Free the Food Trucks!

In the Boston Globe, Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University and director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, asks himself, “Why do food trucks matter?” and answers his own question:

“Cities work economic magic and entertain their citizens by connecting smart people, helping them to learn from one another and to innovate….Food trucks are a natural part of the innovative culinary process…Preserving the monopoly power of local eateries is a terrible reason to restrict food trucks.”

Subsitute the word “Atlanta” for the word “Boston, and you have it in a nutshell:

“As in many other areas, a one-stop permitting process that aims at providing speedy approval seems like a step forward. While I admire the Food Truck Challenge in City Hall Plaza to bring food trucks to scale, we should give up on micro-managing the location of every food truck. Instead, public spaces should be rented to food trucks, so the space will go to the truck that values it most. Food trucks can improve Boston’s streets and Boston’s palates ­ they just need to be free to do so.”

(photo of Mayor Thomas Menino from the Boston Globe)

A Food Soiree

Please come out tonight in support of the Sweet Auburn Curb Market’s new extended hours (till 8 p.m.) on Thursdays. Most of the restaurants will be open for business, including the newest and definitely fabulous Bell Street Burritos, which started as a delivery business and a way for a young professor of theology to feed his family. If you are still pining for Tortillas on Ponce, Matt’s burritos are exact replicas of the original, sauce and all.

Also…the first ever evening Urban Picnic at the market sponsored by the Atlanta Street Food Coalition will start promptly at 5 p.m. and many of your favorite food trucks will be on the curb!

Come out to support the market so it can keep moving in the right direction….

A Big Day for Street Food

Yesterday, Councilman Kwanza Hall of District 2 invited the Atlanta Street Food Coalition to City Hall to spark an interest with the other members on the City Council and honor pioneers such as the Yumbii truck, the King of Pops, and other attendees.

Proclamations were read, popsicles were shared, and sincere thanks went to the Councilman, who briefly alluded to the current statute of street food (“not quite legal at the moment”) and has vowed to introduce new legislation to help vendors over the hurdles.

Look at all the happy faces of the honorees!

Practical Tips

How do you pick a good employee to work in your food truck?

The owner of Rickshaw Dumpling Bar in Manhattan recently told Nation’s Restaurant News that not only do his employees have to be “able to steam fresh dumplings, prep all the fresh sides like the green salads and sesame noodle salad, and be able to drive in New York City,” but they also must know how to “handle hot weather days, cold weather days and being harassed by other vendors. Basically, they set up the entire store in the morning and tear it down at night. They also have to be good at not getting tickets. They have to feel very confident in troubleshooting when the truck goes down because so many things can go wrong that we don’t have checklists like we do in the restaurant. Instead, we just tell them to leave the truck how they’d like to pick it up.”

How do you select a lucrative location?

In a three-part article entitled “Behind the scenes with an L.A. Food Truck,” posted on Serious Eats, the owner of the Manila Machine reveals that it is sometimes necessary to send a “staging car” to hold a good spot and that revealing your secrets on Twitter may put you at a disadvantage. “Are there other restaurants in the area? Can you assume that the people in this area will want try your food for the first time? Are there any cops around that may shoo you away even though you are following the letter of the law? Are there other food trucks in the area that may not welcome your presence?” vendors must ask themselves.

Vendor Gallery: Nadia DeMessa

Nadia DeMessa, the owner of a new gourmet cupcake company making the rounds in a cute trailer, bakes all her cupcakes from scratch using the best of ingredients.

She describes herself as “a wife and mother of three boys” who was born in Jamaica and grew up in a family in the baking business. She originally went to college for marine biology but became a successful custom cake designer. “I have been decorating cakes for the past six years and last year decided to add cupcakes to the menu. I saw how they were becoming very popular and then I noticed the cupcake trucks up north and thought what a good idea.”

DeMessa found a used trailer and “customized it to become a concession unit.” She is fully licensed and has her city of Atlanta vehicle permit. Soon, she will hit the road and set up a few stops to sell the cupcakes from a mobile she affectionately calls Pinkie. Yum Yum Cupcake does not have a store front, but you can find them at most of the local festivals and special events around metro Atlanta.

We caught up with Pinkie at the latest Urban Picnic at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market and, although we only tried two flavors (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and Red Velvet), we can see that DeMessa’s fluffy and delicate product is in a class of its own, having mastered the trick of making the cake and the icing similarly yielding and delicious.

For street vending, DeMessa has to fully package her cupcakes, but at events, she liberates the little marvels and exposes them in their full glory.

Follow Yum Yum Cupcake on Facebook and Twitter to find out where Pinkie the cupcake mobile will be and try as many of the flavors (a total of twenty-five) as humanly possible!