Chicago Food Trucks Banned from Cooking Onboard

Nearly six months ago Chicago approved new legislation meant to help food trucks legally operate in the city and finally have the opportunity to cook food on board. However in those six months not one single truck has successfully been licensed for onboard cooking. 109 food trucks have applied for Chicago’s Mobile Food Preparer licenses, but according to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer protection, none of them have met the city’s requirements.

For many food trucks cooking their food onboard is the only way to serve a superior, made-to-order product. The Jibarito Stop food truck invented a new sandwich called the jibarito, with seared steak, lettuce, tomato and cheese between hot friend plantains. However the truck’s owners Cely Rodriguez and Moraima Fuentes may never be able to actually serve this sandwich.

“I think many food truck owners are hesitant to even pursue cooking onboard because of their haunting experience with working with the city,” said Rodriguez.

Food truck owners certainly feel the same way about applying for this license, encountering city officials that cite numerous problems but offer no real solutions. Gabriel Wiesen, food truck operator and owner of Midwest Food Trucks said that Chicago’s regulation is “one of the most, if not the most, stringent in the country.”

Food truck owners had a difficult enough time getting a license to serve prepackaged food, that cooking onboard seems nearly impossible. Chicago’s code requires that food trucks have ventilation equipment and gas line equipment that are very difficult to install and raise the cost of outfitting a truck as much as $20,000. This equipment can also raise the height of food trucks to 13 feet, making it impossible to travel beneath certain underpasses in Chicago.

However the Office of Business Affairs is telling a different story. Spokeswoman Jennifer Lipford said that only four of the 109 food trucks that applied for the license have returned for follow-up consultations.

“The city wants to see a thriving food truck industry that also maintains important health and safety standards that are in place to protect the public,” said Lipford. “We want to see more food trucks and we want to work with people, but we can’t work with them if they don’t come back.”

Many food truck owners still believe that the city is sending mixed messages towards food trucks. Aaron Crumbaugh of Wagyu Wagon has been discouraged by the process of obtaining licenses in Chicago, and has turned his attentions to outfitting food trucks in other cities with straightforward licensing procedures. Another truck, Beavers Coffee + Donuts Truck has been forced to operate solely on private property without an onboard cooking license. The truck still must work with a local commissary to assist with a number services including wastewater and grease disposal. Food trucks so far have not found any such commissaries.

The Chicago Tribune recently confirmed one known commissary as well as a shared kitchen facility which allegedly qualifies as one, though the owner was unaware because of a miscommunication.
It seems that miscommunication and confusion have been paramount in preventing food trucks from fully operating within Chicago, and many truck operators are calling for a city liaison to assist them in the licensing process. This licensing debacle has already caused several trucks to shut down permanently, and raises questions as to whether Chicago truly intends to allow food trucks after years of back and forth debate on the topic.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Countdown to the 2012 Vendy Awards

The New York City Vendy Awards will be held tomorrow, September 15th at Governor’s Island. The Vendy Awards are an annual tasting and award ceremony for some of New York City’s best food trucks and carts. The event is sponsored by our friends at the Street Vendor Project and works to shed light on new and upcoming vendors, and raise awareness for the rights of small business owners.

This year the Vendy nominees will fall into several categories from last year, and one new one. The new category is called “Best in Market”, which acts to represent street vendors that sell their goods at street fairs and outdoor markets. This new breed of vendor tends to use locally sourced ingredients and classic techniques, and was heavily supported by the voting public during nominations this year.

Last year the Vendy’s created a new category called “Most Heroic Vendor” to support those that stood up for their community. This year the Most Heroic Vendor is Sammy Kasem, a halal food vendor in Bay Ridge Brooklyn who faced opposition from several brick-and-mortar restaurants. These restaurant owners tried kicking him out of his spot, nailing park benches down to keep his cart out, and threatened and harassed him. Instead of giving up Sammy has continued to fight for his right to make a living in this community.

In the other five categories a wide variety of known and more obscure trucks have been nominated. In the Best Dessert category, Coolhaus Ice Cream sandwiches and Andy’s Italian Ices have been nominated, both members of the New York City Food Truck Association, and well known throughout New York City. Coolhaus originates from California, and is homage to architectural design by using cookies and plenty of flavors of ice cream. Andy’s has the same idea with over 45 flavors of water and crème ices, as well as an espresso bar.

For Best Rookie Vendor our friends at Okadaman and Phil’s Steak’s were nominated, as well as Chinese Mirch, Morocho Peruvian Cuisine, and Cambodian Cusine Torsu. Okadaman is a Japanese food truck serving Osaka-style street food like their iconic Japanese pancake. Phil’s Steaks serves traditional Philly cheese steaks, and is always a huge hit at events.

In the new Best in Market category, Baby Got Back Ribs from the Smorgasborg Flea Market in Brooklyn was nominated, as well as Lumpia Shack. Baby Got Back Ribs uses a 21-seasoning flavoring to make their signature ribs. Lumpia serves Filipino-inspired spring rolls in Brooklyn, and aims to bring Filipino cuisine to the whole world.

In the main category, the Vendy Cup, six vendors have been nominated with a huge variety of tastes. Our friends at the Cinnamon Snail serve vegan food from their ornate burgundy-colored food truck; their Makers Mark donuts last year were a huge hit and took home the Vendy Award. Long-time vendor Uncle Gussy has also been nominated, a signature Greek food truck that keeps cooking all in the family.

We’re thrilled for all the vendors nominated for Vendy Award’s this year, and this event should provide each vendor with publicity and raise awareness for the service they provide to New Yorkers. Check in Monday to see a full recap of the day’s events.

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

And The Vendy Goes To…

Next month on September 15th, the 8th Annual Vendy Awards will take place on Governors Island. Many of the popular food trucks that we see parked on the streets of New York City and buy delicious, savory lunches from every day are expected to attend.

In recent years, the food truck/cart culture of the city has exploded. New food trucks are popping up very frequently, serving foods of various ethnic cuisines from around the world, novel and unique fusion dishes, and scrumptious desserts. The Vendy Awards were initiated to celebrate just that. Street vendors compete  to see who will be determined the best street food vendor in NYC each year. The proud and talented chefs that run these food trucks and food carts compete head-to-head in an intense cook-off, after which the judges and attendees will vote for who they think serves the best food. This street food vendor will then be titled Vendy Award winner and given a Vendy Cup as their prize. Other awards that will be given out include the Dessert Category Winner, Rookie Vendor of the Year, Market Vendor Award, and Peoples’ Taste Award Winner.

Past Vendy Cup winners include Solber Pupusas, King of Falafel, NY Dosa, and Hallo Berlin. Other vendors who have attended and competed include Eggstravaganza, Cinnamon Snail, Sam’s Falafel, Biryani Cart, Wafels & Dinges, Kwik Meal, Mexicue, and Guerrilla Ice Cream.

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The Vendy Awards also serve as an opportunity to raise money for the Street Vendor Project, a non-profit organization that defend the rights and promote the special interests of street vendors throughout New York City. While the number of street vendors in urban cities throughout the country has been growing, opposition from wealthy corporations and individuals has also increased. The Street Vendor Project’s mission is to aid in the growth of street vendors as small businesses and emphasize how they contribute to our cities each and every day.

A $95 ticket (Early Bird special $80) includes all the food you can eat plus both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that will be served at the event. Attendees will enjoy live performances while they indulge in the incredible meals and snacks that New York’s best street vendors prepare and serve. Thousands of New Yorkers venture out of their offices every day just to visit their favorite food truck or cart for a satisfying lunch, and this is the one day that we can show them how much we appreciate their culinary talents. But don’t worry, if you miss this exciting event you can always visit your favorite food truck on the streets!

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Wall Street Protests Wearing Thin on Food Vendors

Although the occupy Wall Street movement intends to stand up for small business owner like New York’s street vendors, those who sell food around Zucotti Park have been less than understanding of the protestor’s goals. Street vendors have recently complained that they have been losing all their business due to the influx of protestors, repelling their regular crowds and not purchases themselves.

The street vendors are mostly Arab and Egyptian, and though the protests have been compared to the Arab Spring and Tahrir Square, the vendors fail to see the similarities between events. While the protestors have exhibited a certain level of destitution, begging for coffee and hunting for money, streets vendors have failed to see the parallels between the Wall Street protests and uprisings in Third World countries. Egyptian street vendor Zizi Elnagouri said, “We were fighting for a big, big thing: for life, to eat, against a giant snake that would kill us. Here, they’re not fighting to eat, say, regular bread, but … special bagels or something.”

The feelings of disconnect between street vendors and protestors extends to brick and mortar business owner as well. Many have reported lower sales as customers are driven away by the protestors, as well as having issues with protestors damaging their bathrooms. For some vendors closely surrounded by protestors it is difficult to move their carts in and out of the park, resulting in all night vigils guarding their carts in Zucotti Park.

Though many street vendors sympathize with the goals of the Wall Street protests, they cannot help but hope that they come to an end soon. A falafel vendor named John from Alexandria had this to say, “This is terrible business. I hope they get the money they’re protesting for, then they can give me some.”

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com