Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SF Hearts the Cart: a bit of random commentary

late last week, i decided to attend the commonwealth club event called "The Street Food Movement: SF Hearts the Cart". it was put on by INFORUM which is a commonwealth club program that focuses on folks in their 20s & 30s. i remembering hearing about the INFORUM events as the heart sister used to go to them. yet, this was the first INFORUM event that i attended.

i've been following the sf street food scene for some time. it has been fascinating to watch the burgeoning of this scene in the bay area and how social media fits in. the social media component appeals to the data-oriented analytical side of me while the food....well....i think that is pretty obvious. what drew me to the event was actually the opportunity to see charles phan (of slanted door) speak.

i have read interviews, saw him cooking at the sf street food festival from afar, but had never heard him speak in-person. i also was very interested in seeing what anthony myint of mission street food would have to say as well. i think it would be difficult to not respect what anthony myint has done regarding making connections between food, creativity, and implementing businesses that benefit various charities.

the event consisted of a panel discussion and an after party. the panel discussion was interesting as panelists provided some insight into how they started with their businesses and their approach. what i found the most fascinating was that none of the folks on the panel had any original intention to be where they are now. it was a combination of falling into things, doing things...almost on a lark, perseverance, and being flexible. there were some inspirational-oriented tidbits such as do what you are good at, do your research, just get out there and do it, don't be afraid to mess up and learn from those mess ups, leverage the very welcoming food-oriented culture of san francisco, and don't be afraid to step into the social media/twitter-oriented community. many of the panelists talked about being inspired by the street food in asia....which was not a surprise. i know that the street food of hong kong is still pretty vivid in my memory. i loved how some of the relatively new folks just starting out provided a lot "head scratching" when looking back at how they got where they are now as well as enthusiasm.

in particular, i thought stephen gdula of gobba gobba hey was extremely personable, positive, and very much about community support. he started out hawking his gobs (imagine a sandwich cookie....but instead of cookies...it is made with small rounded cakes....almost like madelines) out of a cooler while walking around the mission. now, he's producing his gobs out of a commercial kitchen and has made alliances with folks such as foodzie and ryan farr from 4505 meats....gdula's gobs are sold along side farr's street food sausages and burgers at the ferry building on thursdays. as i have mentioned on my flickr pics, given gdula's personality, i probably would have bought gobs from him....which you all know dear hearts....is really saying something. his skills are obviously very well-rounded.....from communication, business, food, personality, to understanding his audience....i have a feeling that he's going to do just fine.

last, but definitely not the least, i really enjoyed hearing charles phan speak. he speaks with a quiet secure confidence and dispensed very practical advice. despite all of his success, this man wasn't arrogant...and he has every right to be. i think about some of the "food stars" out there and how a few of them prefer to trash talk for effect and phan...he doesn't do the "trash talk" thing....because....well, come on now....what does he have to prove? he doesn't have to prove anything. his vision and implementation of his restaurants has changed the way people view vietnamese food and cooking. i love that he doesn't "dumb down" certain dishes for white people. it makes me teary sometimes to see certain things on his menus that i had growing up. as a result, i loved figuring out the menu for my party at slanted door. his emphasis on fresh ingredients has influenced folks outside of vietnamese cooking. i admire him for this and was thrilled to know that if i met him at a random party (and didn't know who he was) i would still think he would be cool to talk to.

after the talk was over, folks headed over to the street food party.

now this is where the curmudgeon foodie hunter comes out. historically, when there is any street food event in the bay area, i come early so that i can avoid crowds. i'm not big on crowds. so i darted around, focusing more on taking shots than on grabbing food. interestingly enough, this was my first time experiencing some odd behavior from a photographer. i didn't really think about this the first time she did this, but i sure as hell noticed the second and third time. there was this wacky woman who would literally watch me as i was taking a shot and then deliberately step in front of me to take the exact same shot....so that it would mar my shot and then turn around and smile at me.

she was just really weird.

thankfully, i am a lot more agile than she is and was able to do a lot more darting around to avoid this weird woman once i realized what was going on. once i lost that woman, i was able to get into my zone....

i've come to accept that i get into a zone when i am taking shots....

the heart sister took a picture of me taking pictures once and that was the first time i realized how serious i look when i am taking food-oriented pictures. i mean, i look really freakin serious....no wonder people look at me wondering what i am up to. these days, i just kind of accept it the scrutiny and am not bothered by it.

overall, i had a lovely time at the event. lovely enough that i'm actually going to and looking forward to a couple of non-foodie INFORUM events.

well, that's all from me for now....

many hugs-


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