In a vindication of our borough’s world-class food scene, one of the Red Hook vendors won the coveted “Vendy Award” on Saturday, proving to any remaining doubters that the humble soccer field chefs are the city’s culinary elite.
The winners, Fernando and Yolanda Martinez, have run the Country Boys Taco Truck for 16 years since emigrating from the Pueblo region of Mexico.
The pair served up its famed huaraches, tacos and quesadillas to 700 attendees at the Queens Museum of Art in a grueling four-hour competition against biriyani brokers, waffle makers and schnitzel sellers.
In the end, the Martinezes were crowned the winners by a panel of celebrity chefs.
“All of the dishes were excellent, but the flavors in the Martinezes’ huaraches were perfectly fresh, balanced and harmonious,” said Denisse Oller, one of the judges.
In addition to taste, the couple got high marks for generous portions, clean presentation and fast, friendly service.
The victory came in the Martinezes’ first appearance in the competition. But they were well prepared for the contest, having watched in shock as the ball fields’ famed papusa maker, Rafael Soler, was snubbed in a still-painful affront last year.
Though the Red Hook vendors have been around since 1974, and are more popular than ever, their future is not secure because the city forces them to bid for the land on which they cook.
But Cesar Fuentes, executive director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park, thinks that the Martinez victory will help get the city bureaucrats off his group’s back.
“The Vendys win sends a very strong message to the city, especially to the Health Department, that street vendors are hard-working people who have earned the love and trust of the community, and in this downward economic cycle their services are especially important,” said Fuentes.
So for now, at least, you can expect even longer lines at the Country Boys Taco Truck for the rest of the dwindling season at the Red Hook soccer fields.
“Word gets around fast,” said Fuentes. “Fernando will reap the rewards of the win — and so will all the vendors at the ball field.”
The Country Boys Taco Truck operates at the Brooklyn Flea, every Saturday at Bishop Loughlin HS (Lafayette Avenue, between Vanderbilt and Clermont avenues in Fort Greene); and at the Red Hook ball fields (Bay Street at Clinton Street in Red Hook) on weekends.