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Goldberg Led NYFTA Welcomes Letter Grading Movement


he food truck has long appealed to the hungry masses of New York as an emblem of all things casual and summery. These rolling restaurants pop up in the warmer months, unofficially marking the beginning of the summer season and welcoming throngs of overworked New Yorkers to bask in the glow of deep fryers. Picture overhead string lights, picnic tables, a messily-written chalkboard menu; all of these components form the food truck experience, a chance to shed brick-and-mortar professionalism for casual dining and impulsive meals. The delicious street tacos and personal pizzas are just a delightful bonus. However, very few would consider the food truck dining experience to be as reputable as one found in a brick-and-mortar restaurant; recent attacks on the sanitation of these roving restaurants have left many paranoid about the safety of the food truck. Whereas customers can plainly see a restaurant’s obligations to sanitation and health, the food truck industry has yet to shed its image of shady street vendors. This, unfortunately, leaves food trucks at a disadvantage; the food concocted by skilled food truck artisans can never compete with food crafted in a stationary brick-and-mortar kitchen. The words “high-end food truck” do not exist in any New York diner’s vocabulary, no matter how good the food served. Fortunately, a recent sanitation movement may help level the playing ground between restaurants and food

The rise of the food truck and its growing acceptance among the New York population is a victory for all, because “New York, at the end of the day, should be a melting pot of amazing food,” says Goldberg. trucks; there has been a push to expand letter grades to brick-and-mortar restaurants’ rolling counterparts. Ben Goldberg, former food truck owner and founder of the New York Food Truck Association (NYFTA), welcomes this campaign: “We’re in favor of doing anything that brings a brick-and-mortar and food trucks up to parity.” NYFTA is dedicated to promoting local mobile food vending in the New York City area. It is focused on connecting the city’s food truck owners and operators to potential business opportunities. The Association’s members are a group of diverse mobile culinary artists who operate throughout all 5 boroughs of New York City. Cuisines range from Korean BBQ, Lobster Rolls, and Mac ‘n Cheese to Dim Sum and Waffles. The City Council Health Committee voted unanimously in May in favor of a bill requiring street food carts and trucks to post letter grades, which New York City restaurants have been doing for years. The passage of the bills means that the Health Department has 270 days to put the law into effect. This bill, number 1456 sponsored by Queens City Councilwoman Karen

50 • July 2017 • Total Food Service •

Koslowitz, has been a long time coming. It adds street food carts and trucks into legislation already passed requiring restaurants to post inspection results and for the Health Department to translate its already-regular inspections of food carts into grades. It’s a timely vote, as a new report from state Senate Independent Democratic Conference found that Manhattan food carts have the most violations in the city. In 2016, there were 5,044 violations at the 4,319 food carts and trucks inspected in Manhattan. Out of 2,752 inspections in the other boroughs combined, there were 2,817 violations issued (1,212 in Queens, 982 in Brooklyn, 600 in the Bronx, and 23 in Staten Island). The letter grading system may help dispel the myth that food trucks are unsanitary, especially considering that they actually have more rigorous sanitation standards than traditional restaurants; workers on food trucks are first required to take a two-day course and wait a month to receive their permits, and these transient restaurants are routinely inspected. “It’s much more prohibitive to work on a food truck, not even to own a food truck. I think letter grades are great

because they’re going to show… that food trucks are just as qualified, if not more, than restaurants,” says Goldberg in response to the recent health initiative. Letter grades may appease people’s concerns over the safety of food trucks by showing that their sanitation standards are on par with brickand-mortar restaurants. Challenging this false perception of food trucks will be a victory for the entire food industry; while some restaurants are reluctant, wishing to maintain the “draconian rule” that they have over their competitors, allowing food trucks to be taken seriously will make it easier for promising chefs to enter the industry and share their craft with a willing audience. “What’s great about food trucks are that they allow these great artisanal vendors that might not be able to afford new real estate to go out there and either make food trucks their business or use them as a stepping stone to a brick-and-mortar,” says Goldberg. NYFTA, which has long handled the business and booking side of the food truck industry, is a proponent of any movement that will allow food trucks to be taken seriously as culinary enterprises. Trucks revolutionize the way food is enjoyed, offering variety, mobility, and a chance to try unique culinary creations that challenge cookie-cutter dishes. The rise of the food truck and its growing acceptance among the New York population is a victory for all, because “New York, at the end of the day, should be a melting pot of amazing food,” says Goldberg. And who doesn’t want more of that?

July 2017 - Total Food Service  
July 2017 - Total Food Service  

Total Food Service's July 2017 Digital Edition features an exclusive Q&A Interview with Pat LaFrieda, as well as exclusive news and intervie...