by Ian McNulty
Street food is a hot topic around New Orleans these days, though its history goes way back and its forms are much more diverse than the gourmet food trucks now getting so much attention.
That’s why organizers of the upcoming Vendy Awards street food competition are asking the public to nominate vendors for their inaugural event in New Orleans next month.
“We want it be this democratic opportunity,” says Helena Tubis, managing director of the Vendy Awards with the New York-based Street Vendor Project. “We want to curate a group of vendors who represent the street vendor culture of the cities where we do these.”
The New Orleans edition is scheduled for March 13 at the French Market, and it joins a series of similar events now held in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Chicago will also host its first Vendy Awards event this year. Between eight and 12 vendors will be on hand for the New Orleans event to serve their signature items. A panel of judges will name a winner, while attendees will vote on a People’s Choice award.
The criteria for nominees is wide open and can include food truck operators, local vendors on the second line or festival circuit or farmers market vendors who sell prepared foods.
“Really, it’s anyone who sells food outside of a brick-and-mortar location,” Tubis says. “New Orleans has had people selling food on the streets forever. The history of it is a part that will be fun to explore.”
Tickets range from $36 at the all-inclusive level (with food samples from all vendors and unlimited Brooklyn Brewery beer) to $6 for basic admission (pay-as-you-go for food and drinks). Admission is free for kids under age six.
The Street Vendor Project is a nonprofit that conducts advocacy work and organizing for street vendors and proceeds from Vendy Awards events supports its work. The New Orleans edition will also serve as a fundraiser for the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition and Slow Food NOLA.