From Truck to Table: Chef Adam Hynam-Smith Celebrates Curbside

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Who doesn’t love street food? With its wonderful array of tastes and flavors, it’s hard to pass up a food truck parked streetside. Now, with the help of Chef Adam Hynam-Smith’s latest book, Curbside: Modern Street Food from a Vagabond Chef, you can make and create all those flavors at home.

Curbside explores the evolution of modern street food from hot dogs and french fries to restaurant-quality dishes made streetside. Over the course of several years, Hynam-Smith—a host of Food Network Canada’s Restaurant Takeover—has created modern street food with his food truck El Gastronomo Vagabundo, widely acknowledged as Ontario’s first gourmet food truck. While many of the recipes in the book (which will be available in May) are tried-and-true El Gastronomo Vagabundo classics, several dishes have been inspired by Hynam-Smith’s years of travelling and staging at restaurants in Melbourne, Morocco, France, England and Thailand. “I’ve always had a love for vibrant street food and experiencing street food cultures from around the world,” says Hynam-Smith. “I love the potential to be creative and run interesting menus that are inspired by what’s available.”

Since 2011, Hynam-Smith and his wife Tamara Jensen have owned and operated El Gastronomo Vagabundo, which has made several appearances on Food Network Canada’s Eat St. Throughout the past three years, both Hynam-Smith and Jensen have spent considerable time working to raise awareness of gourmet street food, help propel the street food movement in as many locations as possible, and amend the food truck bylaws in Ontario. “The street food industry in Ontario is both challenging and rewarding,” says Hynam-Smith. “It’s challenging because there is a strong lobbying force of brick and mortar establishments who are unjustly threatened by mobile food vendors. It’s rewarding because of the daily interactions with my customers, and being able to have fun with my menus.”

Since El Gastro (the nickname of their truck) hit the road, Hynam-Smith and Jensen have had increasing interest in their recipes and their cooking from would-be food truck warriors and fans of their brand. “The book has given us a great way to share what we’ve been cooking [in the truck] with our loyal following and share our recipes to those who haven’t had the chance to eat from the truck,” says Hynam-Smith. Beyond that, Curbside has also showcased all the workmanship and craft that goes into creating modern street food—something seen typically as cheap, fun and casual. “With a smaller price point than restaurant food, it’s easier for people to try something new that they might not want to fork out the money for at a restaurant with higher prices,” he adds.

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With a smattering of global influences, Hynam-Smith describes his recipes as “showcasing flavors from around the world. I like to push the boundaries of what people typically expect to eat from a food truck.” Curbside has a little bit of everything, from tacos to curries to desserts and more, in an easy-to-read fashion that Hynam-Smith hoped would help with the readers’ education on street food. “I enjoy taking the time to educate those who are unsure about trying something new for the first time.”

After a brief diary-type entry of his time in both Morocco and Thailand in the first pages of the book, Hynam-Smith explains in Curbside that while the dishes have been adapted for serving at home, many of them come from his previous experiences in restaurants and at the El Gastro food truck, and therefore have been tried and tested in some of the “most difficult cooking conditions.”

Readers are treated to recipes that could be served family-style (crispy cod taco with smoked pineapple and habanero sauce), as an appetizer (scallop and coconut milk ceviche) or as a main (what’s he has playfully dubbed “the Son in Law eggs”). Currently Hynam-Smith favorite dish to prepare is “the Master Stock Braised Pork Belly with Green Papaya Salad. This dish has been with me for a very long time, evolving over the years. Although it’s labor-intensive, the end result is worth the work.”

Hynam-Smith knows that at the end of the day, food is meant to be fun and be enjoyed. “Street food is one of the best ways to do that. As long as food truck chefs are consistently putting out a great menu and experience, the food should speak for itself.” Curbside’s official Canadian kick-off is in Toronto on Monday, May 4, and features a five-course dinner of recipes from the book. The event is co-hosted by Chef Rob Rossi of Bestellen. “It’s foolish for a chef to think they know everything there is to know about cooking; collaborating and sharing ideas with your peers is the best form of inspiration,” says Hynam-Smith.

Amanda (Ama) Scriver is a full-time community builder and official ‘head bee in charge’ of the food, fat and feminism blog, Fat Girl Food Squad. When she isn’t busy kickin’ ass and takin’ names, she is having serious feels for all things coffee, hip-hop, the art of drag, Kardashians, pizza and Doritos. You can find more bylines from her at Eater, BizBash and Toronto is Awesome. Follow her on Twitter: @amapod.