Street Food: USA (2022–…): Season 1, Episode 3 - New York, New York - full transcript

Always on the go, the Big Apple fuels its hustle with soul-stirring shrimp and grits, crisp slices, spicy halal chicken and rice, and snappy dogs.

Who are the real-world Illuminati ?
Find out @

Came up here from Baltimore.

- You came from Baltimore. From B-more?
- Yeah, that's where I'm from.

You ain't come all the way up here
to see me. Don't be tellin' no stories.

I'm Tami.

And I've always wanted to be
the best Tami that I can be.

Hi, handsome.
Did you get somethin' to eat?

I'm a mother

and grandmother.

I'm a sister.

My grandmother taught me how to cook.


- Taste that?
- Good. Very good.

I'm part of this community.

But I'm also a little girl that came up
through the ranks in the streets.

And I know what it's like
not to have money in your pocket

and then smell something
or see something good to eat.

I remember who I am and where I'm from.

That's my secret weapon.

People might argue,
but New York City

is the greatest city in the world.

New York is the mecca.

Like, if New York doesn't go,

the world seems like
it's missing a beat.

It's made of the hustlers,


It is a center for art,
culture, business.

It is a place of migration.
It's a place of immigrants.

People are moving up and down,
left and right, jumping on trains,

getting in and out of cabs.

It's fast-paced.

Street food becomes
a part of that hustle.

You can get any style of food
in New York City


Street food really fuels this city.

Whether it's coffee and a roll,

halal chicken and rice,

a slice of pizza,

or a?hot dog,

street food is the perfect embodiment
of the New York lifestyle.

New York City
is made up of five boroughs,

Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan,
the Bronx, and Staten Island.

But when you think of communities
in New York City in general,

Harlem is its own place.

Some people forget
that Harlem is a part of Manhattan

because it stands
alone in its own?regard.

Bebop was born in Harlem.

Malcolm X's birthplace was in Harlem.

Adam Clayton Powell.
It is Black excellence.

And that's where you will find
Chef Tami from Harlem Soul Food.

What kind of day have you had today?

I try to have
the most amazing day every day.

Chef Tami's making
all deliciousness.

Fried whiting, mac 'n cheese balls,
shrimp 'n grits.

I still don't know how she puts
all that food out in that small cart.

What you havin', beloved?

Come on over here and talk to me.
Don't be shy.

But she's generous, super-smart,
resilient, a hustler, a fighter.

Oh, she's quintessential Harlem.

You've never been here before?

- We just moved here.
- From California.

Well, welcome to Harlem, baby.

And knows how to cook
some goddamn good grits.

What can I get for you, baby?

Can I do the shrimp 'n grits?
Um, two of those, please.

- Two shrimp 'n grits?
- Yes.

You got it, mama.

I love feeding people.

Come and get it. Come on.
You want a combo?

I know that that's a huge part
of my purpose here on this earth.

I got an uptown fish 'n chips!

My little granddaughter
said every time I'd leave the house,

"Grandma's going to
cook for the people."

I got an uptown combo.

Where's Brenda? Brenda!

Come get your po'boy!

Hi, beautiful.

That's how we do it here
at Harlem Seafood Soul. Enjoy, beloved.

My food, it brings people together.
I'm a nurturer.

I got a shrimp po'boy waiting,
a shrimp 'n grits waiting.

I'm super excited and happy when someone
rolls their eyes at me and gives me the...

"Mmm, girl! Mmm!"

It takes them to a happy place.

That gives me joy.

And it makes it
a hell of a lot easier for me

to say, "Go ahead.
I love you. Have a nice day."

Do I need to pack up and leave,
or should I stay and continue?

Stay and continue.

There. Look at that!

Here, wipe that up, baby.
Go ahead. Yeah, get that right there.

I just wanna see people
love up on each other again.

And not in a nasty way.

I got a grown
and sexy fish po'boy for somebody.

Come on up and get it.

- What did you decide, hon'?
- I still don't know.

Okay, so you want me
to decide for you?


Because what I'm really serving up
is some ol' school mama love.

When you think of New York City,
you think of a slice of pizza.

- You got the large fresh with 'roni?
- No, no, he just took it.

Manny, I need a bucket of sauce.

Slice shops were made for New Yorkers.

The turnover is so rapid.

- ...once you get carried in here.
- Thanks, Gio.

Thank you, sweetheart. Bye-bye.

How you doin', Mike? What's going on?

It goes in the oven,
and you're in and out in five minutes.

The classic New York slice? Good
balance of sauce, dough, and cheese.

And nice and crisp, well done.

It's like heaven.

A slice is the ultimate street food.

It's the only food I know
I can fold and put in my pocket,

if I?want to go back to it later.

My parents came to America
from Calabria, Italy for an opportunity.

My father started working
in the cemetery eight to five,

and five to four in the morning,
he worked in the pizzeria.

It was a lot of blood and sweat,
until he saved enough money

and opened this up in 1973,
with a dream to make the family better.

I've been here all my life,
and I love being here. This is my home.

I love making pizza.
My father couldn't understand that.

I went to work at an office
and it wasn't rewarding at all.

It lasted all of maybe a year.

Eric, what are you eating?

Square, of course.

My boss came here
and spoke to my father,

and my father said to him...

In Italian, that means,
"My son is a ciuco," a donkey.

He wants to make pizza,
like a knucklehead.

You gotta love what you do.

The magic of pizza.

Yeah. I'm getting
another bucket of sauce.

Yeah, kid, put those four slices in.

And put that fresh in.
We'll cut that fresh up also.

I love being here
because I draw strength from it.

My mother and father passed away.
They're in?the store with me.

When somebody says it's good,
that's my mother saying,

"You're doing okay, kid."

Grandma's gonna show you.
First thing is measure out one cup.

When I was a little girl,
we didn't measure out stuff.

We just knew what we needed.

I was born in the early '60s.

When I was coming up,
Harlem wasn't an easy place to live.

But everybody looked
out for one another.

Families supported other families

because everybody was?basically
in the same boat.

My mother was a single breadwinner,

and she did what she had to do
to keep a roof over our heads.

But she wasn't affectionate.
She didn't have time for all of that.

And when there's something lacking,
you make up for it in a different way.

And, for me, that was cooking.

In my family, the main thing
that everybody did when we got together,

besides just listen to good music,
was cook good food.

There was never any shortage of
anybody in the kitchen trying to outdo

somebody else's mac 'n cheese
or shrimp 'n grits.

That's it, mama.
Grandma's girl! She know what she doin'!

- 'Cause you're on from this point forward.
- Oopsie!

You making Thanksgiving
mac 'n cheese. Gotta get this right.

So we're gonna take
my little handy-dandy strainer here...

- Right?
- "Handy-dandy"!

And sometimes,
it can get rather cutthroat.

Because they would let you know
if you had too much pepper,

or you didn't have enough seasoning,
or it was overcooked or undercooked.

Everybody thought that they had
the best mac 'n cheese recipe.

- Yes!
- There we go!

Cooking together
gave me great comfort growing up.

God is great. God is good.
Let us thank you for our food.

Bow our heads. We all fed.

Daily bread, Jesus's name. Amen.

I don't think you can go
more than three blocks in New York

and not run into a place that
you can get halal chicken over rice.

The best ones, they have a little twist.

They're adding a spice
that other people aren't.

And that's the cool thing
about chicken and rice.

Hello, darling.
How you doin' today?

I'm good. How are you, miss?

My name is Mando.

I was born in Alexandria, Egypt.

I make my nation's food in New York.

It's chicken over rice, gyro, falafel.

Many things and people love it.

The equal for halal is kosher.

Halal chicken and rice is big,
bold, delicious, spicy.

- What's up?
- Hey.

Can we get
two chicken and lamb gyros, please?

Enjoy the rest of your day, man.

My father used
to have a spice store,

and I see many restaurants
come to pick up the spices.

And ask my dad about
what we do with the chicken

to give more flavor
to the vegetables and the meat.

So I was learning from him,
and I listened to him.

So I get the chance
to immigrate to America in 1986.

My dad, he was sad.

But I said, "Let me do what I want."

I started as dishwasher and busboy
in the kitchen.

Until I opened my business 20 years ago.

I put some, uh,
background touch to the food.

I marinate the chicken.

I keep it at least 14 hours.

That's the difference.

The morning I come
to make the rice, the salad.

Everything is fresh.

You have to give the
chicken time to cook.

You don't have to rush the... the meat.

So good that it makes you
come back for more

and hopefully it makes people
learn about the culture.

I have Chinese customers.

I have Latino customers.

I have from all nationalities.

I love it.

I met the man who would become
my husband when I was 22 years old.

He offered me a ride.

And what a hell of a ride it was.

Greg and I, we were
like Bonnie and Clyde.

He had a smart woman.

I had a man with a strong hustle.

We raised, successfully, three children.

Cooking was always my passion.

I did fundraisers and?different events.

But I worked in
healthcare for many years.

And then one day,


became ill.

I had cancer.

I had eight surgeries, chemo.

And that was like hell.

And while I was sick
and in the hospital,

I got fired.

It was a very dark time.

It took me about four years

to deal with everything
that was going on in my body

and trying to heal from all of that.

But then I started getting stronger
and stronger and better.

I'd start to think,

"What am I gonna do next?"

In New York,

if you wanna be
a successful street vendor,

you better be adaptable,

you better be hardworking,

and, I think more than anything,
you have to be tough-minded.

Oh boy!

I've been in business 40 years.

Uh, they call me the Hot Dog King

because I probably make
the best hot dog in New York.

A classic New York hot dog,

it's an all-beef hot dog,
cooked on a griddle,

with mustard, sauerkraut,
relish, and those weird, sweet onions.

It's garlicky,
and it's got this great snap.

And that snap is key
to a New York hot dog.

The good thing about our hot dog is,

even though you put these toppings on,
you taste the hot dog.

...regular hot dog
with just ketchup.

I started in 1980
after I did a couple tours in Vietnam.

By 1990, I was the largest hot-dog
company in the history of the city.

I had 499 carts on the street.

Everything was doing great,
and then Giuliani had a law passed

to take away the permits from everybody
who'd had more than one.

They took all my
permits, and that was it.

I lost everything,
but they left me with one permit.

So I borrowed a cart,
and I started to hustle.

- Thank you.
- Okay, thanks.

I set it up in front of
the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And, when I got there, the cops came,
and they started harassing me.

I said, "Listen to me."

"Every time you come here,

I'm gonna move ten feet
closer to the center of the museum."

Then they come and arrest me.

The next day,
I just came right back to where I was,

set up again.

And I worked.

- Hi.
- Can I get two hot dogs?

What would you like on 'em?

One with mustard and ketchup,

And over the years, they've
done everything to me. Everything.

But I'd never stop.

I do what I gotta do.

I've got 18 and a half years
to go before I retire.

I'm gonna retire when I'm 90.

Then I'm gonna go to Alaska,
and I'm?gonna pan for gold.

And that's... That's my dream. That's it.

So I got a little bit more time to go.

After I went through
that process of healing,

I had no idea what I was gonna do.

While stumbling on food trucks

can actually be like
finding a meal in an oasis,

there's growing popularity in
an?eco-friendly future of food trucks.

One day, I was watching
my favorite morning shows,

and I heard about 500 food carts
hitting the streets of New York City.

I sat up in bed,
and I felt, like, a physical reaction

because I realized that the only thing
that's given me great comfort is cooking.

Cooking makes me feel good.

And two days later,
I had worked out all the details

for a mobile kitchen of my own.

My family thought I was crazy,
but I felt confident.

The menu came together over
two or three weeks of insomniac nights.

I took a little bit from each member
of the family that I love.

I knew I wanted to do a shrimp 'n grits,

or any of the po'boy sandwiches,
and fried mac 'n cheese bites.

We'll be done with this pan in no time.

I knew that I was gonna be
on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue

because that's where
I was born and raised.

Very first day,

I was so excited.

And I remember the...

...first batch of fish that I fried.

I turned to the window,
and there was a line forming.

- Welcome to Harlem, baby!
- Yeah!

And this is the best food in the 'hood!

So I'mma see y'all on the reg'.
Y'all family.

I felt like I was doing
what I was put on this earth to do.

Very soon after we started,
someone nominated us

for the New York City Vendy Awards.

After the Vendy Award nomination,
it just blew up.

People were falling in love
with my energy,

falling in love with my food.

Then you can go over and
help yourself to some of my VIP seating.

But your food will be right out.

From the time I opened,

my business was really,
really starting to build momentum.

The only bad part about it is
I ain't got enough.

- Okay!
- That's it.

And then, late February of 2020,

everything stopped.


So Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing that
state of emergency at a press conference...

The city now has at least three dozen
confirmed cases of coronavirus...

Harlem was like a ghost town.

And March 21st was my last day

on 125th Street selling food
to the people that I love.

People started dropping like flies.

I can't even tell you how hard it was.

And then my husband, Greg, got sick.

On April 18th,
the father of my children, my friend,

my partner for over 30 years

died from COVID.

And that was just the wrecking ball
that knocked me down.

Every thought that I think be blessed.

Every step that I take be blessed.

Every thing that I touch be blessed.

A whole year went by.

Emotionally and mentally

I was not myself.

I couldn't pull it together.

The city was opening up,

and I couldn't even fathom
coming back out on the street

and try to cook food for folks.

I tried to come back in April.

I tried to come back in May.

And I just couldn't do it.

And then one day,

my little granddaughter

looked at me, and she said,

"Grandma, when you gonna go
cook for the people again?"

Just the balm that I needed.

She reminded me
of my purpose here on this earth.

I knew what I needed to do next.

When we came back...


What a day! I can still feel
the nerves in my stomach.

I was nervous that nobody would show up.

I was hoping and praying

that I could see some people
that I haven't seen in a long time.

We sat there for
probably a couple hours.

And then someone pulled up
and said, "Hey!"

Get on over here! It's been two years!

It's been two whole years!

I love you.
And thank you for stopping by today.

And I... and I think I lost it.

They quickly let me know that,
not only do they remember who I am,

they've missed me.

- Okay.
- All right. Come...

- I love you.
- I love you more!

And we've been going steady
ever since.

Long time no see!

Look what you done went and did!

- Can I get the uptown combo?
- Your usual?

- Yes, and...
- The mac 'n cheese?

I wanna taste everything.

Oh, girl! I got a po'boy
with your name on it!

- It's so good to see you.
- It is good to see you too.

COVID crushed New York City.

COVID affected everybody in a way.

But New Yorkers are tough, resilient...

We will figure it out.

And that's Chef Tami, right there.

New York's a complicated place,

but there are some things that
we all can wholeheartedly celebrate,

and that's street food.

In the streets, it's tough,

but it's fun.

I love it.

There is a new appreciation
for street food.

You can't help but admire
the people who make it.

All work is the same to me.

It doesn't matter if
it's sheet metal work,

hot dogs, building a house.

It's all the same, there's just work.

And the key to it all is
just do it the right way.

Grab some slices. What do you want?

My father always fed people.

He always said,
"People are hungry, you feed them."

That's the greatest gift, saying,
"Hey, I know he's eating. He's full."



hot dog,

it's all coming from immigrants.

Soul food,
coming from the Great Migration,

then it has?become New York food.

And these four things
are now American food.

This is what America is.

And out of that movement of people,
you get deliciousness,

you get amazing food...

and it might teach you something.

I got a combo for you, baby.

All right, can you see
all that love I put into it?

Yes. I woke up this morning
just to make you happy with this.

- I love you. Thank you.
- All right. Now you go and enjoy this.

Harlem Seafood Soul

will always be part
of the Harlem community.

- Your food'll be right out.
- All right.

All right. Come on. Hey, baby!

And it's important

that I continue to love up
on the people with the food,

slapping the shit out of everybody
with the flavor in that first bite.

It's so good
I lost my balance at one point.

- It just felt home cooked. It was really...
- Yeah.

It is home cooked!
This is a real kitchen here!

It blows my mind
that people keep coming back

and coming back and coming back.

And that has given me so much joy,

so much love,
and so much encouragement to keep going.

I'm gonna continue to go.

The love that I get from this community,
it's genuine. It's real.

And as long as I have the health
and strength and breath in this body,

I'm gonna continue to do what I love,

which is loving right back up
on the community that loves me.

New Orleans is food.

It's music. It is love.

I love New Orleans and life, baby!

The street food of New Orleans
really gets to the soul of the?city.

We love our food here.
We take it very seriously.

It's almost religion.

Who are the real-world Illuminati ?
Find out @