Where to find the world’s best street food

From scrunchy scorpions in Bangkok to grilled fish sandwiches in Istanbul, savour an al pavement treat.

Eating a scorpion kebab

Eating a scorpion kebab in Beijing. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

The apparently grubby veil has been lifted on the ubiquitous food trucks of New York. A freedom of information request by the New York Post has revealed thousands of hygiene violations by street vendors across the city, from the use of mystery meats to systematic disregard for hand soap. A total of 2,517 transgressions have been recorded this year, with one vendor clocking up 14 health offences in two months. When the newspaper tracked him down, he was ripping into an orange “with dirt-caked fingernails”.

In other news, a bear was seen shiftily exiting a wooded area on the outskirts of the city.

As any street food connoisseur will tell you, a hearty al pavement meal always involves taking your stomach into your own hands, hopefully not literally. “I’m pretty certain people know the risks associated with street meat,” says Amanda Kludt, editor of New York-based food site Eater.com. “Will you have some bad apples? Of course. Just pay attention to where and what you’re eating.”

Quite so. Yah boo to the hygiene nitpickers! Ignorance is bliss! Want chefs in clinical whites and dripping in certificates? Then go to a restaurant. But you’d be missing out . . .


A steaming pad thai concocted in under a minute on a street-side hot plate is a culinary must. Watch as the hawker grabs handfuls of bean sprouts and noodles, a scoop of sugar, a pinch of peanuts and squidge of lime and flings them together in a near frenzy. Accompany with a skewer of crunchy scorpions.

New York

Make a beeline for The King of Falafel & Shawarma, a Queens favourite on the corner of 30th Street and Broadway, current holder of the Vendy Cup, a prestigious annual competition honouring the best of the city’s street eats.


Join the local throng at Eminonu port, in the shadow of the Galata Bridge on the southern shores of the Golden Horn, where a small flotilla of bobbing boats (below left) sit moored to the dock, flogging succulent fresh fish sandwiches hot from grills on the deck.


Hunt down The Meatwagon, a cult burger van that has had in-the-know Londoners drooling for the past few years. The van has led a nomadic existence but is now berthed in Peckham Rye.

Siem Reap

The home to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temples is also the place for eye-popping street fare. Look out for balut – partially fertilised duck eggs – and various stalls selling smoked snake and satay frogs.

Via The Guardian


Designer Cooking Schools

You can relax now and forget all of your bad memories (should you have any…) of drab and dreary home economics classes because the newest cooking schools are cool.

It is true that The Culinary Art School in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico is not of the high-school variety – it is for serious chefs with high aspirations – but it oozes a new, cool confidence that could potentially turn even the most nonchalant teenager into a passionate chef.

The elegant use of wood is the key attribute in The Culinary Art School. Its new building was designed by San Diego, California-based Jorge Gracia Arquitecto whose founder, Jorge Gracia, was born in Tijuana in 1973.

The entire school complex carries an air of strict order, almost an ascetic solemnity. If you didn’t notice the stoves or wine racks, you could mistake this for a place of religious study.

And, passionate chefs certainly express a fervour for food, ingredients and cooking that could be likened to religious zeal. It is easy to imagine how the colours, textures and aromas of various ingredients stand out in this kind of environment. It is like a stage for culinary creation or like a frame for gastronomic artwork.

Also in the category of cool cooking schools is the Sydney Seafood School established in 1989 and completely refurbished for its 20th anniversary. It conducts cooking classes for all skill levels and draws more than 12,000 students annually.

Words such as handsome and sexy come to mind when you look at this space, the creative work of Dreamtime Australia Design, based in Sydney, Australia.

Some time ago, we have featured Dreamtime-designed Churchill Butcher Shop in Sydney.

In Sydney Seafood School, a tactile intrigue, and a contrast between serious study and serious fun, are evident in every space. The school’s entry wall is a honeycombed sandstone creation by sculptor Michael Purdy.

The dark and impressive hands-on kitchen looks formidable with lots of shiny stainless steel and glass, but its gravity is lightened by chalkboard walls with “fish graffiti” as art. The cool auditorium’s walls are lined with Icelandic fish leather. In the dining room, the harbour view competes for attention with a row of fun fishnet chandeliers and their more than 6,000 little globes. Where do we sign up? Tuija Seipell

via | the cool hunter

The James Beard Foundation Awards

The James Beard Foundation Awards shine a
spotlight on the best and brightest talent in the food
and beverage industry.

“The Oscars of the food world.”
—Time Magazine

Covering all aspects of the industry—from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers and architects and more—the James Beard Foundation Awards are the highest honors for food and beverage professionals working in America. The awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Nominees and winners are fêted at a weekend of gala events in New York City that has become the social and gastronomic highlight of the year.

A steadfast champion of American cuisine, James Beard often commented on its influences and roots. In the introduction to his comprehensive American Cookery, Beard acknowledged the unique character of American food that resulted from the diverse backgrounds of American citizens. “The inspiration for incalculable numbers of our dishes came with immigrants from Europe and the Orient,” he wrote in 1972. Add South America, Africa, the Middle East, and other cultures to the stew and you have the exciting taste of the American culinary melting pot we are celebrating at this year’s Gala Awards Reception.

To cook, we’ve invited both chefs who have emigrated from various places to America, and chefs who were born in America but who were inspired by the cuisines of other lands. The menu will be a combination of “fine traditional cookery” and “mingled cuisines,” to use Beard’s words, that will certainly present the exciting flavors of the great American melting pot.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Foundation Awards are a program of the James Beard Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate, nurture, and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future. For more information, to join as a member, to learn more about James Beard or to sign up to receive Beard Bites, our free electronic newsletter, visit jamesbeard.org.

The Return Of The Agricultural Unconscious

At the recent Thrilling Wonder Stories all-day speculate-athon, Geoff Manaugh and I ended up speaking as part of the “Counterfeit Archaeology” panel, alongside designers Dunne & Raby. To explore this concept of creating alternative artifacts and inventing potential pasts in order to understand the present and tell stories about about the future, we talked about animal printheads, rats, nuclear waste entombment sites, and more.

IMAGE: Subterranean New York City, my altered version of a diagram by National Geographic.

As part of our presentation, I revisited the mythical cow tunnel(s) of New York. This structure (or these structures, depending on whose version of the story you listen to) was supposedly built at the end of the nineteenth century, as an infrastructural response to the cow-jams that blocked streets in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. (The increased quantity of cattle arriving in the city was due, in part, to another infrastructural innovation: the railway.)

In any case, its/their very existence is shrouded in uncertainty: cattle tunnels have been rumoured to exist beneath Twelfth Avenue at both 34th Street and 38th Street, but also somewhere on Greenwich, Renwick, or Harrison Street near the present-day entrance to the Holland Tunnel, and even as far afield as Gansevoort Street in the West Village. According to second-hand reports collated by utilities engineer turned self-published mystery writer Brian Wiprud, the tunnel is, variously: oak-vaulted; lined with fieldstones; built of steel; demolished to make way for a gas main; or perfectly preserved.

IMAGE: Google Street View shots of the surface above some of the reported cow tunnel locations.

A guy from the telephone company even claimed to have met someone whose boss said he had rescued a musket from the entrance to one. Not to be outdone, in 2004, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation apparently declared that “if intact,” the cow tunnel(s) would indeed be eligible for landmark status.

What’s amazing about these elusive cow tunnels is that, whether or not they actually exist (in fact, especially if they don’t), they form a shared urban fantasy — a mythical meat-processing infrastructure haunting contemporary New York City.

In a world where our steak frequently arrives in a polystyrene tray, sitting on a nappy in a modified-atmosphere bubble, the cow tunnels could be analysed as the city’s agricultural unconscious, returning in the form of rumour and legend. Their longevity and recurrence, in spite of the lack of any physical corroboration, suggests that they form a powerful thread in the urban imaginary — and a ready-made narrative to be exploited by locavore designers.

IMAGE: A cowboy on 13th Street and Eleventh Avenue in the Meatpacking District, NYC, 1911, via.

After the event, audience member and telecommunications strategist Jeremy Green got in touch to point me in the direction of the London iteration of cow tunnels: sewer pigs. Their first mention comes in the 1850s, when social researcher Henry Mayhew interviewed sewermen for his book, London Labour and the London Poor.

There is a strange tale in existence among the sewer-workers, of a race of wild hogs inhabiting the sewers in the neighborhood of Hampstead. The story runs, that a sow in young, by some accident got down the sewer through an opening, and, wandering away from the spot, littered and reared her offspring in the drain, feeding on the offal and garbage washed into it continuously. Here, it is alleged, the breed multiplied exceedingly, and have become almost as ferocious as they are numerous.

When Mayhew expressed disbelief, wondering why these pigs remained underground, the sewermen were apparently ready with a logical reply: “the only way the pigs could get out of the sewer would be to get to the mouth of it, which would require them to cross the Fleet ditch, against the rapid currents of which pigs would refuse to swim because of their obstinate nature.”

IMAGE: The Fleet sewer (one of London’s lost rivers) depicted during its repair in 1854, via.

IMAGE: The river Fleet near its source on Hampstead Heath, also sketched in the 1850s, via.

The swine surface again in the writings of Charles Dickens, as well as in a rather fantastic 1859 editorial from the Daily Telegraph, excerpted from the blog London Particulars:

Exaggeration and ridicule often attach to the vastness of London, and the ignorance of its penetralia common to us who dwell therein. It has been said that beasts of chase still roam in the verdant fastnesses of Grosvenor Square, that there are undiscovered patches of primaeval forest in Hyde Park and that Hampstead sewers shelter a monstrous breed of black swine, which have propagated and run wild among the slimy feculence, and whose ferocious snouts will one day up-root Highgate archway, while they make Holloway intolerable with their grunting.

IMAGE: A feral pig grazing in the open gutters of Rajasthan, via.

In the mid-nineteenth century, when the legend of the black swine was at its strongest, Hampstead was still a relatively rural farming village. Meanwhile, the city of London and its relationship with its agricultural hinterland were being transformed by the Industrial Revolution: railways, factories, and their attendant rural-urban migration. London’s population grew from one million in 1800 to 6.7 million by 1900, and with that growth came a radical renegotiation of the city’s food supply.

In other words, as in New York City, so in London: the increasing industrialisation of food spawned a sort of narrative resistance, in the form of pervasive myths of sewer pigs and cow tunnels buried deep beneath the city. Today, as planners, architects, and designers seek to make cities more healthy and sustainable by reconnecting urban dwellers to food production, perhaps they might tap into the power of these stories that bob up to the surface again and again, as if from a shared urban agricultural unconscious.

NOTE: Thanks, Jeremy — and thanks also to Liam Young of the Architectural Association and Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG for organising a day packed with insights and ideas.


Where the Porterhouse Ages Gracefully

Picture 114.jpg

In a 2,000-square-foot industrial walk-in cooler, famed porterhouses have been dry-aged to perfection for more than 100 years.

NY TimesPublished: December 22, 2008

The New York porterhouse — that cut of meat found between the prime ribs and the sirloin of a cow — is a specialty dish as local and distinctive as the London broil, the Viennese schnitzel or the Parisian steak frites. It is thicker and more marbled than a T-bone, infinitely more tender than sirloin and, according to the greatest chefs, likely to be even more flavorful than the best filet mignon.

It is also — and consensus is fairly widespread on the point — New York City’s signature cut of beef. While the provenance of its name is steeped in doubt (some say it derives from Martin Morrison’s 19th-century porter house, or travelers’ inn, on Pearl Street), there is no mistaking that the dish has always found its truest home and fullest flower of expression in the enormous — and enormously crowded — meat box at Peter Luger Steak House, that Brooklyn gastro-institution, at 178 Broadway in Williamsburg, where porterhouses have been dry-aged to perfection for more than 100 years.

A 2,000-square-foot industrial walk-in cooler, the meat box is larger than many city domiciles, and is equally congested, packed from floor to ceiling at any given time with 30,000 pounds of raw, aging meat. Its smells are earthy and specific, a mineral combination of hazelnuts and sea salt, and the fatty pink short loins resting on the clean steel racks like the promise of abundance give the impression of a gluttony so bountiful and imminent that one can feel its reverberations coming through the floor, a full flight up, in the front of the house.

“It’s our sacred place,” said Jody Storch, the meat buyer and a granddaughter of Sol Forman, the Brooklyn manufacturer of metalwares who bought the restaurant from the Luger family for “a whimsically low bid” nearly 60 years ago. “It’s the heart and soul of our business. It’s almost like our vault.”

Buried under Peter Luger’s kitchen, the meat box does possess a stony vaultlike coolness, mechanically enhanced these days by oscillating fans and a softly humming Bohn refrigeration unit, which keeps the air chilled between 32 and 36 degrees. Dry-aging is essentially a process of controlled rot: at near-freezing temperatures, the natural enzymes in the meat deteriorate the muscle, inflicting it with tenderness and leaving behind not only that enriched nutty flavor, but also a delicate brownish crust.

With its old-world furnishings, its blunt, gruff-mannered staff of servers and a starkly (almost unattractive) industrial locale, Peter Luger, which opened in 1887, has always had a traditional appeal. It is at once a memory and an incarnation of everything old and steadfast in New York, on a par in its augustness with antiquities like the Oak Room, the waterfront, La Cosa Nostra and the corner Irish bar.

But perhaps foremost it is a present-day reminder of an era when the city actually worked: when tin and sugar were produced in its factories, when garments were assembled in its textile lofts, when cargo freighters full of sofas and bananas were unloaded at its docks. If that’s the case, then one is tempted to consider Luger’s meat box — despite its practicality — as an atavistic symbol. For down there in the basement, 15 tons of beef are literally working on themselves: They are growing richer, inching ever closer toward their day upon the table in the silent, patient labor of their toil.


FoodWorks Unveiled: A New Vision for NYC’s Food System

On Earth Day 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled PlaNYC, his blueprint for city-wide sustainability. Conspicuously missing from this report was the role food could–and should–play in the City’s long-term sustainability. A little less than three years later, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer produced his FoodNYC report, a blueprint for food sustainability. And just this Monday, November 22, City Council Speaker Christin Quinn unveiled FoodWorks, the most comprehensive food report and blueprint the city has yet seen–a 59-point plan that cuts across the entire food system.The report was actually authored by City Council Senior Policy Analyst Sarah Brannen, with research by Gabrielle Blavatsky and Heidi Exline. The report provides unprecedented context, a clear snapshot of the city’s food system, what’s working, what’s not–and some strategies for reform and opportunities. It’s possibly the most comprehensive compilation of maps, timelines, graphs, and statistics ever compiled about New York City’s food system for the public. That alone makes it a valuable resource.

Senior Graphic Designer Antonio M. Rodriguez has created not just a visually accessible document, but an entire visual identity that brings the report to life. It’s literally a modular honeycomb with interchangeable–and interlocking–parts that create an entire system: “By addressing the system as a whole, we can begin to make connections throughout these phases, establish partnerships across sectors, and create more powerful, far-reaching changes,” the report states. The design is a brilliant illustration of what Speaker Quinn is trying to do with her report and blueprint–for this reason alone you really should read the report yourself. What follows is a brief tour of FoodWorks, with a bit of local commentary.

But first, a little context. Christine Quinn presented her FoodWorks report at the Food and Finance High School before an audience of colleagues, food justice and sustainability advocates, and other allies just months after Stringer had introduced his FoodNYC plan. Early into her remarks Quinn acknowledged that her report builds on the work of Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Mayor Bloomberg. Stringer has released a statement in support of Quinn’s initiative:

“I commend the speaker for her work on this important issue, and am heartened that her recommendations echo many of the same proposals as outlined in our February 2010 report FoodNYC. I look forward to working with the Speaker on these and other vital initiatives related to the city’s food supply system which if done right can improve both jobs and health. Given the range of policies and programs in the City surrounding food, I renew my call for the creation of an Office of Food and Markets to coordinate and lead systematic reform of the City’s food and agricultural policies.”

Any New Yorker could see Quinn’s and Stringer’s plans as rivals; after all, both are rumored to have the next mayoral race within their sights. But however you see it, a second food sustainability plan for New York City points to the prominence food has risen to in public policy.

Quinn’s plan seems to be more tactical than Stringer’s. There is more emphasis on small business-friendly market solutions, more solutions that work at the granular level. However, New Yorkers should remember that part of Stringer’s report is the direct result of the Food Summit he held the previous December. Participants in policy sessions were asked their ideas about how to address policy challenges, and the summary of these results (at the end of the FoodNYC report) are worth reviewing especially in light of FoodWorks’ unveiling.

As for how FoodWorks fits in with Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, there is talk among city food policy advocates that it should become the food “chapter” to the next PlaNYC. However, Quinn sees it as its own entity. She explained in a NY1 interview, “FoodWorks is PlaNYC for food. With meeting the goals I articulated and moving our city to a place where we’re feeding the hungry, improving people’s health, and putting people to work.” While Stringer proposes creating a city Office of Food and Markets, Quinn hopes this will not be necessary; instead she would like to see better coordination between city agencies, nonprofits, and businesses.

FoodWorks is divided into five main areas: agriculture production, processing, distribution, consumption, post-consumption. Within each area is a set of goals with a strategy for each and a set of proposals.

Agriculture Production

This is one of the largest sections of Quinn’s report, focusing on increasing regional food production, encouraging regional procurement by the city, and encouraging urban food production. The plan calls for directing more farm subsidies toward our state’s healthy and sustainable crops, building a permanent wholesale farmer’s market, and expanding farmer’s markets and CSAs, and making these accessible by expanding EBT and WIC benefits at farmers markets.

In her speech, Quinn mentioned that New York State is the second largest producer of apples in nation; yet most of the apples sold in the city come from Washington state. I know every time I step into a bodega or market if there are any apples, they’re always from somewhere else–I’m glad she’s noticed, too.

But what caught my eye in the report was an even more remarkable number: New York State ranks third nationally in milk production and generates nearly $2 billion a year in sales, more than any other crop by some $1,700,000. Yet local small and mid-sized dairy farmers are hurting from the rising costs of processing and distribution, partly as a result of the consolidation of the milk industry. I asked dairy farmer and owner of Organic NY Milk Dean Sparks what he thought of FoodWorks and how he thought it might help his business.

Sparks admit that he “fell in love” with the report. He adds, “Organic and sustainable farming practices would be more widely adopted in Upstate New York if farm families were assured their additional efforts would be rewarded with a small premium.  New York city residents seem willing (if not even ANXIOUS) to spend a little more to support local, sustainable farms close to home. Adopting the FoodWorks model would encourage and bring to light the benefits that a local, fresh food system would bring to everyone in our area.”

The plan also calls for protecting community gardens, counting urban farms in the USDA Census of Agriculture, and mapping city-owned property that could be used for farming, including rooftops, along with other proposals that support rooftop gardening. It’s exciting to see such recognition of the burgeoning urban farming movement–and to see more support on the horizon. There were a few community garden advocates who interrupted Quinn’s speech to ask about her promise to protect the land. Quinn reiterated her commitment, adding that she is working on a “packet of legislation” she will introduce to the Council that will provide long-term protection for community gardens.


Quinn wants to see the food manufacturing industry grow, and to that end she would like to get new industrial space for food manufacturing built and continue support for the NYers 4 Markets initiative she introduced this past spring. Quinn was at the New Amsterdam Market just two weeks ago calling again for a permanent structure for the market. She also mentioned the La Marqueta food processing facility in East Harlem opening later this year. Hot Bread Kitchen will be housed there, among other small businesses.

Quinn has pinpointed 70 food businesses that want to expand in New York City; rather than let these businesses move to less expensive locations outside the city, the City Council has a Small Manufacturing Investment Fund of $10 million to help develop new manufacturing space for these businesses.

This is good news for the 70 food businesses, but I’m also wondering how smaller vendors like those who sold at the lost Greenpoint Market could also benefit. The market closed because the vendors did not have access to or could not afford city-approved industrial kitchens. Stringer’s FoodNYC called for building incubator kitchens in all five boroughs. Would supporting small startups feed New York City’s economy as much as expanding mid-sized companies? It’s something to consider.

Quinn also wants to hold a regional food business-to-business conference to help facilitate partnerships between upstate farms and city food businesses. In addition to providing exciting networking and synergy opportunities, the conference would also produce workshops on applying for city agency contracts. New York City’s buying power could make a huge difference for the viability of our regional farms. For example, this year Slope Farms served its grass-fed beef to a handful of New York City schools, a pilot project facilitated by the nonprofit School Food Focus. Imagine local, grass-fed beef being available in all public schools. Imagine New York State lettuce in all the school salad bars. Organizations like School Food Focus are poised to make more of these connections happen so long as the political will and support is also there.


The focus of this section is almost entirely on the Hunts Point Market. Built in 1967, the market is clearly overdue for a substantial update. Quinn proposes increasing its storage space and expanding the rail service to cut down on the environmental costs of trucking. Her vision for the terminal extends beyond modernizing for today; she wants Hunts Point to be ready for the future.

Hunts Point can’t remain the sole distribution point for the city. Quinn proposes identifying “optimal distribution routes and modes for food distribution within the region and city.” In other words, perhaps New York City should have multiple food distribution hubs. I have my own vision, and it involves a Brooklyn hub that would make feeding Brooklyn’s insatiable locavores a little easier–and more financially and logistically feasible–for farmers. Meanwhile, Quinn suggests that Hunts Point could serve as a model for citywide food system improvement strategies.


“If we want New Yorkers to make better choices,” Quinn said on Monday, “we need to give them better options.” Quinn may have said this in reference to past efforts to outlaw using food stamps to buy soda. It’s an imperative I’ve heard food justice advocates like Food Bank for New York City’s Aine Duggan state numerous times. Increasing healthy options is a much more effective strategy than limiting unhealthy options.

To that end, most of FoodWorks’ health and hunger proposals are about increasing access and affordability for healthy food. The plan would expand fresh food retail in underserved neighborhoods by marketing the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program, help bring more alternative food markets like food co-operatives to the city, improve the food options at bodegas, and even create healthy neighborhood food guides. Did you know that a couple thousand of the Park Slope Food Co-op’s members come from Bed-Stuy? The new Greene Hill Food Co-op is actually located adjascent to Bed-Stuy, but it’s still in need of volunteer support and funding. Eating Healthy in Bed Stuy is an example of the kind of healthy food guide the City could produce, but it also needs additional support.

Meanwhile, it looks like New York City is not maximizing the federal dollars that could be strengthening the safety net of hunger and nutrition programs. One of the few times Quinn has openly disagreed with Mayor Bloomberg is over his policy of fingerprinting for SNAP benefits. She calls for this to end immediately–not that it’s within her power to end it. She has, however, suggested that City Council can keep the issue alive until Bloomberg–or possibly the new Governor Andrew Cuomo–addresses it. Fingerprinting applicants deters an estimated 30,000 eligible recipients from signing up for benefits. This translates into a loss of $54 million in federal money not going into New York City’s economy. “Now is the time to decriminalize hunger,” Quinn declared in her speech to a rousing applause.

Other hunger-related proposals include increasing federal benefits to reflect the higher costs of living, translating the WIC vendor book into different languages, and mandating in-classroom breakfast at high-needs public schools–something that’s already being done in Newark public schools.

As for discouraging unhealthy food options, the FoodWorks report mentions cities like London that limit proximity of fast food restaurants to schools and San Francisco’s highly controversial ban on fast food toys. “City Council will review best practices nationally and internationally to discourage the consumption of fast food, and create more opportunities for healthy food service in neighborhoods around the city.” The proposal is relatively vague–which means we probably won’t see sensationalist headlines about outrageous proposals limiting fast food coming out of City Council anytime soon.

Post Consumption

Composting-a-go-go! New York City’s purchasing power comes into play here again: this time the report points out the impact the city could make if it created guidelines for packaging of all food procured by city agencies. As the second largest food buyer in the nation, New York City could influence the entire food industry. FoodWorks suggests finding an alternative to polystyrene foam in city agency food programs–news that’s music to the ears of SOS NYC, an organization that’s been agitating to get rid of styrofoam trays in public schools (Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is already on this one).

Beyond the “reduce” there is also the “reuse” and “recycle.” Quinn would like us to start seeing our food scraps as resources. She would increase residential, commercial, and yes, governmental composting by establishing a voluntary household composting system and look toward citywide composting. City Council has already passed Local Law 42, which requires the city to conduct “a study of various options for increasing residential, commerical, and governmental composting.” Does this mean zoning within city limits for large-scale composting facilities? I think that’s what it might take. Composting advocates call for decentralized composting to make it easier for households, but to get city agencies and businesses to compost will require a great deal of coordination as well as creative solutions to the “not in my backyard” attitude prevalent throughout the city toward composting. We need to do some educating here. Quinn also wants to encourage restaurants to recycle their grease as biofuels.

Does all of this sound like a giant policy burrito you’d really like to order but can’t imagine eating in one sitting? Well, one step at a time, mi amigos. Quinn is starting by passing whatever legislation the City Council can as soon as possible. In fact, she plans to introduce the first FoodWorks-related legislation at December’s City Council meeting. Everything else will require strategic partnerships with other agencies, organizations, the mayor, and businesses.

What about the rest of us? In her speech Quinn threw out the classic “we need you” line. What does she mean by this? The auditorium was packed by government employees, policy wonks, and nonprofit administrators, but I also saw sharp business players like food systems consultant Debra Italiano. At the end of FoodWorks Quinn lists next steps. One is to create a food policy council which will include all stakeholders, including community members and the food industry.  If YOU want to get involved check out Christine Quinn’s Action Center Page, scroll down to the bottom, and sign up for her calendar emails. I have been assured by her office that by attending her events you can make your voice heard–and be part of FoodWorks. Now that we have the report and her ear, let’s hold Quinn accountable and see where this bold vision takes us–and what part we can play.

Photos: William Alatriste


Adriana Velez is Communications Coordinator for Brooklyn Food Coalition and a freelance writer who most recently contributed to Cookie Magazine‘s online content. She lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn.