Since Nina Garcia won the Vendy Awards a few weeks back for the Mexico City-style quesadillas and pambazo sandwiches she serves on the street in Boyle Heights, she hasn't found the victory to be all sweet.
“All the added attention just made life as a vendor on the streets of L.A. more difficult. She’s being rousted by the police several times a day,” Evan Kleiman, the chef-owner of Angeli Caffe and a judge for the awards, said on her KCRW blog.
Garcia is vulnerable because for years she has sold her food not from a licensed truck but from a couple of tables she sets up. She was among the vendors who worked nightly on Breed Street until last year, when the authorities shut down what had become an informal -- and illegal -- food fair. Some of the vendors dispersed throughout the neighborhood.
“After Nina won the Vendys, she was hassled more,” said Bill Esparza, a food blogger and musician who has championed Garcia’s food. Garcia has a licensed truck now, but it’s a temporary arrangement, he says.
So Kleiman is holding an event at her restaurant on Melrose on Sunday to raise money for Garcia to lease a licensed catering truck. She hopes to raise more than Garcia needs and to use the additional money to create a fund that would provide small loans to other street food vendors. The money will be administered by the Loncheros Assn., a street-vendor advocacy group.
The fundraiser is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Garcia will be cooking her pambazo and quesadillas, along with pozole. Prices run $3.50 to $6.50. Also on the menu is a selection of beer, soft drinks and aguas frescas.
There’s also an address for donations on Kleiman’s blog.
The first L.A. Vendy Awards were held in May and attracted more than 100 people to MacArthur Park. The awards began in New York six years ago, as away to raise money for the Street Vendor Project, begun by a former vendor named Sean Basinski, who thought street vendors were ill-treated by policy and city officials.
-- Mary MacVean
Photo: People gather to eat street-vendor fare on L.A.'s Breed Street. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times