The Vendy Awards Honors Hurricane Sandy Vendor Heroes

Coordinated by the New York City Food Truck Association, Over 50 Vendors Served 350,000+ Meals in Storm’s Aftermath. 2013 Judges Announced: Elettra Wiedemann, Francis Lam, Garrett Oliver, Justin Warner, Lauren Purcell, Pat LaFrieda, and Rachael Fauss.

The 9th Annual Vendy Awards, New York City’s premier street food competition, recently announced its honorees for Most Heroic Vendor, congratulating over 50 food trucks for their remarkable work serving more than 350,000 hot meals to victims of Hurricane Sandy in the storm’s aftermath and the New York City Food Truck Association (NYCFTA) for coordinating the outreach efforts.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, food trucks were among the first to offer their help and played a vital role in getting food to powerless spots around the city. The NYCFTA quickly organized a grassroots campaign to support food truck vendors in the field, raising over $50,000 in 48 hours through crowd-sourced funds. With additional ongoing support from corporate sponsorships and from the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, the NYCFTA coordinated a strategic food truck outreach efforts, leveraging social media and a real-time dispatching service to send over 50 food trucks to 20 distribution locations throughout the city including Lower Manhattan, Red Hook, Coney Island, the Rockaways, Staten Island and Hoboken, NJ.

Food truck honorees that participated in the outreach effort include past Vendy Award finalists and winners, current 2013 Rookie of the Year finalists Nuchas and Toum, and Street Vendor Project members Andy’s Italian Ices, Big D’s Grub and Palenque. Past Vendy winners include: Country Boys Food Truck, The Cinnamon Snail, Korilla, Phil’s Steaks, Schnitzel & Things, Solber Pupusas, Souvlaki GR, The Treats Truck and Wafels N Dinges. David Weber, NYCFTA President, will also be recognized for his leadership and coordination efforts

“We are proud to honor over 50 courageous vendors as this year’s Most Heroic Vendor at the Vendy Awards,” said Sean Basinski Director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. “Their brave and generous work with the New York City Food Truck Association providing food and water to victims of Hurricane Sandy is a testament to the contributions and selflessness showcased by street vendors everyday. Vendors truly are the heart and soul of New York’s communities.

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“Food trucks entrepreneurs are experts in providing hot and tasty food on the go. Being mobile and self-sufficient, food trucks had the capacity to immediately reach and serve the communities that were hardest hit by Sandy,” said David Weber, President of the New York City Food Truck Association.  “In addition to honoring the businesses and individuals who spent their days on the ground serving their fellow New Yorkers, this award is really a tribute to the many sponsors—including the Mayors Fund to Advance NYC, Jetblue, and the thousands of individuals across the country and throughout the world—who donated the funds that allowed the trucks to continue serving free, hot meals for more than four weeks after Sandy.”

The honorees will be presented with the Most Heroic Vendor Award at the Vendy Awards on Saturday, September 7th at its new location, the exciting waterfront business and creative hub Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a site with an incredible history of transforming Brooklyn into a major seaport destination.

The Vendys’ Most Heroic Vendor award recognizes the many non-culinary contributions vendors make to New York City. Last year’s Most Heroic Vendor recipient, Bay Ridge vendor Sammy Kassem, stood up to anti-vendor harassment in his community.

This year’s Vendy finalists will be judged by a panel of six celebrity judges and one citizen judge:

  • Elettra Wiedemann: Model and culinary impresario
  • Francis Lam: Judge on Top Chef Masters and Editor-at-Large at Clarkson Potter
  • Garrett Oliver: Brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery, Author of The Brewmaster’s Table, Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Companion to Beer
  • Justin Warner: Host of Food Network’s Rebel Eats, winner of Food Network Star Season 8, co-chef and owner of Bed-Stuy’s Do or Dine
  • Lauren Purcell: Editor-in-Chief of Every Day with Rachael Ray
  • Pat LaFrieda: Chief Executive Officer, Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors
  • Rachael Fauss: Policy & Research Manager for Citizens Union

The judges will decide the winner of the coveted Vendy Cup, the top prize awarded by the panel. Finalists for Rookie of the Year, Best Market Vendor, Best Dessert, Best of New Jersey will be decided by the attendees. Finalists for the Vendy Cup (the top prize awarded by the panel of judges) and the People’s Taste Award (voted on by the crowd at this year’s awards) will be announced in the coming weeks.

 On July 22, the Vendys announced the finalists in 4 of the 7 Vendys categories – Rookie of the Year, Best Market Vendor, Best Dessert, and Best of New Jersey. Bios and background on each of the finalists can be found here:

The Vendys, the first and largest street food event series in the country, is an annual event to benefit the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, a membership-based organization that provides advocacy and legal services for more than 1,500 vendor members. The 2012 Vendy Awards drew a crowd of more than 2,000 people to the intense grill-to-grillcook-off to determine New York’s top street chef. The Vendy Awards, which have been New York City’s most beloved street food competition for nine years, recently announced a major national expansion to include events in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Chicago.

The Vendy Awards, the first and largest street food event series in the country, are an annual event organized by the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, a membership-based organization of more than 1,500 active vendors who are working together to create a vendor’s movement for permanent change. SVP’s famed Vendy Awards have determined New York City’s top street chef for nine years, and have become one of the most beloved and widely-anticipated food events in New York and across the country. The money raised by the events supports the non-profit Street Vendor Project in its advocacy work to promote street food and the people who sell it.

Formed in January 2011 by small business entrepreneur and advocate David Weber, the New York City Food Truck Association (NYCFTA), is an association of small businesses that own and operate premium food trucks in NYC focused on innovation in hospitality, high quality food, and community development. The association aims to reinvent food truck vending in a way that is beneficial to New Yorkers, New York City, food truck entrepreneurs, and their patrons. 

Judge Elettra Wiedemann has modeled with some of the world's best photographers for magazines like American Vogue, Chinese Vogue, Teen Vogue, Italian GQ, Harper's, InStyle, Glamour, Ten, Harper's Bazaar, French Elle, Grazia, Italian Elle, Another Magazine, Tatler, and Muse. Elettra is fluent in English, Italian, and French and her contagious personality has made her hugely popular with the renowed photographers she continues to work with, including a series of portraits shot by Karl Lagerfeld which were exhibited at the Crillion during Paris Fashion Week.
 Judge Francis Lam is Editor-at-Large at Clarkson Potter and a judge on Top Chef Masters. In past lives, he was the features editor of Gilt Taste, a senior writer at, a contributing editor at Gourmet, and his work has appeared in the 2006-2012 editions of Best Food Writing. He believes that, in professional football, that would count as a dynasty; in ancient China, not so much. He tweets @francis_lam

 Judge Garrett Oliver is the brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery, editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to Beer, author of The Brewmaster’s Table, and one of the foremost authorities in the world on the subject of beer. Garrett has hosted more than 800 beer tastings, dinners, and cooking demonstrations in fourteen countries, writes regularly for beer and food-related periodicals, and is internationally recognized as an expert on traditional beer styles and their affinity with good food.

 Judge Justin Warner is the winner of Season 8 of Food Network Star, the host of Food Network special Rebel Eats, and co-chef/owner of Do or Dine, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Justin has been working in restaurants since the age of 15 and strives to create food that matches his personality; edgy, witty and intense.

Judge Pat LaFrieda represents the third generation of meat purveyors and butchers in the family owned LaFrieda business, which began over 90 years ago in New York City’s meatpacking district. Today, LaFrieda Meats is NYC’s go-to meat supplier found on menus in and around NYC and a favorite of the world’s top chefs.  He has a book coming out in Spring 2014.

Judge Rachael Fauss has lived in New York City for six years, first in Central Harlem and now in Kensington, Brooklyn. As the Policy and Research Manager for Citizens Union, she works to improve the democratic process in New York City and State government, authoring research reports and assisting with its advocacy efforts to hold government accountable. Rachael often explores New York's food scene by bike, making stops at the Red Hook Ballfields and other street vendors to fuel her trips.