At Saturday’s sold-out Vendy Awards, more than 1,000 people converged in front of the Queens Museum of Art for a five-hour marathon of consumption and celebration. The challenge of sampling food from the eleven vendors nominated for the awards was embraced by the voracious crowd, who stood patiently in lines for up to an hour, often fortifying their waits with food from carts with shorter lines. “I’ve eaten enough calories for a week in two hours,” said one young woman who was making short work of a cupcake while queuing for the Country Boys Mexican food truck. The Vendy organizers also used the long lines to do a little educational outreach: one volunteer informed a crowd that the city grants 3,000 street vending licenses, which come up for review every two years. The cost of a license is $250, but they can sell for $13,000 on the black market. And when you consider that the average vendor makes $15,000 a year, the math is sobering.
At the awards ceremony, Serious Eats‘s Ed Levine presented the Rookie Vendor of the Year Award to Oleg Voss and Jared Greenhouse of Schnitzel & Things, while the Treats Truck‘s Kim Ima, the winner of last year’s Best Dessert Vendor Award, presented the prize to to Thomas DeGees of Wafels & Dinges. The Grey Poupon People’s Choice Award went to last year’s People’s Choice winner, The Biryani Cart‘s Meru Sikder, who was given, appropriately, a year’s supply of mustard.
The Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck was the evening’s big winner, beating out the Biryani Cart, Jamaican Dutchy, Rickshaw Dumpling, and the King of Falafel & Shawarma to take home the 2009 Vendy Cup. Fernando Martinez, who runs the truck with his wife, Yolanda, accepted the award. The Martinezes, who are originally from Puebla, have been vending for 16 years. It was only five years ago that their truck, which is parked at the Red Hook Ball Fields, began turning a profit. And if the hour-long wait for their tacos, huraches, and quesadillas — which was rivaled only by that for the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck — was any indication, the next five years should be even better.