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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jonathan Gold, Francis Lam, Robb Walsh Speak at This Year's Street Food Conference

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Francis Lam, enjoying street food.
  • Francis Lam, enjoying street food.

SFoodie has been previewing this Saturday's Street Food Festival, but public gluttony is only the splashy half of the event. On Sunday, Aug. 21, and Monday, Aug. 22, La Cocina has also organized a National Street Food Conference, which is bringing many names from the local food scene, as well as nationally known chefs and writers, to Fort Mason. There, they'll talk about the appeal of street food -- as well as the conflicts it is sparking around the nation.

Francis Lam, enjoying street food.
  • Francis Lam, enjoying street food.
The conference opens on Sunday, the more general-interest day, with a brunch prepared by Suvir Saran, best known on the West Coast for his Top Chef Masters appearance, who will work with local talent like Wise Sons Deli.

In the afternoon come the big guns. First, a group of local chefs and writers (Zaré's Hoss Zaré, Asian Dumplings author Andrea Nguyen) talk about the world's best street food. They're followed by a panel on writing about street food, which will bring to the stage Pulitzer Prize-winning Jonathan Gold, Gilt Taste features editor Francis Lam, and San Francisco writers Karen Leibowitz (the Mission Street Food cookbook) and Niloufer King (My Bombay Kitchen).

Robb Walsh
  • Robb Walsh

Monday is more of an insiders' event. The conference will break into session tracks for street-food vendors, street-food incubator organizations like La Cocina, and policymakers -- La Cocina director Caleb Zigas says he's reached out to representatives from cities that want and don't want to foster street food scenes.

The policy wonk in SFoodie is drawn most to the bigger general sessions that day. Here, the speakers will wrestle with the way street food is changing in America, creating a disparity between the fruteros and halal truck vendors that have been a visible, not-so-fashionable part of city life and the upscale taco truck owners who may have very different expectations of income and their role in the community. Chaac Mool owners Luis and Maria de la luz Vazquez will speak, and so will Robb Walsh, author of the Tex-Mex Cookbook and cofounder of Foodways Texas.

Tickets for the whole shebang cost $150, and single-day tickets for just the sessions are $50. You can read detailed session descriptions on the conference website; to look over the full list of speakers, visit the conference Tumblr.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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