Guerilla Cooking: Taking Your Culinary Degree to the Streets

You may have noticed the lines snaking down the street. Street vendors are producing some first-rate food--and it's not just hot dogs anymore. Pastries, dim sum, crepes, and other classy fast foods are making their way onto urban streets. For enterprising culinary school students, street vending could be the ticket to a successful culinary career.

Invent Your Own Culinary Career

What better way to use your culinary degree? Street vending gives recent culinary school graduates a platform for selling their own creations directly to the public. And as the quality and range of street food improves, so does the stature of the vendor. In a gesture to the culinary legitimacy of street vending careers, New York City has established an annual contest, the Vendy Awards, to honor the best in the vending business.

Guerilla Cooking

Rolf Babiel took home top honors in last year's Vendys for his legendary German bratwurst. This year's Vendys will feature cuisine from all over the world, as varied as halal lamb platters, goat tacos, dosas, and crepes. The event is an opportunity for independent chefs to showcase their culinary skills, often introducing traditional ethnic dishes not yet part of the standard restaurant or cooking school repertoire.

From the Ground Up

The Vendys offer exposure and an unquestionable culinary career boost. Street vending is a unique way for culinary degree holders to bypass the standard sous chef apprenticeship and move directly into the 'executive chef' role. Many successful street vendors go on to establish brick-and-mortar restaurant businesses once they've amassed a loyal customer base. If you're aiming for culinary stardom, apprenticeship may be the best course; but if you simply want to use your degree to establish your own business, street vendorship is a viable option.

Your culinary degree will help you develop your talent and cooking skills. Many culinary schools also offer business courses for students aspiring to restaurant ownership. With these two basic skills and a booming street vending market, there's no reason to put off your future.

  • "Street Vendors: International Cuisine, A La Carte," The New York Times (Oct. 8, 2006)