Imagine being a person with a dream, a dream to one day do something you love, and imagine that your dream is to be the owner of a food cart or maybe of a restaurant? If what I am describing sounds like you or someone you know, then you should have been at this conference.
FoodWorx PDX is an annual conference focused on how the world of food is evolving and the challenges involved in this evolution. As laws change, as people change, as cities change, the world around them changes. I met people of various backgrounds—from tour operators like ForkTown Food Tours, to food truck managers like Koi Fusion, to hops soda makers like Portland Soda Works—all of them with the dream of capturing the attention of the people of Portland.
Forget basketball, forget soccer. Think food. “Eating is our biggest sport in Portland,” stated Erik Wolf of the World Food Travel Association, “Food tourism starts at home.”
What better home than Portland to start exploring your backyard?
I moved to Oregon from Spain and was so surprised by the number of food carts and the abundance of selection Portlandia people had. While at this conference, as a relative newbie, a friend of mine, Bee Talmadge, owner of The Spicy Bee and manager of Koi Fusion, stated, “You haven’t been to Cartopia?” No, I have not yet been to Cartopia. I’m guessing I need to go. Just in case you are a relative newcomer to Portland, it is on SE 12th and Hawthorne Blvd and is the land of the best food carts in Portland.
Given that there is a demand for great food at reasonable prices, there are “cartrepreneurs” and other food-related entrepreneurs springing up everywhere in Portland. David Hewitt of the Meriwether Group just wrote a book, Heed Your Call, to support all those who are seeing guidance. His book talks about how “human values can be expressed through business.” With his wife, David initially launched Oregon Chai in 2004 and had tremendous success of bringing together two people, one with a dream (right brain—hers) and one with a business mind (left brain–his). He emphasized the importance of the “Power of ‘And’.” This Power of And theory stresses that you need to be all three: an Operator, an Exec, and a Founder. By being creative and being logically minded, you can create a successful business.
Gregg Abbott, owner of Whiffie’s Fried Pies and head of the Oregon Street Food Association, talked about the new consumer demand by an educated constituency that demanded “novel food experiences.” He said that the Portland food carts scene has created a drive back into city centers. More and more cities with downtowns want the formula to duplicate this incredible economic driver. This is easier said than done. The Portland food cart phenomena is due through the convergence of ideas, opportunity and demand—all factors that need be readily available to recreate Portland’s enormous success.
Perhaps Portland’s success has also been this overall drive back to all things sustainable. By “sustainable,” I mean local, wholesome, homemade, and economical. Food that is created, as Lisa Schroeder of Mother’s Bistro states, “from squeak to wag.” Food made the way it was before the 1900’s when people used to eat slow-cooked meals at home that were made with love. We are now facing a wake-up call where the cost of exotic foods has gone up with the cost of gas, where fine dining is just too expensive, where climate change is affecting our food supplies and where industrial agriculture is affecting our health. There is a return to the old ways in Oregon, where there is a demand for food markets and microproducers. People are raising their own backyard chickens and pickling their own vegetables. This is the start of the “Locavore” movement and perhaps a return to our great grandmother’s cooking.
Stay tuned for Part Two on food insecurity, My Street Grocery, GLP Films, and Chefstable next week.
For more information on the event visit: http://www.foodworxconference.com/
April Yap-Hennig is a wine lover and marketer at heart. She is co-founder and owner of Epicurean Media, a beverage and food artisan public relations and marketing consultancy as well as writes for the Sacred Drop Channel at www.sacreddrop.com. For more information on April, please visit her website www.about.me/aprilyaphennig and www.epicureanmedia.com.
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