In short, the project aims to give disadvantaged migrants to Australia, including refugees, an opportunity to start their own business preparing and serving street food. Training in basic business is provided and Street Food Australia (SFA) support the vendors for 2 years to get their business off the ground and running successfully, providing people with a self-sufficient hand-up and a real opportunity to start a new life. According to their website, ‘We (SFA) are working with a quadruple bottom line which targets economic, social, ecological and cultural sustainability.’ If that ain’t worth your cash I don’t know what is.
Last night was the launch of the Street Food Australia Project in Brisbane held at the IMA in the Judith Wright Centre. When I arrived at 6:40, the IMA terrace was heaving with people. Even the streets outside and Glass Bar were thronged.
The crowd outside the IMA.
Scrumptious Reads. Totally worth a visit.
The Scrumptious Reads supported book bike. The best shot I could get in the crowd.
There were four food stalls and one bar. Food on offer was Indian paratha, Banh mi, tequila smoked ribs with corn cobs and dumplings. Everything looked and smelled delicious! I couldn't wait to try everything. Yes, I could have fitted in one of everything, I was that keen.
The system was you bought tickets for food - everything was $5, cash only - then got in the queue for the food of your choice. Unfortunately, when I arrived they had stopped selling food vouchers because of the crush. The stalls were turning out food as quickly as they could but the lines stretched across the terrace and there were many people standing around with tickets who hadn't joined the lines yet but were relaxing with their beers and ciders.
Banh mi options and the frantic servers below.
Piles of delicious looking dumplings
By 7:15 the stalls were selling out and those that weren't were looking stressed by the crush of people. A hungry crowd lurked around the ticket stall, waiting to pounce when they opened up to sell more tickets. At about 7:30 I heard the manager tell a fellow patron that they didn't know when they'd re-open selling food tickets and there was a chance they'd sell out of food first. Not good news for the many of us who were waiting. The crowd had thinned a lot thanks to people who ate and departed and those who had given up on their street-food dinner and gone over to Grill'd instead, but there were still hundreds of people hoping for a meal.
'Sorry, holding off selling more food tickets for a while'
That's when I decided to hop it. I needed to leave by 8pm and I didn't think my chance of eating by then were high, as keen as I was to try everything on offer. I suspect there were many people who were yet to arrive who would be very disappointed.
There were two big problems with the event; not enough space and not enough food. Both of those result from underestimating the number of people who will turn up. As a first time event it must have been difficult to anticipate popularity. But some 280 people pledged their support to the project, if they each tell one other person about it, that's close to 600 people converging on one spot within a couple of hours. I suspect the stall owners did not anticipate the rush either, judging from the frantic nature of the meal preparation and selling out of food so early in the night.
Crowds and queues in the IMA terrace for SFA launch.
Buy a Red Delicious for $1. I was sorely tempted.
Merchandise was also on sale. Two guys wait to get their hands on tickets.
Was I disappointed not to get some eats? Very, to be honest. It's a bit of a shame that you had to arrive between 6 and 6:20pm to be get your hands on a meal without standing in a queue for lengths of time.
However, I am nevertheless very pleased that the SFA launch was so incredibly popular. I'm sure the organisers, once they got over the stress of the event, will be thrilled with how many people showed up in support of the cause. I'm sure it's a great sign of how popular the bikes will be when they hit the streets.
Incredible looking Banh mi and the busy stall holder dealing patiently with the hungry crowds.
Congratulations to the organisers of the event and more particularly, to the social entrepreneurs behind the project. It is a simple idea that will make a real difference to people's lives while bringing delicious food to our street and promoting greater cultural understanding.
SFA a is a social enterprise based in Brisbane. They are hoping to take their ideas for social change to capital cities across the country. I encourage anyone interested to support the project. There is , after all, something in it for everyone.
Read about Street Food Australia on their website and look out for the first of their carts hopefully hitting street soon.