Santa Monica takes a global bite

On Sunday, May 1, KCRW hosted the Global Street Food live stage show at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. With an appetite for international cuisine, friends and supporters of KCRW celebrated the culture and history of international street food and Los Angeles food trucks.

             The event, made possible by Santa Monica College Associates, and produced by Liz MacDonald, KCRW Executive Producer, and Harriet Ells, Producer of Good Food, began with a live show hosted by Evan Kleiman, KCRW's Good Food host since 1998. Panelists on the show included Pulitzer Prize winning writer and food critic Jonathan Gold, Managing Editor of OC Weekly Gustavo Arrelano, and critically acclaimed chef Jet Tila.

            The speakers began the show by describing their first memories of eating street food. Above the speakers, a projected slide show of photographs (submitted by listeners of Good Food) showed mouth-watering foodstuffs from around the globe, gradually bringing about a discussion about the history, culture, and current state of international and local street cuisine.

            "Two and a half billion people eat street food everyday," said Kleiman, praising street cuisine as a healthy, convenient, economical, and viscerally satisfying experience. Using a live Skype feed, Kleiman welcomed special guests Lesley Tellez, Manager of Eat Mexico, a Mexico-City based tourism business, and Robyn Eckhardt, a food and travel writer for The New York Times and Zester Daily. Both guests were speaking from Mexico and Malaysia, respectively. Describing (with delicious adjectives) their favorite sidewalk delicacies from the cities they live in, the audience was left with positively wetted palates.

            And with that, the audience went outside for the festivities of the day. Under clear skies and sunny weather, the wafting aromas of six food trucks met visitors as they exited the theater for the outside parking lot. The food trucks at Global Street Food included Let's Be Frank, Mariscos Jaliscos, India Jones Chow Truck, Piaggio Gourmet on Wheels, Nom Nom Truck, and Crepe'n Around.

            Meals from the trucks were included with tickets to the event, and everyone in attendance excitedly lined up to sample the dishes each truck had to offer. For the sake of fast service, food options were limited to one or two items, depending on the truck one sampled. In every direction, people were chewing, moaning, smacking lips, dressing food in delicious sauces, and licking fingertips.

            Standing by the window of her red transportable kitchen, Sue Moore, co-founder of Let's Be Frank, an all-natural gourmet hot dog purveyor, offered her signature Devil Sauce to hungry guests. Loaded with spicy peppers, garlic, ginger, and hand-toasted spices, the Devil Sauce deliciously complemented Moore's hot dogs.

            "Since we started in May, 2008, we wanted to support small farmers," said Moore, recounting the company's humble origins from San Francisco, serving franks outside the Giants' Stadium. "Today, our meat providers for Let's Be Frank are seventh generation California farmers, and we take a lot of pride in that."

            Another stand out food truck was Marisco Jalisco, the winner of "Best in Show" at the L.A. Street Food Festival. According to George Nagon of Marisco Jalisco, the item being served was made of shrimp, mixed vegetables, and the "secret recipe." Packed in a fried taco shell with guacamole, it was a crowd favorite.

            Eating one of Marisco Jalisco's tacos on the steps outside The Broad Stage, Larry Mason, 74, explained how he wasn't a usual street food eater. "It would be great if these trucks could make a store front—it's not always comfortable to stand in line when you have a bad back," he said. "It's definitely tuned towards more of a younger crowd."

            Asked what he thought of his taco, Mason, with a full mouth replied: "It's terrific!"

            According to Moore, the food truck phenomenon was a direct result of the 2008 recession. "It was a way for people with little money to open a business," she said. "Kogi [BBQ] were the first ones to really figure out how to market this kind of business on Twitter."

            Ells, the producer of Good Food, explained that the purpose of the event was to show how the local growth of food trucks in Los Angeles ties in with the larger global phenomenon of street food. "It definitely shows that Los Angeles is becoming more global," she said.

            "It's easier to make [a food truck] than a restaurant. The challenge is figuring out traffic and peoples' schedules," she said. "I would think this will continue to grow—it's always been here in one form or another, and always will be."