By: Tamir Virani
On one of the last hot and sunny days of this year, Ottawa greeted its first official food truck rally with open arms.
Over a 1,000 lined up to gain entrance to the parking lot at the corner of Rochester and Pamilla Street on Sept. 28. However it wasn’t just the weather that was sizzling, as 12 food trucks geared up in the lot to serve their unique plates to the hungry crowds. Proceeds from the event went towards funding two Algonquin scholarships.
The sold-out event initially sparked from a single tweet sent out by avid food blogger Sharif Virani asking if anyone would be interested in organizing a food truck rally. Madison O’Connor, a marketing officer for Domicile Development, instantly responded.
“I basically told him, ‘we’re definitely interested, and I have a site for you, let’s talk,’” said O’Connor.
That site turned out to be a parking lot near Little Italy, which the urban development company has plans to turn into a condo.
“The neighbourhoods that we build in are important to us, and we’re looking to promote and collaborate with the small business owners in the area,” said O’Connor on Domicile’s involvement in the rally.
In the planning stages, the newly formed Ottawa Food Truck Rally team decided to have proceeds go towards a good cause.
“We knew from the start that we wanted this to be a charity event of some kind, and we knew a culinary scholarship would fit in with the theme,” said O’Connor.
The last piece of the puzzle came when the Ottawa Community Housing foundation, a social housing organization in Ottawa, reached out to the Ottawa Food Truck Rally team looking for an event to showcase what they do.
“We were trying to brainstorm different ideas in order to get our foundation into the public eye, and the rally seemed like a great launching pad for us,” said Wendy Mitchell, director of the OCH foundation.
“Our mandate is to really inspire and empower our tenants to achieve personal success and we believe that a scholarship to Algonquin’s culinary school could really open up many doors.”
The flexibility and practicality of the program encouraged the foundation to choose Algonquin specifically and, while the tenants who will receive the scholarships have yet to be chosen, Mitchell has no doubt about its significance.
“It’ll provide a pathway for someone to really take ownership of their future,” she said.
Brenda Rothwell, the executive director of the Algonquin College foundation, agreed with the sentiment.
“Bursaries can really help make a huge difference in helping students come to college who might not otherwise be able to afford it,” said Rothwell.
With a team of co-organizers, a location and a charitable cause, the Ottawa Food Truck Rally kicked off at noon and ran for four hours.
From Urban Cowboy’s mini roast beef sliders to the shrimp wraps at Chowdown, guests had a varied selection to choose from. The event also featured culinary demos, a voting station for guest judges and a craft table for children.
The crowd was as diverse as the food selection, consisting of families, couples and friends coming together for the community event.
“It’s really great to see such a big crowd at local events like this, especially supporting small businesses like food trucks,” said guest, Katie Yelle, in line for frozen custard.
When asked if the Ottawa Food Truck Rally would return next year, O’Connor was enthusiastic.
“Absolutely,” she said. “We’ve set the stage and our goal was to lay the pavement for doing this in the future. Given the success of the event I would suspect that this will be something that continues from here on out.”