By Emma Sykes | ABC.net.au
You don’t have to travel to south-east Asia or hit the streets of New York to experience the multicultural food movement that is street food.
Soon the streets of Brisbane and eventually Melbourne and Sydney will be teaming with an Australian-first initiative where migrants riding bicycle-driven carts, serve food from cultures across the world.
Unlike food vans which have become popular in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne the Street Food Australia food cart concept is about social enterprise as much as it is changing the city’s food culture.
The brain child of Helen Bird and Billerwell Daye, it’s about cultivating a better food culture in Brisbane, while supporting disadvantaged migrants who want to start their own businesses within the food industry.
The idea is simple, and if the crowds are anything to go by, people like it.
Over 400 people turned up to a launch of Street Food Australia concept at the Institute of Modern Art and Judith Wrights Centre of Contemporary Art in Brisbane last week, proving the city’s hunger for new initiatives when it comes to food.
“We are seeing the food trucks in Sydney and in Melbourne but we’re not seeing a lot of alternatives because our regulations are so tight.
“So starting to bring in food carts and food bikes is what we’re interested in as an organisation because we think more people will get opportunities to start small businesses because the costs are lower.
“This is part of a movement with people doing pop up events and re-claiming streets in different ways for social purposes,” she says.
The initiative would take on migrant ‘apprentices’ for a period of 2 years teaching them how to run a small business while serving their native foods off the bike on busy Brisbane streets, before they graduate opening space for more of Brisbane’s multicultural community to enter the program.
Earlier in last year Bird and Daye used a popular crowd sourcing website ‘Pozible’ to raise funds for the prototype.
Over $21,000 was raised to fund the initial ‘dumpling bike’ and the hope is soon a fleet of bikes with specially designed kitchens will hit the streets selling unique foods around the city fringe.
“We’ve received a couple of small grants but really its blood sweat and visa cards, [because] we want to grow in a fast, more sustainable way.”
The man placed in charge of the design of bikes themselves Billerwell Daye explains in the Pozible video how the bikes would be self sufficient.
“We have to fit all these systems in a small space. We have cook systems; 12 volt gas and solar power; water systems; shading and packaging; and we also have to adhere to the local council requirements and food regulations.
“The bikes themselves also need to be quite practical for the rider’s ease of transit,” he says.
Bird says although the first bike has been built and should be operational in the next month Street Food Australia is in an ongoing conversation with Brisbane City Council over the rules and regulations of running such an initiative.
“It’s an ongoing challenge, [but] I think Council is recognising in themselves is that they need to be able to move faster when they see a good idea come along, and they’re trying to work out what mechanisms within their policies they can actually tweak to see this roll out in a reasonable space of time,” she says.
The next 12 months will be busy for the organisation as they expand the project in Brisbane, and hopefully to other Australian cities.
“The amount of emails we get from people who want to be vendors is insane. We’ve got people from Colombia, The Philippines, Manilla, all parts of Asia and South America interested,” Bird says.