Food truck vendors hungry to do business in Chapel Hill can apply for a permit beginning Thursday.
From the town's press release: The process will require several permits, including applications from the food truck vendor and the property owner, and business licenses, as well as documentation from the originating county's health department showing that approval has been given. The Town of Chapel Hill's annual fee for the food truck vendor is $718 while the annual fee for the property owner is $118. In addition, the food truck vendor must have a business license to operate in Chapel Hill.
Food truck vending is generally limited to commercially zoned, privately owned properties that can accommodate additional foot traffic. There are restrictions on food truck on-site locations and on hours of operation.
To apply for the associated permits to operate a food truck in Chapel Hill, visit the Permit Center on the 3rd floor of Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., or call 919-968-5066. Staff will help determine which permits an operator at a proposed location will need. For additional information posted online including a Frequently Asked Questions web page.
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, as the waiters and waitresses of America braced themselves for the flood of well-intentioned dinner dates, activists gathered in Raleigh to argue restaurant workers should be paid more.
The representatives from the NC Justice Center, N.C. Council of Churches, North Carolina MomsRising, and the North Carolina AFL-CIO met in Nash Square Park on Monday chose the date—Feb. 13—to symbolize the subminimum wage that many restaurant and service workers earn.
At $2.13 an hour, the subminimum wage, also called a tipping wage, is the portion of the minimum wage that employers must guarantee their workers. To earn more than $2.13 an hour, servers depend on tips. When the subminimum wage plus tips is less than the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25, employers then must make up the difference.
The result, according to a report released by the NC Justice Center, is an average hourly wage of $9.66 for the 340,000 food service and serving-related jobs in North Carolina. A full third of waiters and waitresses live at or below the federal poverty level.
Part of the problem is that the $2.13 tipping wage hasn’t increased in more than 20 years. After its introduction in 1966, the tipping wage was pegged at or near 50 percent of the federal minimum wage. However, in 1996 federal legislation, the tipping wage was frozen at $2.13 while minimum wage rose to $5.15. The tipping wage has remained at $2.13 ever since, even as the minimum wage has increased.
That five-dollar gap has enormous ramifications. “When two-thirds of your wage comes from whether or not the person in front of you likes the way you look, you end up acting in a way that matches their desires, not really as a human interaction,” said Sendolo Diaminah, who worked as a server from 2008—2011, after one year of looking for a job. Although he was a successful waiter, Diaminah’s income fluctuated widely depending on how busy his shifts happened to be, or if nearby Duke University was in session.
Current conditions in the restaurant industry are also a threat to public health, according to the NC Justice Center report’s author, Sabine Schoenbach. “In North Carolina, four out of five workers in food-service occupations lack paid sick days,” Schoenefeld wrote, often forcing them to work when they’re ill because they could not afford the lost income, or because they were afraid of losing their jobs.
She reports a statistic that two-thirds of restaurant workers had served or prepared food while sick, and a more horrifying statistic that 12 percent of restaurant workers had stayed on the job while experiencing vomiting and diarrhea.
The lack of paid sick days and volatility of income also has nuances of a gender equality issue, says Schoenbach, noting that almost 80 percent of tipped workers are women. Beth Messersmith, campaign director of NC MomsRising, says the conditions are especially difficult for mothers, who must balance motherhood with unforgiving schedules, and low wages with childcare costs. “Mothers shouldn’t have to choose between being good parents and good employees,” said Messersmith.
The voices and concerns from Nash Square echoed a national day of action from the Restaurant Opportunities Center, whose local branches nationwide met with national legislators to discuss the tipping wage.
The ROC is campaigning for the passage of the WAGES Act, a bill that would update the tipping wage to $5.50 over two years. The bill would also ensure the tipping wage would be at least 70 percent of the minimum wage.
The WAGES Act, however, is facing opposition from the National Restaurant Association and others. “I think ultimately what it’s about is passing the costs of uncertainty onto the workers,” said Diaminah. During the recession, he noticed diners continued to eat out, but tipped less—a hit absorbed entirely by his and his co-workers’ paychecks. “We become the shock absorber for the economy.”
There was no chicken coup in Cary Thursday night, as the Town Council postponed a final decision on whether to ease restrictions on backyard hens within the town limits.
The council voted 5-2 to direct town staff to draft an ordinance that would allow backyard hens, albeit with some restrictions. A public hearing will be held on the ordinance before the Town Council takes a final vote.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and Councilman Jack Smith cast the dissenting votes. Weinbrecht said he is concerned about the enforcement of the ordinance, real estate values of properties near homes with backyard hens and the possible conflicts with homeowners’ association covenants.
“I’m kind of leaning toward the Mayor’s perspective,” Smith said, in reference to homeowners’ association concerns. Although Smith voted against the request to revisit Cary’s ordinance, he did suggest that the eventual proposal should “have teeth” in it to reduce the likelihood of being overturned by the court.
Councilman Don Frantz, who used to oppose backyard chickens but has relaxed his views, and Councilwoman Gale Adcock proposed amending the ordinance to allow the fowl.
“Some concerns I’ve had are no longer concerns of mine,” Frantz said. He suggested several restrictions for the amendment, including a maximum of eight chickens per single-family home (a standalone home, meaning no single-family apartments), a ban on roosters and backyard slaughter. In addition, the chickens would be for personal use only and could not be sold. Each household with backyard chickens would pay a $10 licensing fee.
Frantz adopted the proposal from other ordinances that allow backyard hens—Carrboro, Raleigh, Wake Forest and Durham allow them, also with some restrictions. However, Frantz said even if council passes the ordinance, there should be a delay before it is implemented to allow homeowners’ associations to adjust.
Alissa Manfre, co-founder of Cary Chickens, which advocates for backyard hens, thanked Town Council for its “open-mindedness and being willing to reconsider this issue.”
Buckeyes and Buttercups, Lakenfelders and Leghorns: So many breeds of chickens, so few yards in Cary in which to raise them.
But Cary's great back yard chicken controversy could peak tonight as the Cary Town Council reconsiders an ordinance that would allow residents to raise hens in their back yards with some restrictions. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 316 N. Academy St.
With the exception of some rural areas in Cary, back yard chickens are prohibited within the town limits. But the tide may be turning for urban fowl: Even Councilman Don Frantz, a former opponent of back yard chickens, has reversed his position based on Cary residents' private property rights.
If passed, the ordinance would allow residents to raise up to eight chickens per property.
Only hens would be allowed—no roosters cock-a-doodling at 5:30 in the morning;
There would be an annual license fee of $10 per household raising the chickens (not per chicken);
Back yard slaughter would be prohibited, as would the sale of chickens;
Chickens would be required to remain in the coop or fenced yard when unsupervised; they would be allowed in the front yard with supervision (a good idea for kids, too!)
There are more proposed restrictions as well, listed on Frantz' blog.
Check out the Cary Chickens blog for more discussion on the issue.
The Chapel Hill Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to allow food trucks to do business there, joining the party that Carrboro and Durham have long hosted and Raleigh and Hillsborough recently hopped aboard.
Food trucks can grace Chapel Hill streets beginning March 1.
After 16 months of consideration, the council gave its seal of approval Monday following a brief presentation by Principal Planner Kendal Brown and no discussion.
Vendors must pay $743 annually to do business. That includes $118 for a zoning permit, $25 for a privilege license and $600 per truck to pay for code enforcement.
Business can occur only on private, commercial lots. Trucks cannot set up within 100 feet of a restaurant unless granted permission by the owner.
The answer was stuck to a wall. A yellowing piece of paper listed contact information for Mary Jacob, who had run the stand for years before. Sue called. Soon after, Jacob returned to Mama Ann’s, willing to teach the Rhas everything she knew about cooking. “We were just beside her learning,” Rha says of their time together. “We catch up pretty good.”
But they didn’t just catch up. The Rhas mastered a traditional Southern menu. Five years after re-opening Mama Ann’s, customers prodded them to move their business a few blocks up Roxboro to what was then a failing meat-and-three, Current Cafeteria, that opened some 50 odd years ago. “You’ll be the right person over there,” Sue recalls of their conversations with her.
It was a good fit. Feb. 2 will mark the Rhas' 18th year at the restaurant, where they serve breakfast and lunch from a short hot bar. Stacked wood-patterned trays anchor one end where dessert is up first. A glass cabinet displays slices of pie before steam trays of vegetables and entrées.
Hanging high above the serving area, a menu with interchangeable placards displays the dishes available each day. But ordering is a conversation. When I visited on a recent Monday, Debra Craig stood behind glass, pointing out and describing each pan of food.
There was thinly breaded crisp fried chicken or chicken livers and a steaming pan of beef stew accompanied by green beans, tomatoes and okra, potatoes, cole slaw, mashed potatoes and cabbage, among other options. On top of the buffet, rolled tightly in wax paper, individual packs of greasy golden rounds of cornbread warmed under a heat lamp. At the serving area’s end, an entrée with two vegetables and bread rings up for a mere $4.70. “We try to keep as low of prices as we can,” Sue says.
The recession has made breakfast—fatback and red hot biscuits and egg plate specials—more popular than lunch. When I dined shortly after 1 p.m., only a handful of people were seated in the dining room’s red booths. Still, Sue says she is “blessed” by what business she does have. “I really enjoy this job. My children grew up here,” she says.
Others have, too. Sue estimates that her customers are almost entirely regulars. “Some people come morning and lunch. I know them, they know me.” She speaks to each of them.
“Be nice. That’s my main goal always,” she admits. And try to be clean and fresh.”
But with a 50-year-old cafeteria the desired look is “something not completely shining.” It’s Current Cafeteria but it’s well worn.
Current Cafeteria is located at 3002 N. Roxboro Road in Durham.
Cupcakes, pizza and bicycles will anchor the corner of Morris and Chapel Hill streets in Durham by mid-summer.
Scott Harmon of Center Studio Architecture announced that construction on the Five Points Project will start tomorrow. When finished, the building at the corner of Morris and Chapel Hill streets will house All City Pizza, The Cupcake Bar, Bullesye Bicycle and Harmon’s architecture firm.
Construction is scheduled to be complete by mid-summer.
Southern Living has selected Raleigh as one of the Top 10 “Tastiest Towns in the South,” according to a press release issued by the magazine today.
And now readers can cast their vote for the culinary champ—think of it as a Best in Show—from Dec. 23 through Jan. 31 at southernliving.com/tasty. One vote per day is counted toward the final tally.
Each finalist will be profiled in the April 2012 issue, when the winner will also be announced.
The other cities in the Top 10 are listed in the January edition of Southern Living. According to a magazine press release, here is the rest of the list:
· Baltimore, Md.—Restaurants with a fierce sense of place;
· Birmingham, Ala.—Includes local chef Frank Stitt, who changed the Southern culinary landscape;
· Charleston, S.C.—Iconic Lowcountry dishes and a thriving cocktail culture;
· Charlottesville, Va.—Farm-to-table freshness in everything from tapas to spirits;
· Decatur, Ga.—An emerging mecca for foodies who relish local farmers markets;
· Houston, Texas—A diverse ethnic food scene with a new generation of tastemakers;
· Lafayette, La.—A new breed of hometown chefs diving into the region’s culinary roots;
· Louisville, Ky.—Surprising food, bourbon bars and buzzy new neighborhoods; and,
· New Orleans, La.—Famed oyster bars. Gulf seafood and classic cocktails.
The magazine reports that Raleigh’s “fantastic farmers markets and chefs devoted to their culinary heritage” earned it a spot in the top 10.
Christopher Astraikis is only scratching the surface of his enormous holiday baking task. It’s barely 8 a.m. a week after Thanksgiving and already Astraikis, a head baker at Durham’s Guglhupf Bakery Patisserie and Cafe, is facing down a few dozen mounds of flesh-colored dough, lumpy with assorted dried fruits. In a few hours, these will be rolled into “stollen,” a traditional southern German sweet bread that has helped turn Guglhupf into a nationally recognized bakery—and that turns the kitchen into a madhouse.
To say Astraikis is up to his ellbogen—that’s German for elbows—would be an understatement. He will make about 150 stollen today, on top of the 350 since the bakery started taking orders a week ago. There are about 3,000 more loaves of stollen to go—although he may need to make a few hundred more than that considering the treat’s popularity. Indeed, just this morning someone ordered 70 stollen, which perplexed him.
“Somebody’s got a big pile of money burning a hole in their pocket,” Astraikis says. “It’s probably corporate. I can’t imagine somebody needing 70 of them.”
But Astraikis, who has spent the last 11 years amid Guglhupf’s basement-level maze of bread carts, ovens and assorted restaurant equipment, seems undeterred by his task. A massive mixer whirs behind him as a handful of other employees buzz past. Until Christmas Eve, he will spend every day in this kitchen making stolen and the bakery’s other holiday treats.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little pressure,” Astraikis said. “You have to feel a little pressure to do anything good.”
Like clockwork, the calls start coming in every year, right after Halloween, when folks start turning their attention toward that annual event known as The Holiday Season.
“At the end of October, we get the first calls about the stollen and I say ‘No,’” German-born owner Claudia Kemmet-Cooper says, holding the ‘o’ for emphasis, as she shakes her head and widens her eyes. “It’ll be there the day after Thanksgiving. We’re gonna do holidays one month at a time … They would eat it in the middle of summer if we let them.”
UPDATE (Jan. 15, 2012): The Chirba Chirba Dumpling episode of My Family Recipe Rocks premiered yesterday, Jan. 14, on the Live Well Network. Catch it in full here and embedded below.
ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS
Last Wednesday, the Chirba Chirba Dumpling truck doled out paper trays of porkedame and juicy buns as part of a routine lunch stop in Morrisville. Employees at ChannelAdvisor, an international e-commerce software company, lined up as as usual, though most of the women in line, and a couple of guys, squirmed, eagerly giddy.
As co-owner Chela Tu helped customers, a new employee nudged into the tiny window space and bellowed orders out in a jovially obnoxious inflection fit for entertainment television. Out peeks the man behind the voice: Joey Fatone, former *NSYNC boy-bander and host of a new food reality television show, wearing a signature yellow Chirba Chirba bandana. And the camera phones started clicking.
Durham food trucks have reached teenybopper levels of stardom. My Family Recipe Rocks launches Jan. 14 on the Live Well cable television network, part of ABC Family and Disney. In the reality-style show, host Fatone and a small crew tour the country looking for authentic family recipes. In each half-hour episode—about six have been filmed—home cooks will create meals unique to their families.
While on set in Raleigh working on a show about a secret collards recipe (look for that in the first few weeks of airtime), a producer dug more deeply into the Triangle's food scene and discovered the truck, the owners’ ties to Chinese culture and the authenticity attached to the menu. Tu received an email, and the crew set out for two days of shooting—one at the Cookery during dumpling prep and one with Fatone working the truck. Producers say the episode should air after the first three or four shows.
According to ChannelAdvisor support analyst Luci Thralls, Fatone was the “funny one” in the boy band. The 28-year-old Thralls says she saw *NYSYNC four times in concert at the height of their popularity. She says she always grabs dumplings for lunch when the truck makes its stop at her workplace, but learned about Fatone’s appearance through a mass email sent by a colleague days earlier. “It was pandemonium from then on,” she says after waiting to get a photo with one of her favorite teenage stars. “I kind of lost my mind and got excited and told everyone I knew.”
An hour before the truck began serving, Fatone upped the humor off-camera, repeating jangly “t” and “z” sounds as per Tu’s impromptu Chinese lesson.
“What am I saying?” he asked. “I like juicy buns?”
Tu smirked, rolled her eyes and got back to work. The entire Chirba Chirba crew, including Tu and another co-owner, Nate Adams, seemed unfazed by the celebrity, poking fun at one other while maintaining order on the cart. The instant rapport made for off-the-cuff moments perfect for when the camera was rolling.
An Italian-American Brooklynite, Fatone says he grew up eating fresh foods and learning to cook from his dad. Now a husband and father of two, he makes hand-made pasta for Christmas. He says his goal for the show is to help families create healthy meals and experiment with simple, new ingredients.
What does he think about dumplings?
“I love pot stickers in general. I’m definitely a dumpling kind of guy. But I never knew about the process. I think it’s a great idea to have a dumpling cart, because it’s easy, quick and on the go.”
He recently cooked on a truck as part of a celebrity challenge for the Food Network’s Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cookoff featuring Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray, to also air in January.
“It was not easy,” he remembers, commenting on the Chirba Chirba owners' dedication. “It takes a lot of guts to figure out how to do this and make a living for themselves.”
“I’m excited that Joey and the whole TV show are here because it’s our local movement that we’re proud of and enthusiastic about that’s getting noticed,” Tu says. “It’s a privilege. It’d be great if more viewers around the country paid attention to awesome places like Durham where local businesses are the star all the time and they really make the local economy tasty, colorful and full of unique things like dumplings. Maybe we’ll put Durham on the map? Durham food trucks as a destination? That would be hot.”
As Fatone taste-tested the dumplings, tray upon tray, he stopped to make his critique.
“If I had a life or death situation it’d be the juicy buns. They’re just really good. It complements the spicy … what is the sauce?”
“Chirba spicy!” screamed Tu.
“I don’t know what that is, but it’s really good.”