Antigravity Magazine
Fork in the Road: Who’s Behind the Push for New Orleans Food Trucks?

New Orleans Food Trucks -- Art by Ben Passmore Lately there’s been a bunch of hype about reforming and rewriting New Orleans’ laws regulating food trucks. In February, City Council President Stacy Head twice proposed major deregulatory changes to the city’s ordinances, while across social media creeps a hydra-like ivy of overlapping petitions and events, all advocating a loosening of local laws. Where is all this pressure for food truck deregulation originating, and what drives it? Why should anyone care?

 
“We have nothing.”

Let’s start at the local level: “Neighborland is pleased to introduce The New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, our city’s freshly-minted food truck and mobile vending advocate. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve helped this diverse and open group of mobile vendors, customers, and community members organize themselves.”

Neighborland is a post-Katrina lobbying business that provides its services to commercial developers (for instance) who want the appearance of community support for their efforts to change neighborhood zoning laws. They’re young, new-to-town know-it-all entrepreneurs, thick strands in a dense knot of post-Katrina hipster-capitalist and “urbanist” reformers who masquerade as grassroots, claiming to channel the voice of the community on behalf of whatever venture they’re promoting.

One of the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition’s founders and most outspoken members is Alex del Castillo, who in an online profile described himself as “talented enough to believe I can help turn some of the worst aspects of NOLA around.” Interviewed last year by NOLA Defender, del Castillo said, “It’s embarrassing to hear people brag about the food truck scenes in place like Austin and Portland, while New Orleans is still a hostile environment.” He made a similar complaint in an article at NOLA.com: “San Francisco has a thriving food truck scene… we have nothing.”

What about those New Orleanians who, since time immemorial, have shown up in trucks towing barbecue grills to sell food at second lines and outside brass band venues? Are those people “nothing?”  I think some of them serve great food, and they seem to have survived for years under the current food truck laws. But then, maybe those barbecue men aren’t the right kind of food trucks, or perhaps not the right kind of food truck operators.

Another cornerstone of the NOFTC is Metairie-based lawyer Andrew Legrand. He’s taken on New Orleans food truck legal reform as a personal crusade, but I wonder: why didn’t we hear anything from him when his own home turf, Jefferson Parish, banned taqueria trucks in 2007? Where was food truck advocacy then? Again, maybe those weren’t the right kind of food trucks—not serving the right kind of food to the right kind of people.

 
Anomie on Wheels

“Real” food trucks—the kind of food trucks that the NOFTC cares about and fights for—are like gastronomic EMS for hipster fuckheads: little mobile factories reproducing a genericized leisure-class remix of world cuisine, the kombucha-infused Sriracha empanadas that capitalism has trained moneyed, socially aspirant young Americans to demand.

These food trucks provide a way for high-tech newcomers to avoid having to deal with or even speak to New Orleanians; they’re another layer of twee West Coast culture superimposed atop what’s left of our city, to make it more comfortable for well-off “young creatives.” Just as lower-middle-class tourist visitors to New Orleans line up around Canal Street for the reassuring familiarity of IHOP or McDonalds, our city’s status-conscious upper-class arrivistes can now line up for reassuringly artisanal quinoa claptrap served by reassuringly privileged people with reassuringly kewl tattoos.

With food trucks, anywhere can become a Yelp-worthy White Zone within minutes. Blitzkrieg cultural imperialism allows previously under-Instagrammed areas of our city to fulfill their potential as playgrounds for the rich without the headaches of investment or community engagement. Never mind having a Starbucks on every corner—when your favorite high-concept boutique eateries can chase you around on wheels, you can go absolutely anywhere and still get the same $12 bacon and wheatgrass smoothie.

New Orleans Food Trucks -- Art by Ben PassmoreFood trucks make it possible to have pop-up events in poor neighborhoods without benefiting or even interacting with the neighborhood. See for instance the recent “Night Market,” which descended, unheralded and uninvited, upon a less gentrified stretch of St. Claude Avenue. Neighborland and the new, white-controlled St. Claude Main Street organization (funded by “a collaboration of 13 leading national and regional foundations and six of the nation’s largest banks”) seized a grassy lot, strung up lights, established bike valet parking, and then in came the food trucks. What fun! Of course, the food trucks left behind their trash in the lot where the “Night Market” took place… but who cares, right? Poor people are used to trash.

Food trucks are progress. They aren’t restaurants, they’re better. Just as stylish 20-somethings who don’t smile or make eye contact are replacing outdated old Yats and working-class black folks in the Upper Ninth Ward, food trucks are coming to replace our obsolete brick-and-mortar bistros. Sitting down while eating is so old-person, so 20th century. Those quaint notions of hospitality—our city’s traditions of service and warmth, in which guests at a restaurant linger, laugh, drink and talk in an atmosphere of coziness—all of that is outmoded. It takes too long and creates an inefficient, unprofitable sense of place and belonging. Everything must be compact, portable, modular, atomized. Food trucks are Youtube clips on an iPhone, while a restaurant is a jazz performance on Frenchmen…. and I think we all know which of those is on the upswing.

 
Food Trucks as Hipster Capitalism

Lizzy Caston came here in 2009 from Portland, Oregon, where she’d been a lead advocate for Portland’s mobile food vendors. Upon arrival, she founded the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition’s sponsoring website, nolafoodtrucks.com. In an interview with the site Eater about reforming New Orleans’ food truck laws, she cuts to the creamy capitalist center of the sundae: “The ordinances just need to change. But here’s the thing you have to understand. Food? That’s like the cherry. Food trucks are really about economic development and urban vibrancy.”

Vibrancy—big buzzword within hipster capitalism. Hipster capitalism eternally seeks to co-opt or imitate youth culture as a means to get young people more excited about commerce, gussying up the worship of Mammon for generation whatever. Flash mobs become “pop-up” markets. Potlucks become “speakeasies” centered around the purchase of food and drink. DIY becomes Kickstarter… all must be commodified.

Beyond using the trappings and signifiers of subculture—e.g. graffiti as décor—hipster capitalism also brands itself as underdog or revolutionary, employing the language and techniques of social justice movements. New Orleans food truck advocates, like any hipster-capitalist undertaking, aggressively seek to enlist you in their urgent, righteous struggle. Arise, ye Facebookers, and sign this internet petition! For freedom! For liberty! For justice! For food trucks!

On the subject of justice, let’s get to know perhaps the biggest power behind New Orleans food truck advocacy, and one of the most frequent partners of the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition: the so-called Institute for Justice.

The Institute for Justice was begun with seed money from the infamous Koch brothers, who continue to fund it, along with the Walton siblings who control Wal-Mart. It’s a coalition of lawyers and PR professionals providing free legal advice and representation for conservative legal causes all over the country, “both in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion.” Once best-known for their attacks on affirmative action (which they call “reverse discrimination”), the Institute has more recently become prominent as high-profile litigators in favor of “school choice,” aka vouchers and charter schools. They’ve got multiple tentacles wrapped around Louisiana: the Institute’s founder became president of the “national school choice leader” Alliance for School Choice, which a few months ago filed suit “to intervene in the recent lawsuits challenging the newly-expanded statewide Louisiana school voucher program.”  Yes, how dare anyone challenge Bobby Jindal’s giveaway of taxpayer education funds to fringe religious freaks!

The Institute for Justice is very hot to strike down our laws governing food trucks. To that end, the Institute came to New Orleans in July 2012 to hold “Let the Food Trucks Roll,” a food truck advocacy “symposium and rally” in conjunction with (among others) the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, Neighborland and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

 
“Keep Food Legal” and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum

I never gave a fuck about the Southern Food and Beverage Museum one way or another, but come to find out its founder, Liz Williams, serves on the board of the anti-regulatory lobbying group Keep Food Legal, another major far-right force for food truck advocacy. At the museum’s 2012 Food and Law Legal Education Seminar (not to be confused with the symposium six weeks earlier), a long lineup of out-of-town speakers again addressed the need to tear down our city’s food truck laws. The lineup included Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin, a Rush-Limbaugh-like figure who tries to gain publicity by (for instance) encouraging the eating of shark-fin soup.

Looking at the board and staff of the Keep Food Legal group, the major thread tying most of them together is Reason Magazine, the most frequent publisher of Linnekin and other KFL members’ screeds against governmental food-safety regulations. Nick Gillespie, the editor of  Reason, sits on Keep Food Legal’s board. Reason is the mouthpiece of another far-right think-tank, the Milton Friedman-endorsed Reason Foundation, whose particular mania is privatization: the corporate, for-profit takeover of services once provided by government. Of course, Reason is Koch-funded as well and even has one of the Koch brothers as a trustee.

Although Keep Food Legal attempts to put a more fun face on their lobbying efforts than the climate-change-denying wingnuttery of the Reason Foundation, its initiatives include “Opt Out of School Lunch,” which advocates that school lunch programs be discontinued—”Stop fighting for the USDA and the federal government to provide better food,” their website says.

New Orleans Food Trucks -- Art by Ben Passmore

Keep Food Legal, Reason Foundation, The Institute for Justice: these are the Koch-funded anti-regulatory madmen that the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition is in bed with: rich dudes who want to shut down school lunch programs, wingnuts tied to the Cato Institute and ALEC. In fact, at that 2012 Beverage Museum seminar, Linnekin’s presentation not only criticized the “discriminatory regulations” food trucks face but, ALEC-like, provided “a framework within which to consider model food truck regulations.” These are the people who want to rewrite New Orleans’ laws, and this is where the momentum to do so originates.

 
Why Do the Mega-Corporations Care?

Cutsie-poo gourmet food trucks like those seen on the NOFTC website aren’t run by big corporations. Most aren’t even real businesses, just a trendy, expensive hobby. Why should rewriting our food truck laws matter to the mega-corporations and right-wing billionaires who fund these lobbying groups? What’s in it for the one percent?

An August 2012 article in AdWeek lays it out. Subtitled “How a hot local trend became a marketing vehicle for national chains,” Greg Beato’s piece announces big restaurant chains— including Sizzler, Taco Bell, Chick Fil-A and Jack in the Box—have begun rolling out their own food trucks.

At Sizzler, they’re talking about making a food truck part of the plan for any new franchisee. According to Sizzler’s head of Non-Traditional Business Development, “We would have a plan put together showing exactly what you can do with a truck… We’d have a team that would go out to help the new owner get up to speed, just like you’d do with a restaurant.”

Los Angeles was the birthplace of food truck regulation reform and is where most of these new corporate food trucks have begun operation. As with food truck regulation reform, however, SoCal’s only the starting point for a big, nationwide push. This is the deregulated corporate future: hundreds of chain-restaurant junk food trucks peddling toxic, mass-advertised garbage wherever a crowd gathers. Who could compete with that? In San Francisco last year there were already legislative efforts to allow food trucks to park on school campuses. What a deliciously profitable way to let kids “opt out of school lunch!”

This type of shit is the aim and end-game of the food truck movement, and this will be the result of reforming New Orleans’ food truck laws, regardless of our freshly-minted local food truck hobbyists’ specific political awarenesses or motivations. What NOFTC and their far-right backers are pushing is bad for New Orleans—and anyone who tells you different is just trying to sell you something.


Illustrations by Ben Passmore

  • mamcraton

    Andrew Legrand was still an undergrad in 2007. Don’t jump to conclusions and assume the worst with so little to go off of. It’s not fair to him or your readers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joel.wietelmann Joel Wietelmann

      Seconded. I actually laughed out loud at the insinuation that he’s some sort of sock puppet agent of the junk food industry. This article is just so completely lazy. I don’t even care about food trucks.

  • UneedaBiscuit

    The author comes across as a left-wing Pat Buchanan in this article warning of the encroaching threat of non-things like “hipster capitalism”. Way to look ahead, buddy.

  • beehive collective

    Who made the wonderful cartoons for this article, please? They deserve credit and props!

    • Antigravity_Webmaster

      The illustrations are by Ben Passmore. They say so if you hover over ‘em… but I’ll add a text link at the bottom as well.

  • Guest

    Antigravity: criticizing hipister capitalism on one page, selling it on the other:
    http://www.antigravitymagazine.com/2013/03/blight-meets-bass-buku-year-two/

    • neighborland is sad

      Glad i saw your picture before it flashed back to guest. Welcome Alan Joseph, Neighborland friend. After occasionally reading Antigravity for years, i never thought it had an ideology, more a collection of articles from various people…but attacking anything but the points brought up here is an admission of what? Would you care to address the real issues, or did your quick turn back into “guest” signify that that is not your plan?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alanjosephwilliams Alan Joseph Williams

    Amazing cartoons, and entertaining writing.

    The event Jules refers to, “Let the Food Trucks Roll” was co-sponsored by the Institute for Justice, the Ashe Cultural Arts Center (where it was held), Neighborland, The Southern Food and Beverage Museum, and Good Work Network, which provides technical assistance to women and minority entrepreneurs.

    Calling something “hipster” is a reliable straw man. Food trucks are important because they are a “low capital” business. Basically, you only need tens of thousands of dollars to get started, instead of a hundred. It’s the difference between a business and nothing at all for a lot of people.

    The people that run food trucks come from all kinds of backgrounds for exactly that reason. You don’t need a loan, or a degree, you just need to serve good food. The problem is that the City limits the number of permits to 100. You’re supposed to be two football fields away from established restaurants, move every 45 minutes, and only serve from 7am to 7pm.

    Street food in New Orleans has such a strong presence on parade days because the existing laws aren’t enforced. But this mayoral administration has made enforcing laws on the books a priority. See the friction with live music for another example of how the dynamic is changing.

    I sympathize with the concern about global chains and fast food. This would have been a far more interesting article if it was a constructive critique that took advantage of a moment of reform to propose changes that would go even farther to ensure that New Orleans culinary tradition is strengthened.

  • ladyarcher3

    Some very good points, but I would like to point out a few things:

    - There is a wide variety of food trucks in New Orleans, and you shouldn’t assume that the vendors have the same goals and interests as the Koch Brothers. Or that they are “reassuringly privileged people with reassuringly kewl tattoos”. Some of them are families making a living, some of them local, many serving reasonably-priced, generously portioned, hearty food. Sure I like Frencheeze and the Fat Falafel, but I’m also talking about the one that serves delicious tacos on Claiborne Ave near the Jefferson Parish line. Around lunch time you’ll see a line of workers waiting for their food, and it sure helps if you know your Spanish. It’s one of the few places in New Orleans where you can get a really good taco, and if you’re not used to truly hot hot sauce, well… Incidentally, that one charges about the same prices as the food trucks you’re knocking, because they have to cover costs. And if the laws were less restrictive, we might see some more reasonable food truck prices.

    - Many respected local businesses and venues (and I don’t mean “hipster” ones) stand to benefit from the food trucks, and invite them to local events. This turns out to be a mutually beneficial arrangement, since the food trucks draw crowds and the events, well, draw crowds. This does not compete with the existing restaurant scene; it merely diversifies choice and allows venues to have food available right outside their events. The restaurant tradition is alive and well in New Orleans and I don’t think the food trucks diminish it.

    - If the ultimate goal of NOFTC and some supporters is to bring in fast-food trucks, we should all be concerned, including our current food truck vendors!

  • http://twitter.com/daybreaker brad huber

    Sorry, but any point you had about “Keep Food Legal” was completely lost in your sea of anti-hipster, “Keep New Orleans the same forever”, anti-progress, paranoid bullshit.

  • jnwheeler44

    ‘“Real” food trucks—the kind of food trucks that the NOFTC cares about and fights for—are like gastronomic EMS for hipster fuckheads: little mobile factories reproducing a genericized leisure-class remix of world cuisine, the kombucha-infused Sriracha empanadas that capitalism has trained moneyed, socially aspirant young Americans to demand.’

    Is there a reference for this? Given the content, I am finding it hard to believe it comes from first-hand experience with food trucks. Is it just a poorly made Portlandia joke?

    The adweek article you mentioned, but didn’t link ( http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/sizzler-has-food-truck-sorry-hipsters-142481 ) actually points out that Taco Bell has had a food truck since *the early 90′s*. Apparently, someway, somehow, the existing food trucks have found a way to compete against the delicate fare of Taco Bell.

    Food trucks are popular because they can offer quality food at cheaper prices than usual because of lower overhead. Restaurant quality without having to pay for the storefront. Taking in jazz on Frenchmen is nice, but it’s not something one can always do.

  • Loving

    Aramark-owned Mexican Food Trucks are on campuses already. http://utdailybeacon.com/news/2012/sep/20/food-truck-serves-hungry-students-campus/

    • Loving

      Aramark-owned food trucks also now at sporting events http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/blog/peter-van-allen/2012/08/aramark-learns-that-campus-food-trucks.html?page=all and (along with Burger King Food Truck) hanging around parking lots in Orlando http://www.thedailycity.com/2012/06/orlando-food-truck-zoca-is-actually.html . In Alabama, indie food trucks were kicked off campus in favor of corporate-owned ones: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443713704577603613526119768.html

      • jnwheeler44

        Thank you for the links. If you read the wsj article fully, you’ll see that it says that the existing truck was replaced by one run by the university. Aramark manages food trucks for universities.

        • Loving

          it’s run by aramark, not “by the university.” There is a difference.

          • jnwheeler44

            From your own link:

            “Aramark Corp. and Bon Appétit Management Co., two companies that manage food services for universities, say they have seen an increase in demand for college-run food trucks, especially as a way to offer late-night dining options and serve remote areas of campus. Aramark says it will add nine more university-run food trucks this fall, and Bon Appétit says it will add five.”

          • Loving

            yes exactly Aramark and Bon Appetit are both (very large) private companies. They are not universities. They are adding food trucks on campuses and also off campuses (see other links). I don’t understand what you aren’t understanding.

          • jnwheeler44

            I understand the scenario completely. My point was that the indie food truck was kicked off of campus so that the school could replace it with a truck of their own. Aramark is a third party that is contracted out by the university to handle the food. They handle the existing dining hall, already.

          • Loving

            I really can tell you do some kind of computer programming thing for a living and it makes me grateful that I don’t have to deal with people like you in my daily life. I guess you would mansplain at me the same way if I referred to the $4 coffee in the green-and-white cups from the starbucks inside the sheraton on Canal St. as “starbucks coffee” rather than “sheraton coffee?”

          • jnwheeler44

            I had to google ‘mansplaining.’ I’m sorry for being condescending; it wasn’t deliberate. If the page I found was accurate, I’m also sorry if you thought it was because you’re a woman (if you are, I really have no idea). I agree that dealing with people in computer programming can be annoying, but please don’t judge them all based off of a few internet comments by me.

            I am frustrated by what I see as inaccurate and misleading statements in the article, and I responded to your comment with the same frustration.

            I couldn’t care less about Aramark as a company and I think they probably offer some really lousy food. I just think more food trucks would be good for the city.

          • http://twitter.com/daybreaker brad huber

            I think it’s funny you think he knows youre a woman and is being condescending to you specifically because of that, but then you are condescending to him based on a stereotype of his profession.

            And trust me, us programmers are just as glad we dont have to deal with people like you in *our* daily lives.

  • jnwheeler44

    ‘In San Francisco last year there were already legislative efforts to allow food trucks to park on school campuses. What a deliciously profitable way to let kids “opt out of school lunch!”’

    From Huffington Post, re the San Francisco legislation ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/san-francisco-food-trucks_n_2094754.html ): “Wiener’s bill would also legalize food trucks on all hospital and college campuses as well as decrease the buffer down to 500 feet for middle schools and between 750 and 1000 feet for high schools.”

    As far as I know, universities don’t have federally mandated lunches. There is nothing to opt out of, there. I also looked at http://optoutofschoollunch.org/ to see what their story was, and they seem to promote brown-bagging it. That actually is pretty hipsterish.

    Really having trouble figuring out the agenda with this article. Is it just linkbait? Is it knowingly misleading or is it just lazy?

  • Coldbeulah

    I would have like to see links to the source material for the information presented (Koch Bros. funding, etc.) — if only to keep people from dismissing the article as “paranoid bullshit” (see below). If this is true of the Institute for Justice, it certainly doesn’t serve Neighborland, or anyone else professing to be community based, to be affiliated with them. Interesting article, would have a better chance at persuading people with the snark removed.

    • http://twitter.com/daybreaker brad huber

      My comment about paranoid bullshit wasnt about the link between Koch Brothers funding of Keep Food Legal through Reason magazine. That could be happening for all I know.

      My comment was referring to the author’s insinuation that the current food truck battle in New Orleans to let trucks park more freely around the city, is somehow a Koch-funded battle supported only by non-local hipsters, with the end goal of having a sizzler food truck on school campuses.

      How about I support it because I want some good food? I work in the CBD and there are only three places in a 6 block radius to get lunch under $10: Subway, Louisiana Products, and Rouses. Food trucks would provide a HUGE variety of under $10 lunch.

    • porkchop
    • porkchop
  • Sarah Ball

    It’s my understanding that the Food Truck Coalition’s main goal right now is to open up the CBD so that they can sell lunch to businesspeople. The CBD is NOT a poor black neighborhood. The Night Market event in the Bywater that the author mentions doesn’t really have anything to do with proposed changes to existing laws. It may have been inconsiderate, but it was an entirely legal event held on privately-owned land.

    I was a little dismayed by the New Orleans good, outsiders bad theme in this piece. Then I read more writing by this author, and it was the same.

    In an article about the reopening of the New Orleans Community Printshop, the author describes the failure of the Louisiana Artworks project and the work by young artists to rebuild and create a community
    print space:

    “As ever, New Orleanians picked up the pieces. As ever, New Orleanians slogged through the consequences of some snake-oil jet-setters’ selfishness. “Looking back,” Turner said, “traumatic as the Artworks experience was, it did help incubate what the Printshop became.”

    Meg Turner is from Boston. AND she has worked tirelessly to build the Printshop in all of its manifestations, and she cares about creating a welcoming space for members of the community to print. But she
    is not, as the author implies, a New Orleanian. In fact, she just might be one of the “stylish 20-somethings who don’t smile or make eye contact [and] are replacing outdated old Yats and working-class black folks in the Upper Ninth Ward.” As are most, if not all, of the members of the Printshop that the author
    so admires.

    This author seems so intent on portraying a good old New Orleans/bad newcomers dichotomy that he sacrifices clarity and integrity. I read the above article to learn more about food trucks and the policies and politics behind them, but any interesting or relevant information was so deeply buried in vitriolic hyperbole that I must have missed it.

    Disclaimer: I work on a food truck, I’m a member of the Printshop, I’m from South Carolina, and I currently live in the Bywater, driving up property values. And I didn’t mean to imply that any member of the
    Printshop does not smile or make eye contact. Most of them do.

    • Michael Patrick Welch

      No they don’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9700066 Devin Tydides Bambrick

    Jules,

    First, I would like to concede that you are a formidable rhetorician. Between the Oogle article [which I largely agreed with and dutifully forwarded along to all sorts of people] and this new piece, I think it’s clear that you may be New Orleans’s foremost crafter of dime-store, battering ram polemic. When you string together buzzwords like “Blitzkrieg cultural imperialism,” I can feel a spark. If Chuck Palahniuk decided to exclusively take on skinny white kids as his target, I reckon that he’d write just like this.

    The first two sections of your article had me nervously patting my mustache, seriously wondering if I should shelve my plans for a vegetarian-friendly food cart [it’s going to be called Planted and Enchanted, if you’re interested!] and feeling lots of guilt for liking Sriracha so much.

    When you get going on the young whites, out come the zingers! “Thick strands in a dense knot of post-Katrina hipster-capitalist!” Hoo! That’s some palpable, bitter xenophobia! Often, it’s kind of dressed up as
    culturally conservationist concern [which is cool, but disingenuous, I think]. The nice thing about taking on ‘rich white kids’ as a target is they’re never going to defend themselves, because absolutely fucking no one self-conceives that way. The ‘true hipster’ is going to ignore it or they’re going to pretend like you’re talking about someone else. So. Easy pickings, right? Hell, even if they’ve read the same books as you and maybe even live in the same neighborhood as you, you can always otherize them on some axis of difference. Feeling self-satisfied superiority is important to perpetuating counter-culture. Like anarchopunx drinking corporate beer. That’s why you need to keep hammering away at crucial targets like gutter punks and hipsters. It authenticates whatever you self-conceive as.

    I do think you’re dead-on correct about Neighborland’s astroturfing/covert-gentrifying ways [I’ve run into those dudes before], and I think you might just be onto something with the stuff about the Food Truck Coalition too. I’ve talked with owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants who bemoan the food truck scene because they don’t have to participate in the same kind of neighborhood engagement/ safety/ outreach efforts. And yeah, because they are mobile, they provide the very perfectly odious image of privileged white kids swooping in to bad neighborhoods to sell exotic/cutesy small plates.

    You also hint at an argument about the “right” and “wrong” kinds of mobile food providers, but you sort of peter out and shy away from that line of thinking. You could have written, at length, about the stigma and
    permitting hassles attached to the Mexican food trucks and how the largely black second-line vendors have been left out of this big publicity-cleansed push. Now that would have been a great article! But it’s okay—Passmore’s incredible art gets that argument across really well.

    Instead things take a truly weird turn. We get this JFK-level conspiracy Google-bomb of a piece, loosely tracing threads that eventually end up at the corporate offices of the country’s largest food corporations through a series of loose associations and conjectures. It sounds like the ravings of a high schooler who has just read their first Adbusters. It’s intellectually lazy and under-informed and, frankly, a cop-out. Ideologically,
    it sort of fits in with Antigravity’s vague mid-90’s sorta-anarcho-punk aesthetic, I guess? But then again, for a paper that just did a cover story on a St. Claude production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, maybe not?

    I think taking a look at the food truck scenes in Portland or Austin might have been far more honest than comparing NOLA with LA. In Portland, there are entire blocks of [non-corporate] food trucks where working people get their lunch for cheap. They’re anchored right into the communities that they serve because legislation has been enacted to let them stay in one place, pretty much indefinitely. It’s been a massive boon to the neighborhoods they serve. They’re owned by people of all sorts of colors [yes even in Portland] and origins and offer all sorts of cuisines. They are not asshole hobbyists. They are people who care a lot about food, working every day, and doing what they chose to do.

    And so what if I want a fast and cheap lunchtime option that’s not McDonald’s, because I got to get back to work? What if I don’t have time to sit down for that jazzy full-restaurant experience?

    I know that New Orleans is not Portland. I wouldn’t want it to become Portland, either. I know that it’s a huge fucking pain to have everyone try to turn your city into another city all the goddamn time. But this is not necessarily the story of a hidden cabal of Trojan Horse Mega-Corporations pushing along the hipster pawns—at least not in the way you’ve described it.

    I think you’re forcing a more interesting [and nevertheless still troubling] issue into a dated and simplistic paradigm of us v. them analysis. Cultural homogenization through upper-middle-class fetishistic cosmopolitanism? Sure thing! Koch-Brothers-driven intrigue? I don’t think so.

    You skipped over Lucky Dogs and their long-held mobile monopoly over the Quarter. You skipped over the powerful lobby that the restaurant association holds and the interests they have in denying food trucks
    space on our streets—presumably so you could include some wacky press release you found from Sizzler.

    There’s a Brooklyn Brewery-sponsored food truck award ceremony coming up this week. It’s going to include the legendary Miss Linda and her yakamein as well as upstart proper food trucks like Empanada
    Intifada. That’s where this gets tricky, and not truly just about a niche of people wanting to eat a certain way. Corporations and brands with counter-culture edge are going to be using food trucks as a mechanism to move into new ‘authentic’ territories like New Orleans.

    Those same food trucks are going to show up on Anthony Bourdain’s latest TV show or one of those stupid food truck race programs. And during the commercial break, yes: people are going to watch advertisements for Sizzler.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ToddAPrice Todd Price

      Although Brooklyn Brewery is supporting the Vendy food truck award as part of its MASH festival, the awards were founded by and are run by the Urban Justice Center. The group sees supporting street vendors as a means to advance social justice and workers rights. I don’t know a lot about them, but according to the website website the Urban Justice Center launched as a legal aid service to the homeless. They told me that they’re holding the awards here as a way to learn about the issues facing New Orleans street vendors and begin to advocate on their behalf.

      Perhaps they’ve been duped by the Koch brothers, or perhaps this issue is complex.

      http://streetvendor.org

    • porkchop

      For more on how some folks “self-conceive” see Taylor Jackson of Empanada Intifada: “Community engagement, while an end unto itself, isn’t a necessary, or
      even desirable, component of every project. Frankly, if everyone in the
      neighborhood received a ballot and was asked whether they’d prefer a
      park or a new fast food restaurant, I’d be worried about the park’s
      chances. Nothing against people in the neighborhood – it’s just much
      easier to imagine using something you are familiar with than something
      that exists only in the minds of a few people who’ve spent dozens of
      hours envisioning it.” http://arielleschecter.blogspot.com/2013/03/lenten-challenge-days-14-17-aka-what-is.html#comment-form

      • porkchop

        More from Jackson: “There’s still a wide swath of people in New Orleans who associate food
        trucks with… just a guy with a barbeque set up in his truck with smoke
        coming out everywhere, running an extremely loud generator. Half the
        stuff’s got flies all over it.”

        and: “New Orleans is on the national map as a place that you go as a young talented person who wants to create culture.”

        http://nola.eater.com/archives/2012/06/01/guerilla-trucking-with-empanad-intifadas-taylor-jackson.php

        • Color Me Unimpressed

          Interesting that the guy from Empanada Intifada comments about what “a wide swath” thinks, considering his own truck, which can’t be street legal, becomes a nuisance to every block it sits in. Black smoke shooting out, an obnoxiously loud engine, and he never turns it off, because if he does, then it will take an hour to get it back and running. His lack of self knowledge is trumped by his arrogance, though. Portland wannabe type, of course.

    • http://twitter.com/itskerem kerem ozkan

      Would love to see the author’s response to this.

      • http://twitter.com/julesbentley Jules Bentley

        Sure thing! First I just wanna plug Christine P. Horn’s new piece, “Reading the White Teapot,” which examines some of the specific policies behind the “super-gentrification” of downtown. http://www.nolafugeespress.com/reading-the-white-teapot/

        ok. semi-briefly,

        1. First & foremost, thank you for the very kind words. I genuinely appreciate your compliments.

        2. There is nothing to do with money in New Orleans that doesn’t also have to do with racism, and I agree I could have tackled the racial politics more thoroughly. Part of that’s my own inclination to focus on class privilege, part of that’s an aversion to & weariness with underinformed whites from elsewhere grandstanding about the extremely complex issues of race in New Orleans. Part of it’s probably cowardice.

        3. I agree Ben Passmore’s art is more eloquent (and suasive) than my writing.

        4. Personally I thought the Koch Bros. stuff was interesting, and served as an example of how even pious liberals like the NOFTC serve the same capitalist overlords. To some, discussing the structures of capitalism = “conspiracy theory,” so I guess ymmv

        5. I don’t want to look at anything in, or having to do with, Portland or Austin. Those places make
        me fucking sick. They get enough scrutiny; they don’t need mine.

        6. It’s okay with me if people find New Orleans unacceptably inconvenient and inefficient. I don’t think “fast and cheap lunchtime options” for CBD employees, so that they can more quickly return to their jobs, is anything worth fighting for. Sorry to sound like a dick, but I don’t care.

        7. I agree the LRA, Victorian shrieking about “hygiene” notwithstanding, are only concerned with market share. I don’t hold up our (vanishing) old-time local mini-monopolies as a model of how things should be, any more than I’d lionize e.g. our fucked-up Pre-Katrina school system. I hear echoes of the old “If you’re against the Iraq War, you’re in favor of Saddam Hussein” argument.

        8. This article was meant to unpack how even something as inane as food trucks provides a stage for the enactment of colonialism and the destructive homogenizing that capitalism calls “progress.” If that larger structural analysis came across, GJ Jules. Given how many read it as a screed against “hipsters,” I need to be more careful with word choice, because I don’t think hipsters are important, whatever the fuck they even are. I also really don’t think food trucks are that important, so joke’s on everyone!! Haha …just kiddin’. Thanks for reading.

        • http://twitter.com/itskerem kerem ozkan

          Oh c’mon. “Hipster fuckheads”; “status-conscious upper-class arrivistes” who “line up for reassuringly artisanal quinoa claptrap served by reassuringly privileged people with reassuringly kewl tattoos” (just to pick a couple of the more memorable lines) — you’re being disingenuous in downplaying the xenophobia in your story. If hipsters aren’t important, why do you suggest the notion of “hipster capitalism” in one of your headers? Now you’re telling us it’s just about corporate colonialism and capitalism?

          There’s some vague stuff in there about not benefiting or even interacting with poor neighborhoods where food trucks might be present. There’s some cultural conservatism, something about hipsters who don’t make eye contact and have forgotten quaint notions of hospitality. I found myself nodding along as I first read the article, but when I really look critically at the cultural dimension of this article on its own…I mean, you’re not even really arguing anything in particular.

          Moreover, it seems to me there is a larger point that you willfully ignore when you claim that “hundreds of chain-restaurant junk food trucks peddling toxic, mass-advertised garbage wherever a crowd gathers” is the “aim and end-game of the food truck movement,” — and when you get all curmudgeon-y whilst making points #6 and #7 above. It’s one that Devin tried to make at length, and that you seem all too content to dismiss: There are perfectly legitimate, inclusive reasons to support food trucks. It’s fine if you want to insist you don’t care; but as your reader, I feel more than a little dissatisfied with your brazenness.

          On that note: It’s hard to believe you actually make that Iraq War reference in #8 above. It’s really pretty insulting, considering the nuance with which Devin took the time to respond to you.

          ANYWAY, I’m absolutely with you on #9; for all its faults, your article definitely persuades that food trucks are fast becoming a fascinating site of corporate interests capitalizing on gentrification/whatever. I’d love to see some actual reporting on this.

          For what it’s worth, I loved that six-part piece you did on the Times-Picayune, and I hope you continue writing long, thoughtful stuff.

  • Rally Isn’t Local

    I think this author has a lot of nerve talking about corporate chains invading New Orleans, since I have seen you on Twitter more than once saying that you were eating at the Rally Burger, and/or crying that you were fat from eating Rally Burger too often. Hmmm.. seems like hypocrisy. Not so comfortable when the shoe’s on the other foot, is it?

  • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

    Looks like you really struck a nerve! I’ve come to read such immediate, acerbic (and largely ad hominem) pushback as you have received here as indicative of the nuggets of truth in an article. Keep up the good work.

    • Guest

      I’d say the ad hominem pushback is indicative of the ad hominem nature of the article.

    • IndigoCarmine

      Two nuggets buried in a morass of absurdity. Struck a nerve? Yeah: that nerve is called “Poor Execution.”

  • disqus_yP0IzMbPoL

    Young generations are increasingly demanding affordable, convenient, and tasty food prepared in a hurry. Throw in some kind of entertainment or something to look at and you have a pretty compelling combo. City and Parish officials will have to decide how best to regulate and zone these things to ensure safe passage on city streets. The restaurants that you mention that are looking into food trucks are simply adapting to changes in the market landscape. If I am a local sit-down restaurant that operates in an area that could be zoned as a potential food truck location (perhaps Magazine and Frenchman), I would pursue the approval/zoning/permitting of window storefronts or sidewalk carts. Whether the food trucks serve blue collar workers or white collar hipsters is completely a non-issue in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/nolatarian Caleb Trotter

    First, you lost all credibility when you stated that LIBERTARIAN organizations like the Institute for Justice, Keep Food Legal, and Reason are all “right-wing” “wingnuts” and “madmen.” Libertarian is absolutely not right-wing and any basic research into these organizations would clear that up for you. Second, you seem to say that opposition to regulations is terrible regardless of whether or not said regulation has any grounding in safety or public health. Do you believe in regulation for regulation sake?

    Also, even if the above organizations were just a Koch Brothers funded front to do away with all regulations, you have misframed the straw-man of a problem. What difference does it make who helps get changes made when the goal is more freedom for everyone? Would you have opposed the Republican Party’s push to abolish slavery because they were “right wing?” Your arguments are as ridiculous as that.

    • porkchop

      Funny you should mention “the Republican Party’s push to abolish slavery because they were “right wing?” IJ views the 14th Amendment as “radical” and misinterpreted. They contend it’s true intent was “a promise of limited government.” Here’s their statement defending corporate personhood in the Citizens United case: http://ij.org/statement-release-citizens-united-two-years-later-institute-for-justice-continues-to-defendlandmark-free-speech-ruling

    • teyrion

      Libertarian is just a mask for right wing conservancy. They are just Republicans who got tired of the label. And your argument is basically “the ends justify the means”, so your argument is also pretty ridiculous.

      • Color Me Unimpressed

        Bingo. I love how those who vote Republican became “Libertarians” once Dubya sullied the brand.

  • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

    This looks less like pushback and more like beatdown with every comment. Don’t any of these anti-Jules people have jobs they should be doing instead of urgently rebutting here? I’ve even wondered if such commenting IS their job! (I wasn’t always this cynical but I’ve read a lot of comment threads and this one has a familiar form.)

    • http://twitter.com/daybreaker brad huber

      So youre admitting you dont have anything better to do either?

    • IndigoCarmine

      This article deserves a beatdown.

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  • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

    Deregulation is not in itself a moral good. Generally speaking, deregulation tends to lower prices for the consumer but also increases risk. For business, it increases profits and decreases pro rata expense. The danger is in the increased risk and the lowered expense. Both risks are borne by the public, as consumers and as workers.

    Unless it can be proved otherwise, the push for deregulation is usually prompted by greed. Sometimes, the regulation itself is prompted by greed. For example, there was a good case made for considering the regulations surrounding caskets in Louisiana as a market-cornerning maneuver by the funeral industry. In that case, the regulation did not serve the public good, in my opinion.

    There should be the public process of examination of regulations in question and careful consideration before regulations are ditched in pursuit of ‘freedom’ and cheaper–if not quite free–lunches. Few of AntiGravity’s readers will remember the Reagan years, the way Savings and Loans were deregulated and the overnight appearance of Ponzi schemes where stable institutions had existed for scores of years. There seemed no way to convince managers that they could not pay more interest for deposits than they were earning on loans. So a good ole’ George Bailey Savings and Loan became a Ponzi scheme and countless Americans went broke and lost their homes. The recent bubble and burst of the housing market is but a wrinkle in the reprise of that debacle. More fraud this time and massive government bailout of fraudulent institutions. For shame. It seems more regulation was needed there.

    Few will remember the Air Traffic Controllers’ strike and Reagan’s willingness to let ‘em crash the damn planes. Deregulation, labor busting, government cost cuttinng. I do remember. I remember the defunding of institutions and the appearance of homeless and mentally ill people who no longer had anywhere to go for help. We got used to the poor and homeless and now, barely thirty years later, all social safety nets are under attack. In our own city since Katrina, there is no longer public outpatient facilities for adolescent psychiatric care. A good two square blocks of prime uptown property stands vacant until it can quietly be funneled into profit for someone. Watch this space.

    This article is not just about whether food trucks will make life better for some underserved parts of the city. Deregulation has consequences which are long and deep. Look carefully and study the history before you pitch out a regulation that is serving the public good. Don’t jump on any bandwagon just because it promises a cheap hot lunch or an easily affordable way to go into business. Regulations save lives as well as create paperwork and give the lawyers something to do. Use that expensive education, folks. Think!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9700066 Devin Tydides Bambrick

      LOLWUT

      • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

        I’m respectfully suggesting there are many rippling acres of information and understanding that have not necessarily come into your viewfinder as yet.

    • http://twitter.com/nolatarian Caleb Trotter

      That’s the point. These regulations do not serve the public good. They serve the economic interests of brick and mortar restaurants alone.

      • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

        Asserting that these regulations do not serve the public good but only serve the brick and mortar restaurants is not proof of that claim. Why are 100 food truck permits not sufficient for this city? How will deregulation make things better?

        • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

          There are 100 mobile vendor permits period, not just for food trucks. And if you believe that having more choices, including ones with less overhead expenses (like food trucks) can be bad for the city, you need to have more explanation than what you’ve offered here.

          • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

            I assume the mobile vendor permits include produce trucks like Mr. Okra and vendors like Roman Candy as well as Lucky Dogs. Is that correct? In fact I am not arguing against more choices, I do not believe, however, that an unregulated mobile vendor environment is a good answer. In such an environment, traditional vendors would be forced out of the market and so would local small vendors. Without some regulation, the unique local flavor can easily be bulldozed out of New Orleans by those who have the resources to dominate the market. I don’t believe that the free market is free. Too often the success is built on the demise of irreplaceable treasures and carried out on the backs of underpaid workers who cannot afford to buy the products they sell. It’s very easy to regulate or deregulate New Orleans for the privileged. The challenge is to maintain a city for everyone.

          • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

            Anitanola,

            I’m sorry, but I have no respect for the “traditional vendor” argument. Lucky Dog is terrible. Everyone I know who talks about Lucky Dog is embarrassed that they represent the mobile vendor market in the Quarter. And worse, Lucky Dog actually has a complete monopoly in the French Quarter by law. If you don’t believe that’s because they had the right connections when the laws were passed, you don’t know the politics here.

            As for Mr. Okra and the Roman Candy man, do you not believe they can compete on an even level? Do you think the government should just protect any well-established company and keep new entrepreneurs from making their way? The fact that a company has a long tradition should be something that helps them to compete and stay in business, not something that has such little commercial appeal that competition makes them fold. You seem to be proposing a sanitized, fake New Orleans culture whereby the government picks and chooses “flavor” and bans others to keep “tradition” from being harmed by “competition.” This is the kind of Disney-esque talk that is killing this city.

            You want to talk about the privileged? Let’s talk about people who the government says: “We’ll pass a law barring people from competing with you because we think you’re cute and culturally meaningful, and if anybody does, we’ll arrest them.” I find the attitude that supports such laws positively repugnant.

    • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

      Anitanola,

      “[T]he push for deregulation is usually prompted by greed.”

      The corollary is that the push for regulation is usually prompted by greed. These regulations were specifically passed to protect the interests of brick-and-mortar restaurants and select, well-connected mobile vendors (look up City of New Orleans v. Dukes to see how Lucky Dog still exists despite serving sub-par hot dogs). When government passes regulations, larger businesses have an easier time shouldering the costs because of economies of scale. And frankly, whether this is normally the case is irrelevant — it was definitely the case here and no serious commentator denies it.

      “There should be the public process of examination of regulations in question and careful consideration before regulations are ditched in pursuit of ‘freedom’ and cheaper–if not quite free–lunches.”

      And that is certainly happening. The proposed new regulations incorporate many of the concerns around food trucks while still giving them far greater freedom to operate.

      “Few of AntiGravity’s readers will remember the Reagan years, the way Savings and Loans were deregulated… Few will remember the Air Traffic Controllers’ strike and Reagan’s willingness to let ‘em crash the damn planes.”

      Whoa, whoa. Savings and Loans were deregulated by the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 under President Carter and a Democratic Congress. Don’t pin that one on Reagan. And as for the Air Traffic Controller’s strike, I don’t recall that a spate of planes crashed as a result of that (many flights were cancelled, though).

      “Regulations save lives as well as create paperwork and give the lawyers something to do.”

      Yeah, but you’re defending the basic idea of having regulations while doing a very poor job of defending these specific regulations. And we definitely shouldn’t have regulations just to give people like me something to do. :)

      • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

        Sorry, Owen, I keep forgetting that I simply can’t be funny on the internet–I apologize for my failed joke about keeping lawyers busy.

        Ok, I give you Carter and the Act. First, all that inflation in the 70′s and Volker raising the Fed rates to try to stop it set all that in motion. It was like a supertanker, that economy. There was no way to turn it quickly. The S & L’s were either so deeply mismatched that they became Ponzi schemes or else they just bled out.

        I am, by the way, defending the thoughtful examination of regulations. I certainly advocate the judicious updating of regulations. What is tiresome is the assumption that it must be all or nothing, as if the public order is not complex. I also deplore the easy assumption that what is convenient for one person is good for everyone.

        I think I am going to have to check out of this thread for tonight but have certainly enjoyed your voice here, as well as many others.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ray.mikell Ray Mikell

        “Whoa, whoa. Savings and Loans were deregulated by the Depository
        Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 under
        President Carter and a Democratic Congress. ”

        Yes, deregulation of many industries (energy, air travel) began with President Carter, who was a center-right Democrat. However, the S&L-deregulating Garn-St Germain Act of 1982 passed under Reagan. And his admin also cut the number of S&L inspectors and paid them paltry salaries, etc. This particular bill was passed at a time when many S&Ls were already insolvent or on the way down, thanks to the oil bust.

        Deregulation can be a good thing, but it can have unintended consequences (just as regulations can), especially if used in an unthinking, ideological way.

        • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

          Ray,

          I think you’re reaching a bit. Although the Garn-St Germain Act (GSGA) may have added fuel to the fire, the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (DIDMCA) is generally considered to have been a far more sweeping . Until the DIDMCA, Savings and Loans could only offer savings accounts and home loans. After the DIDMCA, Savings and Loans were permitted to write more risky loans and enter commercial banking.

          The GSGA did expand the deregulation of Savings and Loans, but it was mainly limited to home mortgage lending and is therefore more controversial as a significant cause of the Savings and Loan crisis (as opposed to the DIDMCA).

          You are correct that deregulation needs to be considered practically, though. My problem here is that our existing food truck regulations are just blatantly anti-consumer, anti-commerce and pro-protectionist. A person would have to be blind not to see that.

          • http://www.facebook.com/ray.mikell Ray Mikell

            You’ll get mixed opinions on that. Everything I’ve read over time (and I remember hearing about this at the time in junior high–attorney in the family who liked to rant about and school me about it; looked into later in graduate studies in PoliSci and trying to tell students about the crisis) suggested that a Reagan appointee’s decision to cut inspectors and pay them next to nothing played a major role. And then he never really closed failing ones.

            In any case, I think in context the worry here is the involvement, however indirect or direct as the case may be, of organizations that see deregulation as a clear moral good, always. (This doesn’t make them clearly sinister. I don’t see why the many existing libertarian foodie snobs or Paleo freaks or whatever would want a Sizzler truck around. For the chain bizes, I think it would be a cheap form of getting ideas, or just another a new market, maybe a way to get around the whole, expensive building-of-franchise-operations thing, etc. Or just something to co-opt. I also read something about Walmart looking into truck sales in major cities as a way of competing with Amazon.)

  • http://www.apptitudenola.com/ Chris Boyd

    I don’t know what your definition of a hipster is, but mine is someone that’s constantly questioning others’ authenticity, because they are the One True Believer that was there from the start. I would submit that you are the hipster here, with your paranoid follow-the-money connections and “us-vs-the-transplants” snobbery.

    I know most of the people you’ve named and critiqued here, and none of them are as you characterize them. All of them have nothing but good intentions for the city they love. None of them are on the take from some megacorporation looking to rape and pillage our culture. Your blind haughtiness is causing you to make wild, crazy accusations.

  • Benjamin Reece

    I have to add my voice and simply say, this is complete BS. I’ve lost all editorial faith (if any resided) in Antigravity. I thought Antigravity stood for the bleeding edge of no BS, no fucks given journalism in New Orleans. Sure, it was very white, agressive, angry man, tattoo music centric, but at least it had a focus. This rant has none. Sure, it got my attention, but also my disdain. Shame on you Antigravity. Shame on you Jules. I’ll still buy you a taco if I see you in line.

  • Joe

    Corporate food trucks will be allowed in and out compete the independent ones. According to Jules, none of the food truck advocates are arguing for local only or small business only permits.

    But this is the same problem all around the world. Some neighborhoods are less expensive, so artists move in. Hipsters follow artists, and yuppies with their food trucks follow the hipsters. Rent becomes too high for the original residents and the artists, hipsters follow the artists, and the neighborhood is left with mandatory quiet hours, $15 organic black bean tacos, private patrols to protect the electric BMWs, and Starbucks $4.95 large black coffee.

    Median income is still $26k and change.

    • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

      Exactly, Joe. No way Mr. Okra can compete with deregulated food trucks.

      • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

        Anitanola,

        Sit-down restaurants are “deregulated” in the sense that they aren’t practically banned, and they aren’t all massive corporate chains. Small businesses compete with larger concerns every day because the law requires it — protectionist laws are generally struck by the courts. What we have here is a regulatory scheme intended to severely limit a subset of business — mobile vendors — to the benefit of brick-and-mortar concerns. However, given that the start-up costs of mobile vending are far lower than for brick-and-mortar, if anything small operators should have a greater, not lesser, ability to compete.

        • http://anita-writ-in-water.blogspot.com/ Anitanola

          I suppose one could say that if one skips over all the zoning restrictions, F&B regulations, etc. I doubt anyone who has ever tried to open a restaurant in this city would make an argument like this. If you are only looking at increasing the number of mobile vendors, I’d want to be sure that the doors were not being opened to a public nuisance (at best) or an absolute disaster (at worst). Do you think there is no way an unlimited number of unregulated food trucks could possibly go wrong?

          • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

            Anitanola,

            I didn’t say food trucks should necessarily be unlimited or unregulated. The proposal on the table now is to increase the number of permits substantially and provide commonsense regulations, some which are looser than before and some which are stricter.

            And I don’t support zoning. New Orleans originally developed without it, and frankly we were better off relying on nuisance law.

    • porkchop

      From SF: “Over the next five years, The Melt will introduce more than 100 buses to
      the market. Says Paul Coletta, The Melt’s chief marketing officer, “You
      are going to see us go places that no food truck has ever gone before.”

      “Speaking to Coletta and Kaplan is like talking to the stoners who
      turned their late-night pipe dream into retail reality–a corporate
      personification of the munchies. These two are very serious about the
      grilled-cheese industry. When asked about competitors in the food truck
      space, for example, Coletta says, “I can’t speak for the industry
      trend.” He boasts that “the convergence of four-wall retail with mobile
      food trucks is the future,”

      “The reason is clear: The Melt isn’t just some rinky-dink food truck startup. As Kaplan told me last year, “We’re trying to build a real business here. I want to take this
      company public, and I want to make my investors tons of money.”

      http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680502/grilled-cheese-war-the-melt-to-roll-out-100-school-buses-invade-food-truck-industry#1

      • http://twitter.com/daybreaker brad huber

        And? Are you in favor of banishing Naked Pizza from New Orleans just because they were successful and opened up chains? Are you so anti-progress that you want to punish any business who is remotely successful?

        • porkchop

          Nope. Just pointing out how market watchers are viewing the food truck trend. And pointing out one company’s 100 food trucks plan for their region.

  • Amelia Street

    I think this is blown way out of proportion, speculating a worst-case scenario for what’s going on with food trucks. This just seems to scoff at the notion that maybe some people was to cook or eat some food while at work or out drinking. Food trucks don’t replace a sit-down meal… they replaces a turkey sandwich at your desk or some reheated leftovers in your kitchen as you walk out the door for the night.

    Let’s not forget that some local restaurants started off as food trucks or pop-ups… creating a perfect jump-off for establishments that serve the seated dinner that the writer seems to obsess over.

    I just read this and lose the whole point of why I would like to see some of the rules change… and they’re largely based on the lack of quick and mobile food options in the CBD. Because that’s where I’m at work, not at home or in search of a hearty, lengthy seated lunch.

    Doesn’t the “they’re trying to CHANGE NEW ORLEANS” schtick ever get old? Are you really that afraid of what a taco from a truck will do to the culinary status of our city? And you lose the whole anti-hipster battle when you insult this movement by claiming that you were behind food trucks in other neighborhoods before they were cool.

    It’s unfortunate that corporations have caught on to the movement, but on the flipside taking that vantage point is just a sad, sorrowful way to look at the world. Chain restaurants have exploited our food for decades, throwing in some “Cajun” spices or a “Bourbon Street” steak on their menus, but that hasn’t diluted what makes this place special, so why should corporations dilute any purity that fuels the food truck movement?

    The irony here is that if you took two minutes to step of your soapbox and actually either taste some of the food or talk with the people who work or own some of the food trucks in town, you’ll find a lot of locals behind the wheel and in front of the burners. Clearly, you’ve got a grudge against the people who just happen to support them, because I don’t read the name of a single truck or its owner in this article –– instead, you choose to make fun of people who support them because they weren’t born here.

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  • Ken Luther

    I’ve never eaten from a food truck, but the food must really be great since so many snobs and restaurant owners are so afraid of them.

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  • Athena

    “…new-to-town know-it-all entrepreneurs, thick strands in a dense knot of post-Katrina hipster-capitalist and “urbanist” reformers.” Ah, I see that the borderline pathological local xenophobia is bleeding over into the food truck issue now! There is so much sterotyping and vitriol in this post that I don’t even know where to begin. Complete garbage.

  • Manny Marquis

    FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING TRUCKS!

    Food trucks are bullshit! I’ve lived in LA, been to Austin and Portland, and they all fucking suck! New Orleans has the best food in the world. We don’t need to overpay for peanut butter tacos or cheeseburger sushi. Fuck that shit!

    • GooeyGomer

      Right on! I was having visions, more aptly termed nightmares, of an oyster po boy on a gluten free, 7 grain roll, with basil aioli sauce, dressed with arugula and heirloom tomatoes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurian.weisser Laurian Weisser

    Bravo. We in Olympia Washington (the state) are feeling the first onslaughts of Food Truckery. ‘Hey, they do it in Portland so it must be cool’ is becoming the latest Best Practice in Eugene on the Sound. Thank you for giving me some ammo to shoot back at the wannabe Hipsters in the Planning Department.

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  • Allie Gator

    If New Orleans can’t not eat at food trucks long enough for them to fail, then New Orleans is already lost.

    Either way, this is some supremely piss-poor shit to get you so wound up.

  • Color Me Unimpressed

    All in all good piece (and the newcomers say, “What, you’re not welcoming us with open arms?! We’re coming to save New Orleans!) until the Koch Bros. slippery slope. From the little I know of Liz Williams (SOFAB), it is ridiculous to claim that she’s behind corporate food trucks supplanting the little guys, because 1) It totally goes against what SOFAB is about…even the layperson should know that. 2) Liz is Sicilian and is obviously aware of the Sicilians’ food wagons a century (and less) ago. The food trucks are just the current incarnation.

    And, as to the charges of xenophobia, Jules, perhaps you could speak further on why it is that some people seem to want to make NOLA like every other city in the country and also about Kirsha Kaechele?

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  • GooeyGomer

    Oh the food snob elites are going to infect New Orleans, and ever so slowly, the down-home cooking and mouth watering flavors so easily attainable on the cheap, which is one of the many things that makes it so wonderful, will die a slow, but sure death. As an Austinite and native Texan, ask me how many of our food trailers TRULY reflect TexMex cuisine? Not many. No, they’ve changed TexMex, for the better in their eyes. They’ve infused and gourmet-a-fied it. So now, instead of a bean and cheese taco on a homemade flour tortilla, I get organic beans and cheese on store bought whole wheat tortilla (ugh), or a chicken fajita with sprouts and pineapple (WTF?) with Sriracha (bcos foodie hipsters love them some Sriacha) instead of pico de gallo or chile. And of course everything is going to be locally grown, organic and gluten free etc., which means instead of paying $1.50 per taco, I’ll end up paying $3.00. If I want tequila, it may be infused with mango or vanilla (or whatever hipsterdom has deemed cool that week) and mezcal can cost me $16 a shot. Yes – ONE. SHOT. GLASS.

    I once joked with someone that I should make a raspa and aqua fresca cart, slap some pictures of la Virgin de Guadalupe, Frida Kahlo and sugar skulls, along with the words organic and artesinal on it (in Spanish, of course; must appear to be ‘auténtico’), roll it out in front of Whole Foods downtown on the weekends and charge $9 a pop to all those sniveling carpet-bagging, hipsters. What a cash cow that would be, but more importantly, such sweet revenge.

  • Michael Patrick Welch

    Good article! Very fun to read. Taken with a grain of salt. A good attempt to raise awareness as to why the local food truck industry could wage “war” while our recently oppressed musical community is still fighting their battles with taped-together pitchforks. For voracity I’d guess this piece rates a 6.2, for engaging writing, a 9.5.

  • Adolph Reed

    My main experience of food trucks has been at the other end of the class continuum — inter alia, the street tamales back in the day and the odd 3:00 AM Lucky Dog and more recently all sorts of immigrant vendors in the Northeast. Thus I’ve been scratching my head at the specter of Stacy Head as local food truck all makes sense. Jesus fucking christ! Talk about a multi-front, simultaneous offensive in the class war! Thanks much for this article. Pointing out the money trail and political alliances is crucial.

  • Sick o’ Both

    All that? Its a damn food truck…meaning small entrepenurial hard working people engaging neighborhoods with good cheap food. I wanna do it just to have my own business, and not have to work for some other asshole. It has absolutely nothing to do with corporations or the Koch brothers…and everything to do with small business self reliance.