Like many, I’ve been increasingly intrigued by the ongoing saga of street food. Growing at mind-boggling rates, mobile vendors have sprung up in cities across America, leaving city and state lawmakers scratching their heads and scrambling to enact new regulations, while traditional restaurateurs are left baffled at how to manage the customer ebb and flow due to this increasingly popular sector of the culinary world.
I’ve been most curious about the inter-industry vibes, of course. The ever-evolving, ongoing dynamics of brick and mortar chefs vs. mobile chefs. At first, I had assumed that parties would be aligned, everyone cohesively making great food in their respective kitchens. I was taken aback, however, by comments I received from a handful of brick and mortar kitchen veterans who were surprisingly dismayed with the expanding mobile food venue.
Here in Portland, a city considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the mobile food army, the majority of the street food community is comprised of stationary carts and trucks – more than 450 of them – with most found on the same space of asphalt every day, 365 days a year. While I understood the complaints of those dissenting “traditional” chefs, from where I stood, I perceived the cart communities to be a welcome addition to an already-thriving restaurant scene.
Published on Daily Blender, December 2010
Image: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender