Street food is alive and well and living in the heads and hearts of the culinary students at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School in Barrhaven. Chef-instructor Kent Van Dyk gave his grade 11 class a summative assignment. As a self described “unabashed food cart/truck lover” himself, he told them to come up with a concept for a Gourmet Food Cart designed for a city woefully under-served in the gastronomic mobile market. (Ottawa’s hot dog, sausage and poutine carts do not a vibrant street food culture make.)
Chef Van Dyk invited me to be a member of the judging panel for this project, and I’ve come home stuffed and inspired. These kids were tasked with not just the food concept and the execution of dishes, but also with the business plan, the truck’s design, the marketing strategy, and the communication of their dreams and schemes to a critical group, including the principal of Longfields, Patsy Agard, CBC TV’s Adrian Harewood, and Heather Shouse, Chicago based author of Food Trucks, Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels.
Gold medal went to the quartet who called their truck “Down By The Bayou” and presented a spicy jambalaya and a po boy sub, complete with homemade buns and spicy mayo. Imagine these in recyclable (made from sugar cane, we are told) containers, served from a green truck with an alligator head and tail protruding from the bow and stern.
Also notable, a noodle truck serving Thai soups and salads; a crepe cart and a pasta pusher, dishing up Italian comfort foods, including cannoli.
Ottawa is maddeningly slow to come on board with the mobile street food movement. But there’s no doubt it’s a happening thing, and there’s no doubt it will, eventually, after it’s parked itself at a zillion committees for study, slowly roll on over our way.
Here’s hoping some of these students – with their passion and entrepreneurial spirit – will be a driving force.
Congratulations to all the students, to Chef Van Dyk and to the Board’s support of this program. I was delighted to be a part of the project.