When I visited Adam Sobel’s vegan food truck the first time, I was floored by how tasty his food was. I should have known by the long lines at the truck that he was doing something terribly right. There was a wide range of customers waiting for their vegan lunchtime entrees – men in suits, young hipster types, fashionable working women, and me. The food was very satisfying both from a flavor and from a fullness point of view. I recommend if you live in the New York City or nearby New Jersey area you try to track down his truck one day for lunch. It moves around so the best way to find where the Cinnamon Snail will be next, is to go to www.cinnamonsnail.com.
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Food truck vendors are raising the bar: the quality, variety, and sheer number of today’s gourmet trucks have never been greater; and while a few of NYC’s best serve vegan offerings, none are 100% vegan. Adam Sobel, a self-taught chef who got his start working in one of Tom Valenti’s restaurants is on the road to changing that.
As owner of The Cinnamon Snail, the country’s first organic vegan food truck, Adam can currently be found at the Red Bank and Jersey City Farmer’s Markets in New Jersey, the Seed in Manhattan, and the Vegan Shop-up in Brooklyn — spreading his passion for veganism and talent for cooking to vegans and non-vegans alike.
Kitchen La Bohème: Why did you choose to open a specifically vegan food truck, and what message do you hope to spread with The Cinnamon Snail?
Adam Sobel: I went vegan about nine years ago when my first daughter was born. My wife turned me on to veganism and generally to nonviolence when I met her. Aside from having children, the choice to go vegan has been the best, most powerful decision of my life.
The truck has been a vision of mine for many years now. The thing about most vegetarian restaurants is that largely, you are “preaching to the choir”. Most customers are already vegan, or at least conscious about the suffering of animals in food production. With the truck, I deal with the full spectrum of people. Most of my customers are not (yet) vegan. They come to my truck and see awesome looking donuts and pastries, and they fall in love with the sweet, donut-y circles of heaven. After a couple of weeks they are eating Creole Grilled Tofu sandwiches, or enjoying clean raw food for lunch.
I love it. I feel totally naughty, like I get to lure people into the nonviolent lifestyle whether they want that change in their life or not! It’s sort of like social graffiti, with a positive, world-changing outcome. It’s an important step for our species in our evolution, and what could be more fun and gratifying than for me to be part of this transformation?
KLB: What’s the strangest order or request you’ve ever had at The Cinnamon Snail?
AS: I was invited to take part in co-ed vegan pudding wrestling.
KLB: And did you say yes?
AS: Sadly, I wasn’t available for the wrestling match. I was already booked up on that date.
KLB: Which of your menu items are you most proud of?
AS: Ginger Island Grilled Tofu over Coconut Mashed Yams and Greens, with Grilled Mango Salsa, Spiced Candied Pecans, and Fried Ginger.
I am also really happy about our vegan donuts. We worked on them for years, and we are still tweaking and perfecting them. We do traditional ones like apple cider, and strawberry glazed (made with fresh strawberries in the glaze) but we also do decadent ones like peanut butter chocolate cheesecake donuts, and chocolate cookie glazed. I am finally at a point with donut making where I hear from people who are not vegan that they are the best donuts they have had in their life. That’s really good to hear but it just makes me want to get even better at making them!
KLB: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
AS: When you have some negative perception of someone you do not know, confront them and make sure you communicate that you love them and just want peace between you.
When I first got the truck running, the Hoboken Police chased me from time to time. Hoboken has some annoying parking laws that make it tough for food trucks, and when the police choose to enforce the parking laws, it makes operating very difficult.
One slow Sunday morning, a Policeman came and made me move my truck. Within five minutes of finding a new spot, he was back and already getting irritated. He gave me a ticket and told me that I had better pack up for the day. It was a bummer but I started packing up. Packing up a commercial kitchen on wheels takes time, and he was back within ten minutes, really mad now that I wasn’t gone yet. The officer gave me two more tickets and followed me out of town. I didn’t leave town immediately though. Instead, I boxed up all of my pastries and went to the police precinct and gave them to the police to enjoy; I make a regular habit out of doing this.
A couple of days went by, and I had been left with such a bad taste in my mouth about this police officer. Thinking of the advice I had been given, I decided to go to the police station to talk to him. I let the officer know that I was sorry if it seemed like I was giving him a hard time the other day. I was super friendly, and immediately I could feel the tension clear. He told me how bad he felt when he came back to the station and was enjoying the donuts I had given them.
Now that officer eats lunch at my truck often. He brings new policemen with him all the time, and I know that slowly, he is getting turned on to vegan food!
The video of Adam’s truck, Cinnamon Snail, was shot by blogger Liza de Guia for her website and NY television show foodcurated.com. She explores lots of interesting food stories on her site, including many about the food truck scene. In New York, you can catch her show Thursday nights at 8:30pm on WNYC, Channel 25.
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