Blaring the Horn for Food Trucks

by David Sax
in the New York Times

LOS ANGELES — Sitting on his sofa in the Venice section of this city, Matt Geller let out an exasperated sigh as he spoke to a familiar official from the county health department. Food trucks represented by Mr. Geller’s group, the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, had been caught dumping waste water down storm drains. “That’s absolutely disgusting,” he said. “A state, federal and county violation.”

Armed with his phone, a law degree and a garage packed with boxes containing health and vehicle codes, Mr. Geller has established himself as a voice for the nation’s food truck movement. Through lawsuits and advocacy, he has written the playbook for how independent owners leverage their popularity to shape laws in their favor. That includes adhering to codes on waste water and collaborating with the city agencies that were once his adversaries.

Mr. Geller is a bit to food trucks as Cesar Chavez was to farm workers, though he has been criticized as being more concerned about the purveyors of bacon-topped cupcakes than about the immigrant small-business owners selling traditional tacos and pupusas.

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