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More Michelin: Phillip Foss strikes while the iron's hot, or tries to

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Seen at Tuesday evening's reception to ring in the Michelin guide for Chicago: Chefs Graham Elliot Bowles, Matthias Merges, Curtis Duffy, Kevin Hickey, Christophe David, Bill Kim, Chris Koetke, Shelley Young, Frank Brunacci and Phillip Foss.

Overheard after the speeches were done and the bubbly was flowing: Just about everyone talking super-stealth Michelin inspectors, and Foss talking food trucks -- to Mayor Daley.

Foss, who has been drumming up support in culinary circles to revise the city's ordinance governing street vendors, approached the mayor as he made his way down a set of stairs at the event space on the Near North Side and asked him what he thought of food trucks.

"All I wanted to do was see where he was coming from," Foss said.

Tough crowd. "He was playing the devil's advocate," Foss said. "He said he could see how [restaurants] could feel competitive about having trucks around. And he made the point about taxes -- why is is fair that the bricks-and-mortar places would be paying higher taxes when a truck could just get up and going for next to nothing?"

Foss says he came away from his brief but intense audience with Da Mare "impressed," though not necessarily encouraged.

To both men's credit, the mayor didn't duck out afterward; he stayed and mingled.

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After taking some time to digest the brief conversation (and bubbly) from the monumental announcement of the Guide Michelin, Chicago last night, this is my synopsis on the two concerns as I interpreted in last night.

Regarding competition and operating in front of established restaurants:

My take: This will only cause the superior product to stand out and provide all with the better food. Think Darwin. If I enjoy one of your sandwiches, I will ALWAYS come back when I am in the mood for it.
Aside from this, much of the time I desire a table and chairs to converse with those across from me, so the brick and mortar has the obvious advantage.
Finally, there are very few confrontations in other cities. Trucks are cognizant of competing spaces and simply don't want the potential hassles.

On taxes: Yes, brick and mortar establishments pay more taxes. But as with the competition factor, they have seats, tables, a roof, and all the other factors - weatherproof included - that are unquestionable advantages over a mobile enterprise. In addition, it is an easily sprouted new source of income for Chicago, and I have great confidence that the taxes and permits associated will prove to be fair to the vendors and simultaneously very profitable for the city.

Traffic: There is naturally a concern on congestion and we all can relate to that. To this my response will be to limit the amount of trucks on the initial opening of licenses, and see how everything works for one year or so.
Each district will regulate when and which streets will be zoned at their own discretion. Mobile vehicles could even get into contract signing with established businesses to use their locale at a specified, off operating time. Despite how difficult it is to find parking and how much we are all stuck in traffic, it really is not much more than allowing a trucking company one more truck to hit the road. Again, limit the licenses released in the beginning.
There is overwhelming support from major Chicago chefs and restaurateurs, immigrants, low income famililes, an unopened talent, and those who like/need to eat, and I know I can say that we advocates look forward to further discussions.

Chef Phillip Foss

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on July 13, 2010 10:09 PM.

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