FROM ENFANT TERRIBLE TO CHEF INSTRUCTOR: CHEF ILIANA DE LA VEGA
We had a beautiful life. It was like magic," Iliana de la Vega says, remembering her family's charmed life in Oaxaca City, Mexico. There, de la Vega and her Chilean-born husband Ernesto Torrealba owned El Naranjo, a restaurant serving modern Oaxacan cuisine to an international following, carefully built over eleven years. With their two daughters, they enjoyed the cultural vibrancy of Oaxaca, until political unrest, stemming from a teacher's strike in 2006, threatened their happiness.
The strike, punctuated by violent clashes with the state militia, disrupted both their business and family life. Schools were suspended. Tourism trickled to a standstill. The local economy veered toward the edge of collapse, while the national government faced a widespread civil rebellion, which erupted after the 2006 presidential election. So when the opportunity arose, de la Vega and her family decided to leave their home and start anew in Austin, Texas, where they reopened El Naranjo ? this time, in the form of a food truck parked at the site of what they hope will one day be the future home of a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
The truck serves Mexican dishes from across their native country (Oaxacan dishes remain El Naranjo's specialty), and de la Vega is proud of her authentic preparations. "What people know about Mexican food is still very limited, even though we are so close and share a huge border. So I chose to showcase traditional foods, and the reception has been good." The menu selection is not extensive, but changes regularly, with offerings such as Salpicón de Res Taco (a cold beef salad taco), and Swordfish Escabeche (a pickled fish popular in Veracruz). De la Vega also prepares signature moles, traditional dishes composed of complex sauces made by blending many ingredients and served over meat and rice.
HOME STYLE COOKING IN A CART, CZECH STYLE
For many, the road to becoming a professional chef is a long and arduous one. For Karel and Monika Vitek, owners of the Tábor food cart in Portland, Oregon, the journey was much longer and more unpredictable than most.
"We would not be in the food business if we had remained in the Czech Republic," says Monika. "But being immigrants gave us an advantage."
It was not an easily earned advantage. Karel first attempted to escape from the former Czechoslovakia, then under Communist rule, in 1984, by applying for a one-day tourist visa to Turkey. He was foiled, however, by the presence of undercover police in the region, and forced to abandon his plans.
WHERE KOGI GOES, LA FANS FOLLOW
part2 of "Keep On Truckin'!- Immigrants Keep Food Trucks in High Gear"
It's easy to dismiss food cart dining as just another trend, one that will soon burn out on the flames of its own popularity, as trends inevitably do. But consider the fact that Kogi, the popular Los Angeles-based fleet of trucks, has more than three times more Twitter followers than the Council on Foreign Relations, and, all told, more social media supporters than some small countries have citizens. Trend or not, there is something astounding in Kogi's reach and resonance.
It's Kogi's tasty Korean-Mexican fusion fare that has its legions of fans clamoring. Using Twitter and other social media outlets to announce locations and specials, the trucks cruise the streets of Los Angeles serving up fusion dishes such as Kogi Kimchi Quesadillas, tacos stuffed with Korean barbequed short ribs and spicy pork, and their signature Kogi sliders.
Keep On Truckin'!- Immigrants Keep Food Trucks in High Gear
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my visitors and EOL Community members a very happy holiday season and Happy Thanksgiving.
One thing that this season brings to mind is that we are all immigrants here in the US (unless of course you are 100% American Indian which is highly unlikely) and I would like to combine that fact with one of my pet themes here on EOL- Food Trucks.
I was approached by Joyce Li from the Vilcek Foundation to publish these articles on how immigrants have contributed to the Food Truck movement and there is no better time to start adding them to the site than now, just before Thanksgiving.
This first piece is written by Zach Brooks of the NYTimes who was a judge in last year’s Vendy Awards.
I will also be publishing a link to all the recipes from this series.
Cooking With Julia Child
Even those of us who turn to BBQ catering for all of our big time culinary celebrations should know a few tricks in the kitchen. Of course there will always be times when we must turn to corporate catering companies to spruce up our events, but once we understand the basics of food we are far more likely to actually want to cook many of our own meals.
Many people already enjoy the culinary arts and can spend extensive hours at work in the kitchen without ever feeling like cooking is work. Those who really enjoy cooking think nothing of making the same dish five times in order to get it just right. These kinds of people tend to want to work in the food industry, so that they can tap into their own talents in a greater way.
Consumer and Farmer Behaviour Shows Encouraging Signs of Changes in the UK
The UK's Office for National Statistics collects data on many subjects, one of which is an annual survey of materials flow that it has been collecting since 1970.
It would seem that the country's use of a variety of materials has dropped back to its second lowest level since records began and that this decline has been happening since well before the onset of the global economic crisis in 2007-08.
Two prticularly interesting trends emerge from the latest data. The first is that both the amount of household waste (including recycling) generated by each person in the country and their intake of food, particularly meat, have been declining since 2003.
The second is that the quantities of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium fertilisers being applied to British fields have been falling since the 1980s despite the intensification of food production. In the same week the UK's online periodical for farmers, Farmers Weekly, carried an article about one arable farm's switch in 2002 to using green waste compost to improve the condition and structure of its soil.