samtalbot_big.jpgThe Basics
Age and occupation. How long have you lived here, where did you come from, and where do you live now?
26, cook. I come from Brookline, MA, the first American suburb. I fled to NYC two weeks after high school, nine years ago this June. I've lived in the East Village for the last eight.

Three to go
1. You sell kimchi hot dogs, among other Korean-inspired cuisine, from a pushcart on a street corner. You also have some left of, left of center political views. Do you ever feel like Ignatius Reilly from "Confederacy of Dunces" who also was a hot dog vendor and started the Sodomite Peace Party?
Sure. Being a street vendor isn't really like a normal job -- isn't that why Reilly got it? There isn't any hiding -- you can't even hide from yourself for very long. Everything comes with you, shambling along at a pace you often can't control. Me and Reilly got that in common. And politically, well, being raised communist isn't much like a normal upbringing, either. My dad is from South Africa, where he was a member of the African National Congress. He left the country when being white stopped being a protection from torture, and settled in the U.S., but in some way he is always still fighting that battle. I guess in that case he's more like Ignatius than me -- reworking this past struggle -- but I have some of that sense of displacement, too.

2. You have some pretty strong beliefs about all the media coverage given to America's rising obesity rates. Are you saying our "supersize-it" society doesn't have a weight problem?
America's "weight problem" is blown all out of proportion by phony statistics and fantastic projection. The real story is much more challenging: America is living the results of a decades-long revolution in food preparation, a liberation of women from the isolation and drugery of domestic cooking. I mean, the real change that happened in the 90s was that we passed the tipping point: more food is now made outside of the home than in it. This is progress, even though we're moving through a difficult period where people aren't reliably getting good nutrition. If we want to realize the promise of this revolution, we need to scuttle the retrograde harping on fatness. As far as I'm concerned, "fighting obesity" is a meager and joyless goal, the province of pharmaceutical hawkers and weak-kneed teetotalers. Worse, it's a digression into scolding and guilt-tripping that can only weaken our resolve to follow this great social experiment through to its best conclusion.

3. I was in line waiting for food at your cart around 4am when some thug snatched the cellphone from my hand as I was talking on it. Is this standard late-night Ludlow action or have you seen some really crazy shit?
That was pretty strange, because it was so surprising and inexplicable, but the weirdest thing is watching middle-aged people brawl. I mean, most of the people in their twenties or thirties are just drunk and spazzing out and having rough fun -- it's not scary because there's no real anger involved. They're just as likely to push their friend into a storefront grate as they are to wrestle with a stranger. But seeing these normal-looking 40- or 50-year-olds rolling around in the street involves motives I just don't understand. I saw this aging couple in evening wear get out of their car and choke some guy into submission in the gutter while they waited for the police -- I still have no idea what the fuck that was about.

Proust-Krucoff Questionnaire
Time travel question: What era, day or event in New York's history would you like to re-live?
I would go back to the early 1880s, to era of electrification, when they were still experimenting with "sun towers," these really bright arc-lights on 150-foot poles that would illuminate blocks at a time. A whole new world was opening up, because it was actually becoming safe to be out at night. That's my favorite kind of progress, when something that was wasted before can be used. In particular, I would like to have been there on the evening of May 24, 1883, "the People's Day," the day the Brooklyn Bridge opened. As dark fell, and at the flip of a switch, electric lights lit up all along the bridge and this amazed cry rose up from the street and the rooftops. That cry was a song to the New York we know -- the New York of boroughs and nightlife, the modern age. It must have been wonderful to hear.

What's your New York motto?
"You can't have no hot dog without no bun"

Best celebrity sighting in New York, or personal experience with one if you're that type.
I made pancakes for Iggy Pop.

Finish one of the four following sentences:
"I hate computers for replacing the card catalog in the New York Public Library and I hate the way..."
"...they've invaded the movies." (If you regularly find yourself trying to go to sleep in the full daylight, David Sedaris's books on tape are a godsend. Truly. Also black-out blinds.)

If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
As dark falls, and at the flip of a switch, an amazed cry would rise up from the streets and the rooftops, and that cry would be a song to the New York that we do not yet know. Like what "N'kosi Sikelel' iAfrica" was in South Africa -- a secret song, a song which could get you killed but people sang it anyway. A song is a change worth fighting for -- a change that changes everything.


Besides his pushcart on the corner of Stanton and Ludlow, Sam also has the Red Chef website.