Although South Florida may be a late bloomer when it comes to a lot of trends, we do catch up eventually. And sometimes, as with our food scene, the evolution is exponential. The past year or so has seen the culinary scene evolve more rapidly than Honey Boo Boo's heartbeat on go-go juice. From food-truck politics to hot new eateries, there's a lot going on in our own backyard.
Helping to lead the way into this new era of edibles are more than a few groundbreakers in Broward and Palm Beach. To get some insight into what's happening locally, we spoke with Robb Muise, the man behind the newly formed Food Truck Alliance; Oakland Park Mayor Anne Sallee; and Kapow! Noodle Bar executive chef Caleb Holman.
Robb Muise, owner of Friar Tuck food truck, is no stranger to political controversy. In the past, he's been witch-hunted by tea party players and served as medic to Occupy Fort Lauderdale rebels. These days, in addition to serving home-cooked sammies, he's leading the charge for the Food Truck Alliance, an advocacy group formed to fight for the rights of food-truck owners in South Florida.
"Everything I learned about organizing, it was from organizing 400 people I'd never met before at Occupy Fort Lauderdale," Muise says. "One of my stranger talents is being able to pick up obscure skill sets from jobs or experiences I've had and take them elsewhere."
Formerly an IT dude, Muise got fed up with his job, and he and wife Abby decided to throw caution to the wind with Friar Tuck. It hasn't been easy going. They totaled their first Airstream on the Florida Turnpike last June, and they've faced other obstacles since. But they're still truckin' -- so to speak.
Recently, in addition to their business efforts, they've been lobbying the City of Sunrise to get friendlier toward food trucks. Some restaurant owners have demonstrated vocal opposition to the trend, arguing that it takes away from their already diminutive market. But Muise disagrees. He says if a restaurant is losing business because its customers aren't happy -- that's not the fault of food trucks.
"Don't take it out on us," he says. "Don't shut out our city's opportunity to take it to that next step. We're going to make this city open to these trucks because there's so much opportunity for growth within the community."
Muise says he doesn't want special consideration -- just common-sense regulations rather than onerous, archaic laws. Encouraging food trucks to operate means more revenue sources for the city.
"In this state, small businesses like me and other restaurants, we're all fighting for customers. The city is no different. They're fighting for customers too. If people aren't rushing to open brick-and-mortar businesses, think if I had a $25 permit each year; that's $2,500 a year they didn't have last year. When you look at it, it really is a win-win. You just have to educate them on what it's really like to operate a food truck versus misconceptions."
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