Vendy Awards 09: Riding The Schnitzel Truck

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This past Saturday was the 5th Vendy Awards and it was my first time attending. Well I didn’t just attend I was part of the Schnitzel & Things crew. Sean Basinski, the leader of the Vendy Awards, said 5 years ago there were only about 50 people that attended the Vendy but over a 1000 people this year. It’s no longer just hot dogs or halal or taco trucks. The new breed of trucks are leaner, quicker and fancier. There are definitely many factors that play into this whole movement. But one thing is for sure, people love street food. I personally love all street foods. As long as you’re making good food people will come.

On the day of the Vendy, I was lucky enough to join the Schnitzel & Things crew for the day. What does that mean? It meant I got to see the secret Schnitzel hideout, a ride in the Schnitzel mobile and waking up at 5:30am in the morning.

I shouldn’t complain because I didn’t have to prep enough schnitzels to feed a thousand people on Friday till midnight nor did I have to stand all day serving hungry people. Hungry people are the scariest. My day started with waking up every hour on the hour, it happens when I’m nervous about waking up on time, until 5:45am. I did my usual morning routine, which included spacing out for 30mins before actually getting out of bed. I met up with Oleg in front of his apt, we’re neighbors, and we hopped into his car along with his wife and his mom. It was s short drive to the truck depot. I have heard a lot about this mysterious truck depot but never seen it before. NYC Cravings and Wafels & Dinges park their trucks there also. As Oleg was filling up the 2 generators, his wife told me this is the non-glamorous side of food trucking. It’ll definitely suck when winter comes. After prepping the truck we were off to their kitchen in Red Hook for the supplies.
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It was around 7:15am when we got to Red Hook. Oleg told me they share the kitchen space with the DUB Pies people. Pablo, Schnitzel & Things kitchen helper, was already in the kitchen doing the last minute work. Pablo is fun. A man of few words but totally bad ass. We, yes I helped, loaded the truck with trays and trays and trays of chicken, pork and eggplant, oil, utensils, cutting board…etc. By 8am we were hitting the BQE on our way to Flushing Meadows. Note: watch out for the sliding cutting board. It was scary to go under overpasses, none of us weren’t sure if the truck was low enough. We made couple wrong turns but by 8:20am we made it. Not quite made it since we were stuck in a tiny parking lot and Oleg and Jared had to figure out how in the world do we get to the other side. Eventually we found our way, thanks for putting signs up Vendy! We saw NYC Cravings as lost as we were and Cupcake Stop had to come over to ask us for directions. At 8:30am we were parked and the first to arrive. Okay and the event did’t start till 2pm. There was a lot of standing and walking around. By 9:30am most of the trucks had arrived and parked in their spot. The Country Boys were couple hours late and the Jamaican Dutchy Boys pulled in at around 1:30pm.
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What do you do for 4 hours of free time? The Vendy volunteers were busy setting things up with their awesome Vendy aprons. Oleg and I tried to score couple free ones but that failed. Top Chef Masters, Anita Lo, showed up at her Rickshaw Dumplings truck as well. NYC Cravings kids, I say kids because they’re all 22-23 year olds, hung out with the Schnitzel crew. At one point they even got into the Schnitzel truck and teased them for having a small window. I was finally able to pay back Doug Quint from the Big Gay Ice Cream truck his $4. I still needed change though because I only had a $5 bill which cracked him up. There was a lot of smiles and chatting among the truckers which was good! At one point Oleg emerged from the Cupcake Stop truck with a box of cupcakes and made a quick stop at Wafels & Dinges for a wafel. Oleg wanted ice cream from Doug and Doug wanted schnitzel from Oleg. It was just fun to watch all of them shared food with each other.
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Around 1:15pm all of the food vendors got busy preparing their food. That was also when people from Rickshaw Dumplings passed out samples to all of the food vendors. That was super nice of them. Before 2pm it was food for press and volunteers. All 3 dessert trucks were the first to start serving their food.
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Though the Big Gay Ice Cream truck was only giving them out to kids, the NYC Cravings crew and I tried to get some ice cream but we weren’t young enough. Back at the Schnitzel table, they brought a bouquet of sunflowers to decorate the table and nice looking ceramic bowls to hold the sides. They received a lot of compliments about their table setting and how beautiful the sides looked. A crowd started to form in front of us, patiently waiting to get their schnitzel on. They also did the wave and it was funny to see a lady from the wafel truck first in line for schnitzel and 2 of the Cupcake Stop guys in line as well. Just before 2pm, Stan, from the Vendy Benefit Commitee, stopped at each truck to tell them its not just about their food but also their personalities.
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Then 2pm came and the flood of hungry people came rushing in. Throughout the whole event there was a constant line at the Schnitzel truck but amazingly they kept it going pretty damn well. The frying of schnitzel didn’t stop. There were couple times when they ran out of eggplant but the people only had to wait a minute or 2. I overheard a lot of people praising the schnitzel, even Anita Lo. I helped a bit by replenishing the paper towels. Good job guys!
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It was a different story for the Country Boys and later for the Big Gay Ice Cream truck. The Big Gay Ice Cream probably won for having the longest ass line. Howard was smart enough to try the sweets first than savory but he did go back for a 2nd time for the Thanksgiving sundae.

For the rest of the day we pretty much stood in line, walked around, ate, stood in line, ate and drank. What was also cool was finally meeting Robyn Lee, who I’ve kind of known for a while thru a mutual friend but never in person, Erin Zimmer, and Ed Levine from Serious Eats and Dan Delaney from Vendr TV. I was kind of nervous, they’re celebrities in the food blogging world! Hello I shared ice cream with Ed! What!

Overall it was a pretty damn fun day. Met many great people and ate some damn good food. And congrads to my boys at Schnitzel & Things for winning Rookie Of The Year.
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Now I end this entry with some food photos. Of course.
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Check out the rest of my photos with this flashy slideshow. Ooooooo
http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

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