Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Life in Food Carts

They are a staple of many cities and office campuses. They can provide a variety of tasty foods, from breakfast to even dessert that are cheap and quickly cooked. These are the food carts or lunch boxes and owning them as well as working them is as difficult as owning and working in any restaurant. Yet, they are one of the most popular occupations, especially of immigrants.

Food contributor and former restaurant reviewer Tejal Rao wrote about this little known but ever growing segment of the food industry in yesterday's New York Times Food section. For hipster foodies thinking this is a great life, having a food truck is more than hard work. They represent a dedication to a job that is back breaking and bone wearying. Bad enough the day starts off with hiring someone to drop off the cart or worse  hitching the carts to their cars if the vendors own them and looking for a parking spot big enough for both vehicles.Then there are the turf wars with other vendors.Another problem is the bathroom. One vendor, Kabir Ahmed, a Bangladeshi immigrant has to wait until his partner arrives to reileve him so he can escape to the Target across the street. Then there's the labyrinth of health codes and violations to avoid or that's the end of the business. The end of the day may provide profit but it also provides an aching back and sore feet.

Does owning a food truck have any benefits? It is a great way of getting one's cuisine out to the masses along with catering to loyal regulars.Mr. Ahmed creates twenty dishes from Biryani to all American hot dogs. To make the first he fries onions until they're translucent. He drops a variety of herbs and spices, from star anise to bay leaves into the mix along with a spoonful of garlic paste and ghee. The chicken is the last to go into the savory stew and then the rice is cooked. This too is created an extra special with dried papaya and plums added to the boiling water. Mr. Ahmed adds a soda to the meal , with all it costing only six dollars.It would cost double if it were served in a nearby restaurant. His take home pay at the end of the day is $125 or $625 a week. A yearly salary is only a little over $32,000 - not much for living in the New York metro area. There is the cautionary tale of a cart owner making a whopping three grand a day but he worked himself into sickness and has no one to take care him.Mr. Ahmed would rather have colleagues to help him out. while making less money

A food vendor's life may seem like a dream to any creative foodie or even young chef.Yet it's a dream with a few nightmares.attached. If you want it ,go for it, just be warned.

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