On this wintry Friday in New York City, our thoughts are with the many street vendors slinging hot dogs and chicken over rice in the snow and slush. But we are also daydreaming of milder climes, where vendors don’t need to warm themselves by the flattop, and ungloved fingers aren’t frozen making change. That magical place is New Orleans, host to the latest installment of the Vendy Awards, taking place Wednesday, March 13.
Since 2005, the Street Vendor Project has honored the hard work and delicious offerings of food vendors by hosting these awards. Launched as a marketing tool and fundraiser for the organization, it has evolved into so much more – it’s a food festival, friendly competition, and celebration of the diverse and exciting food vendor community.
Often referred to as “the Oscars of street food,” we have been overjoyed to be a sponsor of the event for the last three years. Last year, we even offered mini versions of our regular food cart tours for attendees with early admission – and we’re sorry we aren’t in the Big Easy on a day like today (check out our recap and video from the 2012 NYC Vendys). In the last few years, the event has gained more attention and broadened its horizons by adding awards in 2011 in Philadelphia – a city with a growing food vendor scene – and Los Angeles – for many, the spiritual home of food trucks.
The food truck craze continues to open up possibilities for small food entrepreneurs across the country, and the Vendys have expanded to recognize their efforts and innovative food offerings. Nine finalists will compete for the New Orleans Vendy Cup: Woody’s Fish Tacos, Hot Tamale Mama, Taceaux Loceaux, La Cocinita, Foodie Call, Vaucresson Sausage Co., Fat Falafel, Empanada Intifada, and Ms. Linda’s Soul Food Catering Company (learn more about each of these businesses here).
The Vendy Awards won’t be the only New York institution in New Orleans this week – the event will be part of the Brooklyn Brewery Mash, a food and arts festival that is touring the country to support Slow Food USA. Proceeds from the Vendys will also support the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, which advocates for the rights of mobile food vendors and is working to craft more vendor-friendly regulations in the city (something they’re campaigning for right now).
But NOLA is just the first stop on a long 2013 season of the Vendy Awards – next up will be another new city,
Boston (which recently hosted its own Food Truck Throwd0wn) on April 25-28. They’ll then hold the big show in New York City September 7, followed by newcomer Chicago (October 3-6), Philadelphia (November 7-10), and Los Angeles (November TBD).
As the industry grows and more people become aware of the great contributions street vendors can make their cities (and city governments understand the importance of clear, fair street vendor regulations and enforcement), the Vendy Awards are a wonderful way to educate the public, bring the diverse vendor community together, and honor and encourage these small business owners. Here’s to hoping every city has its own Vendy Awards in the near future!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Vendy Awards Boston will not be happening in April, so you’ll just have to be ready to pounce on those early bird tickets for the NYC Vendys when they go on sale early this summer!
Turnstile Tours offers weekly tours of food carts and trucks year-round, every Wednesday at 12pm in Manhattan’s Financial District, and every Friday at 2pm in Midtown. These tours include tastings from six different vendors, and visitors learn about the history of vending in New York City, the rules and regulations affecting vendors, and they even have the opportunity to meet the vendors themselves and ask about what it takes to run one of these small businesses. At least 5% of all of our ticket sales goes to support the Street Vendor Project. To join us, visit our tickets and information page.