El Gastronomo Vagabundo greets Eat Street
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
Culinary innovation is growing in the Niagara Region, as a rapidly expanding wine-based tourism mecca calls on the participation of the restaurant culture to keep up. At the forefront of this movement are two creative minds bursting with passion and calling for the City of St. Catharines to make a change.
Adam Hynam-Smith and Tamara Jensen are the proprietors of El Gastronomo Vagabundo and Peapod Cuisine, previously featured in the June issue of The Brock Press. The Spanish moniker represents a whole new world in culinary experimentation for a local dining community that has been surviving on boring chain restaurants for far too long. These two have retrofitted a UPS truck into a kitchen one can only dream of. The basic idea is a roaming food truck that provides healthy, innovative and fresh local food to the masses.
Recently, Smith and Jensen passed a milestone in their careers. The two were filmed for the popular Food Network television show Eat Street. The show travels around North America and checks in with food truck entrepreneurs as they serve their food to their loyal locals. The recent taping took place at Montebello Park in St. Catharines, where camera crews were documenting the numerous people in attendance.
It is important to note that the City of St. Catharines has made it incredibly difficult for El Gastronomo Vagabundo to make their dreams of cruising the downtown feeding people a reality. In fact, the City of St. Catharines will not allow El Gastronomo Vagabundo to purchase a permit for street food vending. Jensen discussed the struggle to validate their small business.
"The City of St. Catharines would require us to pre-fry, freeze and re-fry our tempura fish, which depletes the goal of having healthy, innovative street food," Jensen said.
This is just an example of the restrictive parameters that El Gastronomo Vagabundo would have to work against, even with a permit.
City Councilor Mathew Siscoe is the voice for St. Patrick's ward, which encompasses the downtown community. He is a street food enthusiast and values the hard work and passion that Smith and Jensen have brought to the proverbial table.
"El Gastronomo is the type of business you love to see and want to encourage in St. Catharines. These young people clearly have a passion for what they do, and they do it well," Siscoe said. "Anyone who's had the pleasure of eating there knows full well that their food is spectacular, and is served in a way that really knocks down any preconceived notions of what food trucks can offer."
With this voice and influence as a sitting City Councilor, there is hope. It is more about wanting to bring St. Catharines a sense of relevance as we continue to be surrounded by municipalities that seek progress while we stagnate.
"They're also working hard to change things in Niagara so that businesses like themselves have a broader chance to operate, and I applaud them for that. I'm looking forward to working with them to find changes to our current way of doing things that are mutually beneficial to all involved," Siscoe said.
To date, this truck has been parking at Flat Rock Cellars, a medium sized winery that prides itself on innovation in the wine industry, which has been a great fit. However, it is not about the fit at one location, but more the integration of this idea and their passion into the everyday experience of life in Niagara.
Being filmed for the Food Network is an incredible achievement for this food truck and for the two people that are responsible for it. As they continue on their adventure it is up to us, the general food loving public, to do our part and support their endeavor each step of the way. The episode is set to air early next year, so be sure to stay tuned.