A Mt. Airy food truck vendor came under the spotlight yesterday after the British Food Network dropped by to tape a segment for its program American Street Feast.
It all started with an email a few months ago. Philly Mobile Food Truck Association (PhillyMFTA) spokesman Patrick O’Rourke said a producer from the Food Network UK got in touch to inquire about food trucks in the city. The producer said she was interested in featuring “real, American cuisine” on a TV show featuring Food Network celebrity Andy Bates.
“I said ‘well I’ve got American like you’ve never seen,” O’Rourke said. “
So O’Rourke invited the crew to Zea May’s first appearance at the weekly Thursday Mt. Airy Farmers Market on the corner of Greene Street and Carpenter Lane.
Zea May’s food truck owner Sue Wasserkrug was nervous—especially since her truck has only been operational for about two weeks—but kept tossing strawberry and sweet potato empanadas into a deep fryer filled with canola oil.
“I can’t even, don’t want to go there yet,” she said, in response to a how she feels about being on the Food Network in the UK. “I sort of feel [nervous].”
To calm her nerves, Wasserkrug also grilled up some bison hot dogs. Most of her ingredients, she said, were either local or from Native American farms.
“My intention is to be educational about the food I serve,” she said.
“These particular hot dogs come from a buffalo farm in Bucks County and we serve them on a bun that’s from a bakery from here in Philadelphia,” she said. “I try to source locally if I can. I have a wild rice that I get from a tribe in Minnesota.”
But the show— Andy Bates’ American Street Feast—also interviewed the other stands at the market.
Mt. Airy Farmers Market manager Ben Bergman said the producers asked him to give them a tour of the three-vendor market and explain the importance of markets and buying local.
“The local food scene in Philadelphia has exploded over the past 15 years and I think that that’s reaching even across the pond into Europe,” he said. “I think maybe they want to try to get something going in their neck of the woods and they’re using us as a model.”
Debbie Sorbello, of the farm stand Sorbello Girls, was featured as well on the show.
“We’re happy to get out the message of buying and eating local from the farmer,” said Sorbello. “I think too many times people take the easy route by going to the grocery store and purchasing things from out of state.”
Sorbello is from Mullica Hill, New Jersey, which is about an hour away.
The show’s producer and director Ben Cole said their interest in the truck and market was due to the recent uprising of gourmet street cuisine.
“What interests us is that in America the street food movement has been going much longer,” he said. “In the UK street food has been about but it hasn’t been [established].”
He added: “coming out here, we can take inspiration and learn from established gourmet street food sellers,” he said. “It just makes for really interesting TV.”
A newcomer to Native American food, Bates said he really liked the fact that the ingredients stayed true to their roots—being mostly local and fresh.
“It’s lovely and fresh and it’s new,” he said.
So far, Bates said he’s enjoyed his stay in the city of Brotherly Love.
“We want to live in America,” he said of him and his crew. “Philly rules.”
The show will premiere on Food Network UK in the Fall.