The National Street Food Conference, in conjunction with the San Francisco Street Food Festival, was born out of the belief that people should be able to make a living doing what they love to do. The Conference, specifically, sprang from the recognition that regulations in our country too often make that dream unattainable; in particular for low-income entrepreneurs and microentrepreneurs.
La Cocina hosted the First National Conference in 2010, in the hopes of providing a space that could grow into a place where people from all over could meet to examine the ways that people, food and public space work together, and what we can do to make that combination more successful. The 2011 Conference will focus on street food culture- the food and the people that make it-, policy and legislation, the economics of street food, and small business incubation. It is intended to be an open forum for ideas, an exchange between vendors, consumers, regulators and dreamers, and, hopefully, a place where changes can be set in motion to create more viable options for low-income vendors.
The Conference and Sunday Brunch will be held Bayside at the beautiful Fort Mason Center.
"Eat your Cart Out" Brunch, Sunday August 21st: $75
Brunch and Sunday Panels: $100
Monday, August 22nd Panels: $50
"Full Meal Deal" (Brunch + 2-Day Conference Pass): $150
ON-SITE REGISTRATION WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR BRUNCH AND CONFERENCE SESSIONS.
Day 1: Sunday, August 21st
Come one, come all! Today is for the foodie, the groupie, and anyone who "carts" street food as much as we do! The day begins with a fabulous brunch at Fort Mason Center, followed by panel discussions focusing on street food fare: what it is, what it was, and what it could be. La Cocina invites the general public to join us as we pick the brains of smart, innovative chefs and food gurus about how their roots, travels, and inspirations have led them to create extraordinary culinary experiences.
12:00-1:30pm - "Eat (and drink) your Cart Out" Brunch
Join Top Chef Masters contestant Suvir Saran and some of La Cocina's fabulous chefs for a delicious culinary extravaganza. Eat and drink to your cart's content!
Panel 1: But, Oh, It Tastes So Good: Chefs in Conversation About the World’s Best Street Food
1:30 - 3:00 PM
For all of the glory of a sit-down, wine-service, chef-driven, maybe-white-table-cloth meal, there remains something utterly and unspeakably (until this panel) delicious about street food across the world. In this panel, some of the country’s most talented, and passionate, chefs, will look into their culinary memories and share the best of their own street food experiences as we look at what makes street food so good, and why it’s nearly impossible to capture that flavor outside of the place we’ve first tried it. From New York hot dogs to Malaysian lakhsa, street food has historically been the cucina povera of the world, and all the more rich for it.
Panel 2: Writing About Street Food Is Like...
3:15 - 5:00 PM
Writing about street food can be like the search for a Platonic ideal. That one dish, in that one place, at that one stall, cooked by that one woman. Distill a moment in words, a flavor in paragraphs, and, well, you might just have a career. These distinguished panelists not only have a career but also a love for food that people have made. And, quite often, that’s food made on the streets. Join us as we distill great moments, inspect sense of place and open our hearts, minds and appetites for what the world has to offer.
Monday, August 22nd
Panel 1: Tales of Two Cities—From Taco Trucks to Gastrobuses: Has American “Street Food” Fundamentally Changed?
9:00 - 11:00 AM
Remember the taco truck? American street food has seen an explosion over the last three years that the food loving public would be hard pressed to have missed in TV shows, advertising campaigns and more. And it’s not like street food just came from nowhere; pizza started on the street too. But the dramatic shift in the conversation over the last three years has witnessed a demographic shift and perception shift that is more than simply noticeable, it is curious. As our economy went down, food trucks went up, and, often, it appeared as though mobile food vendors were living in two different worlds. Roach coaches or Gastrobuses, Twitter instead of the hidden gem, new immigrants or up-and-coming chefs. What does this shift mean, and how do we feel about it?
Break-Out 1, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Vendor Track—Marketing for Mobile Food
An in-depth look at the facets of mobile food marketing from some of the stars in the game. From Twitter to SCVNGR to plain old word-of-mouth, mobile vendors have been as innovative as any company in spreading word about their craft. In this roundtable discussion, vendors come together to share best practices, tips, and the tools of the rapidly evolving trade.
Planning Track—Policy Lab
As mobile food has caught on and grown, cities have either struggled to keep up or strived to get better. In this panel, our moderator will lead a roundtable discussion about cities that work, policies that innovate and ideas for the future. Presentation will include data and information on brick and mortar v. mobile food tensions, inter-agency cooperation, revenue generation for cities and neighborhood improvement and healthy food initiative elements.
Incubator and Vendor Organization Track—Advocacy and Organizing
Despite the national surge in “street food” low-income vendors and immigrant vendors continue to fight against difficult barriers to entry and laws that discourage them from formalizing food businesses, depriving them of legal and viable sources of income. As organizations and incubators, how can we work with vendors and our cities, to organize and advocate for realistic policies to encourage opportunity. Moderator will present best-practices and model cities before opening up a conversation between organizations.
Lunch, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
Lunch sponsored by Metal Gourmet and Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas.
Panel 2: The Life and Death of the Great American Food Truck; aka, How to Make Money in America on Wheels
1:00 - 2:30 PM
Presentation of working paper from La Cocina, followed by a moderated discussion of the findings. Over the last three years, the major US cities have seen an explosion in food trucks—mobile vending units of all shapes and sizes—that for much of America’s history were known as taco trucks. With the explosion of styles in this industry, we have also seen a shift in the demographic of ownership as a space that has historically been a feasible launchpad for low-income and new immigrant business owners has become a touchpoint for aspiring chefs and social-media savvy entrepreneurs.
But what does all of this mean? Is it a bigger shift in what we, as consumers, want and expect from our food? Does it prove that with a crashing economy we all fall down? Or is this a trend on the verge of jumping a shark, replete with all of the trappings of a bubble—media overexposure and Food Network TV shows, celebrity chefs skipping restaurants for the glory of a 12 foot trailer?
Taco trucks, historically, were successful because they allowed entrepreneurs who otherwise found entry into the restaurant industry loaded with barriers to create a living wage for themselves and their families. The appeal of a low-capital entry point for an aspiring food entrepreneur is clear, but what, exactly, does today’s mobile business model afford the aspirant? In this paper we will look at the culture of mobile foods and the economic opportunities that exist within the industry. Where is the Great American Food Truck headed?
Break-Out Track, 2:45 - 4:00 PM
Vendor Track: COGS, POS and Increasing Your Revenue
Used to be that street food was about as cash and carry as they came. But mobile payment has the capacity to change that, and to increase the margins of businesses in the process. In this moderated session, vendors will share best pratices for payment, lowering costs when applicable and raising revenues.
Planning Track—Mobile Food as Economic Development
Sure, it’s cool to have street food in your city, but what if it also created jobs and opportunity for low-income entreprneurs and allowed for upward mobility? In this moderated discussion, planners can discuss mechanisms through which to provide services to natural-born entrepreneurs and create vibrant cities that formalize street food in an effective and development-minded way. Case studies will include Singapore, San Francisco and Toronto, among others.
Incubator and Vending Organization Track—The (Rolling) Crystal Ball
Food incubators and vending organizations can serve the purpose of translating current economic trends to producers who may not have access to that information. However, there’s another vital role that successful incubators and organizations can fill in being at the cusp of trends and working with their clients to stay there. In this moderated panel, we will look at the future of vending in America, and play with some big ideas. Michigan’s cottage production rules, American versions of hawker stalls, cooperatives and the like.
Panel 3: Making Policy Work; A Vertical Conversation
4:00 - 5:30 PM
When & Where
La Cocina is a ground-breaking business incubator designed to reduce the obstacles that often prevent low-income food entrepreneurs from creating successful and sustainable small businesses. By providing affordable, shared, commercial kitchen space, an array of industry-specific technical assistance and services, and access to market opportunities and capital, La Cocina works with entrepreneurs as they launch, grow, and formalize successful food businesses. We focus primarily on women from culturally diverse communities and immigrant communities. Our vision is that our program participants will become economically self-sufficient and contribute to a vibrant and diverse economy doing what they love to do.
For more information visit www.lacocinasf.org.