Setting for the delicious 2014 foodie film Chef directed by John Favreau and starring Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson and Los Angeles has embraced the street food movement, feeding everyone from hipsters to hungry students. From filling the social media airways with tips on where the taco truck, or ice cream specialist will stop at midnight at the corner of Beverly Boulevard/ North La Brea Avenue or on L.A.’s Miracle Mile, the street food world is moving into mainstream. Indeed, National Geographic magazine recently ran a #streetfood photo competition seeking stories on images of trucks, food and customers.
With Americans now spending more than $800m each year on tacos, sweet Hawaiian rolls, sliders and food using traditional French techniques on Asian Fusion food, it was natural that a L.A. would give rise to a street food festival. So, this Saturday, 11July sees the sixth event take place, and this year it’ll be in the Rose Bowl football stadium, Pasadena.
“We never considered ourselves a food-truck event even though we became built that way,” says festival founder Shawna Dawson.The festival’s first year, 2010, was at the height of the food truck craze — and, as a result, most of its vendors were trucks. “As we got bigger we knew we wanted it to be what it was always intended to be — a street food event. Restaurants are inspired by street food. Same goes for stands, carts and pop-ups. Street food is way more chef-oriented than truck-oriented,” says Dawson.
Dawson grew up in L.A. and spent much of her life eating food from vendors that were never represented at the city’s growing number of food festivals. In fact, she noticed that many events had only the same 20 or 30 names attending, mainly because festivals require the food to be donated and many small producers don’t have the resources for that, she says.
The L.A. Street Food Fest was created as a way to give exposure to the cities most underrepresented food-slingers. It does this by subsidising most of the food costs for its vendors, which include a curated selection of taco, burger and dumpling makers. This year’s vendors include cocktails from Corner Door and Magnolia House; ice cream from Salt and Straw and popsicle pop-ups, coffee from Copa Vida and Frijolitos Mobile Coffee and — new this year — doughnuts from Donut Friend and Colorado Donuts. An Artisanal LA station (Dawson is also a founder) will feature small-batch jerkies, jam and pies.