It seems some foodies are no longer satisfied with typical farmers markets. Now trending are underground markets—events typically held at night that involve music, bouncers, and a plethora of tasty treats from local chefs, vendors and fellow foodies.
As writer Patricia Leigh Brown of the New York Times has found, a San Francisco underground market is trying to encourage food entrepreneurs and young vendors to share their wares in a way that roughly avoids the $1,000 a year in fees that a typical farmers market requires. The underground market gets around the need for health permits and liability insurance by operating as a private club where participants become “members” (free) and sign a disclaimer stating that the food may have been prepared in an uninspected space.
Young foodies who attend these raves (or “craves”) have iron stomachs and aren’t afraid to sample foods that haven’t passed an inspection. They want interesting, savory, and sweet concoctions that can expand their food literacy. Call it a rebellion of the Fast Food Generation where craftiness and a do-it-yourself attitude reigns. Food Raves like this are growing across the U.S., and can also be found in places like London and Amsterdam. We see a growing movement likely to entice a new generation of foodies.
Iso Rabins is one of the brains behind the underground market movement. At 30 years of age he has already been successful in the foraging movement by starting a company called ForageSF, a group that leads foraging walks and dinners focused around what they find on the walks such as wild nettle soup with crème fraiche.
Rabins’ goal is to be an incubator for small culinary start-ups and actually make a profit. Vendors pay just $50 to reserve a cooking space, and return 10% of sales over $500 to ForageSF. It’s a win-win considering the price of renting a commercial kitchen for anywhere from $45 to $75 per hour, plus additional fees for space, and permits. Amateur cooks from around the country are pushing to have the right to sell unlicensed goods directly to consumers at these types of underground markets. So-called “cottage food” laws that allow products considered nonhazardous, like pies and cookies, already exist in 18 states, with five more considering similar legislation.
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