By Katie Robbins, "Holy Roller,"May/June 2011
Leave it to Los Angeles, epicenter of the burgeoning street-food trend, and a 75-year-old nun to produce a charitable, celebrity food truck. Almost every Tuesday, Sister Alice Marie Quinn’s Cart for a Cause dishes up $10 set menus, prepared and served by a rotating cast of celebrity chefs, including Nobu Matsuhisa and Alex Becker (Nobu) and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (the restaurant Animal). Top Chef winner Ilan Hall has made his Welsh rarebit and former Food Network chef Susan Feniger has whipped up her Vietnamese pulled-pork sandwiches. The location changes weekly, too: Twitter (@CartForACause) and Facebook feeds tell the Cart’s nearly 2,000 followers where to find lunch. Some of the chefs have been surprised by the turnout. Says Dotolo, "It was raining and people were standing there waiting. For the charity and for us. For both."
Since it started last March, the Cart has funneled $80,000 into St. Vincent Meals on Wheels of Los Angeles, which Quinn founded in 1978 serving just 23 people. Now it reaches nearly 5,000 housebound elderly individuals, making it the largest privately funded Meals on Wheels in the country.
Quinn is incredibly grateful for the donations, even though the iconoclastic chefs can sometimes bring out the strict nun in the otherwise affable sister. "I had to say to one guy," she says, recalling his low-riding jeans, "if you don’t pull up your pants, I’m going to leave."