Less than two years ago, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs co-hosted an event that was as much political as it was culinary: The Curbside Cookoff gathered 20 food trucks from around the area ostensibly to give locals a taste of the mobile cuisine found on our streets.
But as one online campaigner for food trucks told me back in October 2010: “The Curbside Cookoff is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness about D.C. food trucks and issues coming before the City Council.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Curbside Cookoff: Trucko De Mayo is the overdue followup to the 2010 event held at the then-vast concrete expanse known as CityCenterDC. The new gathering, set for May 5 at the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds, will show how much Washington’s food truck scene has grown in less than 24 months: Yes, the event will gather more than 35 mobile vendors this time, but even more telling, these vendors will not be relying on a city department to organize them. Trucko De Mayo is being hosted, in part, by the D.C. Food Truck Association.
But Che Ruddell-Tabisola, co-owner of the BBQ Bus and executive director of the Food Truck Association, is loath to label Trucko De Mayo as political.
“I don’t think it is a political statement so much, but I hear you,” says Ruddell-Tabisola.
The executive director acknowledges that the event comes at yet another sensitive time for food trucks in the District. The D.C. Council is considering a bill that will revamp the way food trucks are taxed and is expected to tackle later this year the long-overdue overhaul of vending regulations. The Food Truck Association has changes it would like to see on both the tax bill and vending regulations.
Regardless, Ruddell-Tabisola views Trucko De Mayo much like he views the seasonal Truckeroo festivals on Half Street near Nationals Park, which draw tons of people to the monthly showcase of food trucks: as a display of commercial viability in an area that has apparently given a number of retailers pause.
Wouldn’t you like to have D.C. Council members see this display of economic might themselves?
“We’d love to have them come down,” Ruddell-Tabisola says.
Whether city politicians get a glimpse of Trucko De Mayo or not, it should be a good time for those who do show up. The event — produced by the Food Truck Association, Centerplate and Events DC — will feature live music, two bars, and, of course, lots and lots of food trucks.
Trucko De Mayo runs from noon to 9 p.m. at the RFK Festival Grounds on May 5. Admission is free.