It took a while for food trucks to take off in New Orleans compared to other American cities, but mobile food vending has captured the love of Big Easy diners. Nothing proves this more than the Vendy Awards, which celebrates food trucks and event caterers at an event at the French Market April 3.
The Vendy Awards, a nonprofit event established in support of the Street Vendor Project (www.streetvendor.org) and the Urban Justice Center (www.urbanjustice.org), holds street food events in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. This event marks its second year in New Orleans.
Last year, the food truck Foodie Call took home the Vendy Cup, but there was stiff competition from Empanada Intifada, Fat Falafel, Hot Tamale Mama, La Cocinita, Ms. Linda's Soul Food Catering Company, Taceaux Loceaux, Vaucresson Sausage Co. and Woody's Fish Tacos.
"We're so happy to come back to New Orleans," says Vendy Awards managing director Zeina Muna. "It has such a rich food history, and that's one of the reasons we picked it as a place we wanted to expand. There's a great culture of street fairs and parades and of course there's always food, so we're just hoping to celebrate that and be a part of it."
All sorts of mobile vendors are encouraged to get in the ring. "We like to call them 'sidewalk chefs,' which encompasses all the mobile vendors, whether they have a truck, a cart, or a catering company," Muna says.
The list of competing vendors is growing, but confirmed participants include Foodie Call, 2013 finalists La Cocinita and Empanada Intifada, and Linda Green, aka The Ya-Ka-Mein Lady. A list of finalists and their bios will be posted on www.vendyawards.streetvendor.org/neworleans.
A panel of judges will select the Vendy Cup winner, which comes with title, glory and a silver medal. Attendees can vote for the People's Choice award.
The Vendy Awards are from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at the French Market. Tickets are available online for $6 for a basic ticket, which includes a drink ticket and allows attendees to pay as they go, or $36 premium admission, which includes four beers and a sample from each vendor. The "date night" special includes two premium tickets for $65.