Daniel Delaney is sorry.
He just finished a bit of a rant about how zoning laws that govern where street vendors can do business are putting a stranglehold on Philadelphia’s food cart culture, and seemed startled when I said I assumed he was now based in New York.
“I didn’t mean that as an insult,” he says. “I just look at this stuff a bit scientifically.”
Indeed, Delaney, 23, is taking his food very seriously since launching in February Vendr.TV, a weekly podcast devoted to finding the best-tasting street food in the world. It was just picked up by a network funder, Delaney says, though he can’t yet disclose who.
While the University of the Arts alumnus has made that not uncommon trek up the Jersey Turnpike and his podcast’s stock is on the rise, he might have reason to remember where he first got his taste for food entertainment.
Read what goes into Vendr.TV and how he says our great food city could become a great street food city, too, after the jump.
“I had interest in food, but when I went to school in Philadelphia, my interest exploded,” says Delaney, who graduated with a multimedia BFA from UArts in May 2008. “Really, Philadelphia has my favorite food scene. It’s originally a blue collar city, and I like unpretentious food. With Pennsylvania and its liquor laws, the BYOBs that have developed in Philly are my favorite food scene of all, of anything, I think.”
He noted South Street mainstay Pumpkin and Little Fish, the celebrated Queen Village haunt, as among his favorites.
But food ain’t Delaney’s only thang.
THE TECHNOLOGY AND PROFIT
He’s making a self-financed food podcast look and feel clean cut and professional.
The food geek with bushy black hair and matching rimmed glasses has a rotating crew of three cameramen and a traditional boom operator — after finding wireless microphones unreliable in the wind and noise of street food. He lucks out by having talented friends — all of whom are currently working for free.
His team films in HD, mostly on a Panasonic HVX. Vendr’s hot film look comes from shooting at 24 frames per second in 720 p — the actual size of HD — and also swinging a wide-angle lens.
Delaney proves his diversity of skill by adding to his on-camera work by handling most of the editing, doing so in Final Cut Pro, though his operation is expanding. The show’s pre-roll graphics were created by motion designer Eden Soto, who has done work for Diggnation and Yahoo.
Justifying its professional look and crew, Delaney says he’s confident in bringing Vendr.TV to profitability.
Delaney, who will apparently always be known as that guy who started a Rittenhouse Square Twitter account, declined to give specifics, but says he’s in talks for long-term sponsorships, content-sharing and other monetization excitement. There are licensing agreements in the works for distribution online with MySpace and others. He also points to plans for advertising, merchandise sales, micro-donations and even long-term hopes for publishing the best recipes he finds.
Later this month, the WordPress-based site will see a complete redesign.
IS IT PHILADELPHIA?
Delaney says he fully intends on Vendr to become a national brand that finds street food around the world, but his academic and culinary ties to Philadelphia make it hard not to call him one of our own.
Two of his first nine episodes were in Philly — others being in New York, Washington D.C. and at Rutgers University — including his most recent on Jamaican D’s near the Community College of Philadelphia, seen below.
It’s perhaps important he remember the country’s fourth largest media market because it’s city is one that takes its food very seriously. But it is important Delaney brand himself separately because the food media market is certainly a saturated one (see sidebar at right)
Delaney thought it important enough to personally welcome the cluster’s new entrant, Salt.Pepper.Ketchup, which quickly received love from WHYY and uwishunu after launching.
Newsprint: Philadelphia magazine; CityPaper; PW and the Inquirer, which features Craig Laban
Blogs: Philebrity spinoff Phoodie.info; Messy and Picky; Foobooz; Mac & Cheese; Foodaphila; Philafoodie; Unbreaded. And so many others that I can’t list them all
Podcasts: Salt.Pepper.Ketchup; Fork You; Fries with that Shake and an audio podcast from Philly Food Guys
But Vendr seems simply the most professional product of them all. So it just so happens that the best Philadelphia food podcast isn’t in Philadelphia at all.
An old head of mine once told me, as we walked on Pine Street near 15th, that there are only two kinds of kids who go to UArts.
“Those who want to be in Philly,” he said, looking toward Broad Street and the school’s landmark Hamilton Hall on the Avenue of the Arts. “And those who want to be in New York.”
After graduating, Delaney found himself going to New York more often and staying in Philly less. He decided to leave.
But his street vendor obsession came with a senior thesis he did on how design affected business of Philadelphia’s mobile vendors. That said, the New Jersey-native says he has always had an eye for entrepreneurship, starting with his dog-walking business at 12-years-old — “complete with business cards and contracts,” he says.
“I particularly believe in low-level entrepreneurship,” he says, “And I don’t think you can get much lower level than a guy chucking hot dogs out of a cart to people on a sidewalk.”
He promises more Philadelphia-based episodes, including spots on roast pork carts and a cheesesteak crawl, partnering with Ben Kessler of Unbreaded, whom we have covered. In mid-March, Delaney was shooting at University City’s vegetarian cart Magic Carpet.
But because city street vending licenses are tied to specific locations, Delaney says, many cart owners sit on a single corner for decades, relying on the cheapest, most common fare and not taking any chances. Licenses without guaranteed locations, like they are in New York, he says, breed competition and bring more diverse choice.
It’s here when Delaney seems most excited and passionate — food legislation.
That enthusiasm and the glut of other food blogs are all possible because of an increasingly better-versed public, he says, which is in thanks to the Food Network.
“It has built a new vernacular for food and entertainment,” Delaney says. “And then in just the last three years, there has been a complete change of how entertainment is being created. The Internet is democratic, and the tools to use it are cheaper than ever.”
He’s leveraging that trend of online communities. Vendr.TV will begin to give away merchandise, like T-shirts, to viewers and will soon launch regular “Five Dollar Dinner” meet ups.
He hopes it all will help him get further faster in the development of his product, he says. And for that, he isn’t apologizing.
Every Wednesday, Shop Talk shows you what goes into a tech product, organization or business in the Philadelphia region. See others here.