Queens’s diverse food scene will be on full display at this year’s Vendy Awards on Sept. 16.
Dubbed “The Oscars of Streetfood” by acclaimed chef Mario Batali, the event on Governors Island celebrates the city’s best street vendors, who will also be vying for a handful of coveted awards.
Among those going for the top award — the 2017 Vendy Cup — is downtown Flushing’s Big Brother’s Delicious Food, run by Ji Chen “Peter” Wang.
After spending time as a chef in Kaifeng, China, Wang moved to the United States in 2012 and settled with his family in Queens, where he opened a small Chinese restaurant. Shortly thereafter, he opened a food cart, selling Chinese-style barbecue skewers, and now operates two carts usually stationed in the Main Street/Roosevelt Avenue area with his son, nieces and nephews.
“Chinese people love barbecue, and people in America love this kind of food, as well,” Wang says in a promotional video. “I worked by myself when I started this food cart; now my son joins me and is working with me … Now we are building our business together.”
Adel’s No. 1, owned and operated by East Elmhurst resident and Egyptian-American Adel El Nagar, is also competing for the top prize. The food truck serves halal food in downtown Manhattan.
Among those competing for the Bad Hombres Award, which celebrates Latino food vendors, are Long Island City residents and father-son duo Gabriel and Dennis Apreza, who run El Toro Rojo in Midtown Manhattan and LIC.
Queens connections are abundant within the 2017 Best Market Vendor category due the borough’s two popular food markets, LIC Flea & Food and the Queens Night Market. Jhal NYC (run by Queens Village residents), What’s The Dillaz (run by LIC natives), The Malaysian Project (run by a group of friends from Middle Village) and Joon all have spent time serving food at one or both of the Queens-based markets.
In Best Rookie Vendor 2017, Stuf’d‘s co-owner John LoCascio is from an Italian family in Queens, Momo Bros.‘s founder and Tibetan refugee Pasang Thinlay operates at 73rd Street and Broadway in Jackson Heights, and Kelvin’s Truck owners Renis and Inka Fusha met in Astoria and operate in LIC.
Finally, vying for Best Dessert Vendor 2017 are the Queens-connected Jae NYC Eats and The Crepes Truck. Contenders Moon Man and Sweet Zahra have also served their sweet treats at the Queens Night Market.
Winners are chosen by attendees, as well as a panel of celebrity judges that includes chefs, television personalities and city officials.
Tickets for the Sept. 16 event are still available and come with unlimited food from all 25 participating vendors and unlimited beer, wine, soda and water from sponsors. Tickets can be purchased here.
The event also serves as a fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project, a membership-based nonprofit organization that stands up for vendors’ rights and provides legal and small-business services. Because of this, the admission price is also tax-deductible.
For a full list of participants, visit the Vendy Awards website.