T.O. food vendors wither; New York's battle Iron Chef -style
We chronicled the sad state of the Toronto à la Cart program in Saturday's Star.
Back in March, we interviewed Sean Basinski, the champion of New York City's huge and diverse street food scene. He said the eight participants in Toronto's program were "set up for failure" with red tape and restrictions while their NYC counterparts flourish. There , the 3,000 year-round and 1,000 seasonal food vendors need only a $200 permit, a $200 business licence and a health and safety inspection, and the public benefits with tasty, safe food all over the city, he said.
To rub delicious sea salt in our wound, Gotham is hosting a battle of the vendors to determine the "top street chef."
Moroccan, Mexican, Venezuelan -- it's enough to make you cry into your fries.
Here's the press release:
6TH ANNUAL FOOD FIGHT TO DETERMINE NYC’S TOP STREET CHEF
Finalists Announced for Beloved Vendy Awards Cook-off
New York – The Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center today announced the five street vendors who will compete in New York City’s sixth annual Vendy Awards, the intense grill-to-grill cook-off to determine New York’s top street chef.
One of the city’s most beloved and widely anticipated food events, the Vendys are the premier street food showcase and last year attracted 800 savvy street foodie attendees. This year’s Vendys will take place on Governor’s Island on September 25th.
“The Vendy Awards shine a spotlight on New York City’s most talented sidewalk chefs,” said Sean Basinski, Director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. “Only on this night do the best of the best – our concrete elite from across the city – unite for a fantastic food fight to win the 2010 Vendy Cup.”
These outstanding finalists are in the running for the coveted Vendy Cup:
- After only a year as a street chef, Yassir Zraouli and his Bistro Truck have foodies buzzing about his Moroccan inspired bistro-fare that’s bringing the casual vibe and deep flavors of the Mediterranean to high end fare like lamb and fish.
- Brother and sister "Rosa" Ofelia Cardoso and "Vilio" Viliulfo have served up traditional Mexican fare from their hometown, Puebla for two decades – after 17 years in the Bronx, they stormed midtown with their El Rey de Sabor cart three years ago.
- Astoria’s self-appointed “King of Falafel” and returning Vendys nominee from 2007 and 2009, Freddy Zeidaies says his chicken platter with pickled turnips is ready for its turn in the winner’s circle.
- Rain, wind, and blizzards haven’t keep Liliana Velasquez and Adolfo Gonzalez from serving up authentic Venezuelan street food 362-days-a-year at their Patacon Pisao truck in Inwood.
- After nabbing the Rookie Vendor crown last year, Oleg Voss of Schnitzels and Things is taking his hand-pounded, lightly-breaded, fried- to-perfection cutlets to the big leagues and hoping to continue their winning streak.
“In the street food capital of the world, who can pick a favorite? They’re all so delicious,” said Amy Kantrowitz, Director of the Vendys for the Street Vendor Project. “The Vendy Awards are definitely New York City’s most mouth-watering moveable feast.”
Starting in May, New Yorkers were encouraged to nominate their sweetest or most savory street vendor online at www.streetvendor.org/vendys. Over a thousand loyal customers packed the ballot boxes to determine which sidewalk chefs would face off as finalists.
The winner of the coveted Vendy cup will be determined by a panel of esteemed judges who will evaluate the vendors on a number of factors, including flavor, portability and personality. This year’s judges include Leslie Koch, President of The Trust for Governors Island; Molly O’Neill, former New York Times reporter and food columnist, cookbook author, and host of the PBS series Great Food; Aarón Sanchez, owner and executive chef of Centrico restaurant currently planning the opening of his own taco truck; Stephen Starr, owner of 20 restaurants previously awarded “Restaurateur of the Year” by Bon Appétit magazine and Zagat; and Tanya Wenman Steel, Editor–in-Chief of Epicurious.com since 2005. They will be joined by Citizen Judge Alyson Waller of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
The street food enthusiasts attending the cook-off will have the opportunity to weigh-in for their favorite street meat as well. The vendor receiving the most audience votes will win The People’s Taste Award. The audience will also select the crème de crème in a dessert truck category and a Rookie Vendor of the Year category. Nominees for both categories will be announced later this month.
“Once a year, we come together to celebrate New York City street cuisine and the hardworking food vendors. The Vendy Awards are our way of increasing New Yorkers’ recognition and appreciation of the food on the street,” added Basinski.
The all-you-eat cook-off will feature an open bar of beer and wine. The event is on track to sell out well ahead of time, so Vendys fans are encouraged to purchase tickets ($85 and up) ahead of time online at www.streetvendor.org.