By Dariel Pradas
April 3, 2021
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Many people are already talking about the news -and also the dishes- of a food truck next to the Parque Central Hotel, on Virtudes Street, in the municipality of Old Havana.
Every day, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., a truck with the best retro style of the 1940s parks at that address. Its menu of chicken, pork, hamburgers and other fast-food variants attracts a clientele that, without queue or matazón [slaughter?], comes to taste the culinary standards deduced from the Iberostar chain and its five-star plus “inn”.
The offer also provides a free home delivery service and, although some people find its price onerous in general, others find it economical in comparison with gastronomic businesses in the self-employed sector.
A food truck is basically a vehicle capable of offering any type of menu in streets, squares, fairs and, in essence, open places: a sort of mobile kitchen.
In recent years, this practice has become so popular around the world that filming TV programs in such trucks, complete with chefs, aprons and gourmet terminations, has become commonplace.
It is said that the food truck on Virtudes Street is the first of its kind in Cuba; however, Jose Luis Ayala, deputy general manager of the Parque Central Hotel, says that the Melia Habana inaugurated one before, only that it focused on cocktails, not food. The Comodoro and Cohiba hotels also have similar vehicles.
In the 1980s, Ayala says, trucks with the same purpose of the food truck used to appear at several Havana events, but without the specialization and technologies of their current relatives: with their griddles, fryers, microwaves, scrubbers, their own electric plants, water recycling systems, policies that establish the exclusive use of biodegradable materials…
“It’s not just selling food for the sake of selling, but doing so with an image that identifies the hotel, is attractive and complies with the relevant ecological standards,” argues the assistant manager.
Sales in pesos are also important
The idea of the food truck in Cuba came from the then president of Cubanacán, Yamily Aldama, now deputy minister of Tourism. The goal was, according to Ayala, “to boost domestic sales, and then, to bring the hotel product closer to the towns and places where the summer events took place.”
In 2019, summer fairs began to be organized with the participation of hotel gastronomy. Parque Central repeated these experiences in Virtudes Street, La Piragua and other locations.
“We saw that it was a business opportunity, with a sustainable income, and that the service was recognized by customers, both by residents and local tourists who were passing through the city,” says the deputy director, who discussed a thesis in 1991 on the influence of Cuban food on tourism.
To perform this service in outdoor areas, most of the time tents were rented. A food truck would be, for its ease of movement and aesthetic appeal, a much more viable option. Once the investment was approved by the joint venture Amanecer Holding S.A., the owner of Parque Central (Iberostar is the administrator), the truck was imported and arrived in Cuba at the height of covid-19, at the end of 2020.
“The level of tourism has dropped a lot. It was very good for us to have this type of service, because right now, in the stage we are in of the pandemic, we can’t have that influx of foreign tourists,” Ayala admits. “So, we link the offer with the local market segment. As for prices, we can’t say they are cheap, nor very high. We did a study and looked for a balance between the quality of the offer and the price: something that the customer would accept.”
Although the food truck is by far not the hotel’s main business, “it helps to cover the salary expenses we have to pay to keep the hotel open. In addition, we link a large part of the hotel’s workers to the truck”.
Yoinys Pérez, sous chef at Parque Central, thinks that the food truck concept is a very good idea: “We are happy, above all, because we have work. With this we were able to incorporate workers who were at home, at 60 percent (earning that proportion of their usual salary)”.
With his 13 years of experience at the hotel, this specialist found it a little hard to adapt to the small dimensions of the truck, with the heat of the fryer close and constant.
“Sometimes I miss my old kitchen. It’s not the same to prepare a dish to order, where we have a restaurant that is five forks, with all kinds of dishes, products, finishes, sauces… they are dishes that take another kind of treatment,” he sighs suddenly.
“You miss… you miss that adrenaline. On the go, it comes out! Everything by time: starter, main course, dessert. It’s another kind of service, in which the client enjoys the hotel more and the chef innovates and feels more fulfilled.”
Nevertheless, Yoinys has come to appreciate his work in the food truck. For example, he enjoys pleasing local customers, who have a different palate than the foreign tourists he usually serves: “It’s different, but even much better. First, because they speak our language. Second, they have the same tastes as us. It’s what I know how to eat. What my children eat.
Restaurant on wheels
The food truck is here to stay. In the words of general manager Jorge Sáez Parra, “it allows you to adapt to the new reality one hundred percent. It is a service in which you are in the open air. People pass by, take it and eat it wherever they want. It is the same as Iberostar’s Covid protocols. It guarantees gastronomy in a safe way”.
Moreover, after the current pandemic crisis, such a truck will have even more repercussions, perhaps in the context of thawing, starting with fairs and concerts all over Havana.
“The essence of the food truck is to bring the offer closer to the points where there is demand for an agile service and food that does not need to be very specific, but attractive”, says the Spanish director, “It gives you flexibility: like a restaurant on wheels so that you go to where the customers are, not that the customers come to you. That’s its appeal.
Author: Aracelys Bedevia
March 9, 2021
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The enigma of femininity has made men of all times cavillers. [quibblers] —Sigmund Freud
One more step forward in the effort to build a more humane society, a victory for those of us who work and dream for a better world, represents the program Cosas de hombres [Men’s Things] which has been broadcast every Monday for the past two weeks at 10:15 p.m. on Cubavisión channel.
Masterfully conducted by Doctor in Historical Sciences Julio César González Pagés and directed by Yolanda Cabrales, the new proposal has already put on the table two topics that generate plurality of criteria: machismo and feminism. What is it? Are we or are we not?
The guests represent a wide range of professions and activities that relate male behaviors in different social spheres. Víctor Fowler (writer), Rochy Ameneiro (singer), Omar Franco (actor), David Blanco (singer), Norma Vasallo (university professor), Andrea Doimeadiós (actress) and Marilyn Solaya (filmmaker) have spoken with Pagés so far; all of them very committed to the struggle for egalitarian spaces where men and women have the same opportunities and are valued as human beings, regardless of sex.
In Men’s Things there will be, from the scientific area, research, communication and teaching, Félix Julio Alfonso, Patricia Arés, Clotilde Proveyer, Yulexis Almeida, Tania de Armas, Yonnier Angulo, Jesús Muñoz Machín, Andrei Hernández and Francisco Cruz. Alberto Roque, Lisandra Chaveco, Yohanka Rodney, Yosvel Hernández, Oni Acosta, Enmanuel George, Arlin Rodríguez and Neida Peñalver will also be present, said Julio César González Pagés to Sexo Sentido.
Edesio Alejandro, Cristian Alejandro, Maykel Blanco, Israel Rojas, Jan Cruz, Luis Franco, Jorge Luis Robaina (Karamba), Juan Carlos Rivero (Moncada), Ernesto Blanco, Adrián Berazaín and Raúl Torres will accompany the debate with music, acting and direction. The list includes Rodrigo García, Tony Ávila, Alberto Corona, Denis Ramos, Jorge Martínez, Maysel Bello, Lizette Vila, Marcos Herrera and Sebastián Milo. Representing the athletes will be multi medalist Victor Moya, in the high jump.
Dr. Pagés, leader of the Ibero-American and African Network of Masculinities (RIAM) and author of more than a dozen titles (Macho, varón, masculino and Por andar vestida de hombre, among others), says that “the idea came up in 2013 during a visit of director Yolanda Cabrales to my house.
“She had directed Ecos de mujer and wanted to create a space where men were the protagonists. In 2020 Rafael Pérez Insua, director of Cubavisión, called on us to rethink the project. With COVID-19 we had to look for alternatives. The original idea underwent changes, but gained nuances for discussion.”
-How much time will you be on screen and what other topics will you be discussing?
-We will discuss health, paternity, sexuality, violence… There will be 13 segments with a duration of 27 minutes, divided into four parts , with three guests and a section called Tangled Men, which is coordinated by Yonnier Angulo and addresses the impact of social networks on contemporary life and masculinities.
-We talk a lot about violence against women and very little about violence against men. Don’t you think that machismo is one of the reasons why this violence is invisible?
-One of the big obstacles is that women’s demands have been resisted by men who do not see them as a priority. A change of vision from hegemonic masculinities is to give them the prominent place in the effort to end inequalities in order to achieve a more equitable society.
“Revolutionary experiences have taught us that the inequalities suffered by women do not end with the end of capitalism, because there are men who are still interested in maintaining the subordination of women.
“Understanding the issue is complicated when a sector suggests that these demands can divert us from more urgent or important objectives at the national level or consider them sectoral demands, and believe that we can create the bonds of solidarity necessary to transform society without questioning male supremacy.
“More than defending men, it is about knowing [mens’] vulnerabilities and prioritizing an agenda that deconstructs the myths of [male] supremacy. We must first and foremost learn to be full humans in order to live in harmony and not be the source of so much violence and destruction.”
-Is it a good time for a program of this kind?
-Yes, it comes at an excellent time of changes in Cuban society. Laws related to our masculinities are being passed and it is important to be prepared for this. There is a great need to educate the population on the various questions related to masculinities and to offer ways to unlearn toxic macho values.