Vendy Nominees Get By With a Little Help From Friends and Family

By Wendy Wong


(Photographs by Lily Chin)

Saturday’s 9th Annual Vendy Awards featured nearly 30 different food vendors—both big names from New York’s street food scene and smaller, under-the-radar stands—selling everything from Salvadoran pupusas to Indian pizza and chocolate-filled vegan doughnuts. Among the nominees were several businesses built on collaborations with loved ones.

Home by the Range, a food stand specializing in sandwiches and salads made with locally sourced ingredients, started off in 2012 as a food truck in Hoboken. It moved to Smorgasburg for a year and a half before settling in at New Amsterdam Market, where it can be found once a month.

William Imre, Home by the Range’s founder and owner, works closely with several of his friends to run the business. In fact, he cooks food for the stand at a deli run by two of his closest friends, though he’s hoping to open a storefront location soon.

To prepare the Jersey Cow sandwich he served at the Vendys, Imre braised chuck roast for nearly nine hours with red wine, Italian seasonings, fresh rosemary and—as he put it—”a lot of love.” After letting the meat cool for a day, Imre sliced it thinly and topped it with aged, raw milk white cheddar from Vermont. The finishing touch was a beef stock made from au jus, ossobuco bones and the braising liquid, which Imre poured over the sandwiches before serving them up.

Those messy sandwiches and bold flavors won his stand the Vendy Award for Best of New Jersey and Tide’s Messy yet Tasty Award.

Christine and Rodrigue Chebli started Toum, a Rookie of the Year nominee and food truck that shares its name with a traditional Lebanese garlic sauce, a little more than a year ago. The couple wanted to give New Yorkers a taste of the real Lebanese food they grew up eating—Christine in New York and Rodrigue in Lebanon.

While Christine greeted customers at the Vendys, Rodrigue worked inside the truck with their parents—who also regularly help out at the truck—dishing up falafel sandwiches and chicken shawarma.

Toum’s falafel, slightly puck-shaped and flatter than those commonly served in New York restaurants, is made from a uniquely Lebanese recipe: chickpeas and fava beans, fresh cilantro, garlic and Lebanese spices. The sandwich is also filled with lettuce, tomato, onions, turnip pickles, parsley and tahini.

Maria Crespo of Cholita Cuencana, a Best Dessert nominee, has been selling Ecuadorian food in Queens for almost three decades, where she’s best known for her espumilla (meaning “foam” in Spanish), a dessert commonly sold on the streets of Ecuador. Crespo sells her homemade espumilla in guava, blackberry and raspberry flavors. At the Vendys she worked with her close friend and her daughter, filling ice cream cones with various combinations of those flavors.

To make her espumilla, Crespo boils and stirs the fruits until they form a syrup-like consistency. Then she quickly whips in egg whites and a little sugar until it rises, giving the dessert a light, airy texture similar to whipped cream.

Crespo started cooking professionally in Ecuador and when she came to the U.S. in 1983 she started a new business, selling her homemade food. On weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Crespo can be found at the intersection of Roosevelt Ave. and Junction Blvd. in Corona, Queens, where she sells espumilla along with various savory Ecuadorian snacks.

Home by the Range
New Amsterdam Market
224 Front Street (map)
New York, NY 10038
Schedule available at Facebook and Twitter

Toum Food Truck
Location varies
Schedule available here, Facebook and Twitter

Cholita Cuencana
Roosevelt Ave. and Junction Blvd. (map)
Queens, NY 11368

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