair’s 24-day season. When the concessionaire has had what they perceive to be a good day, it’s fun to watch them weigh that coupon box. But when they’ve had a tough day already, it really adds insult to injury that we’re filming the moment they find out that they’re taking home half of what they need to be taking home. Especially when you also know that the State Fair is taking a cut of that daily profit. If it’s still what it used to be, that’s nearly 25 percent.
Probably best not to think about that too much. Focus on the 360-spinning fried sandwiches and count the number of shirts that say “FREEDOM” in the background and you’ll be just fine.