Jennifer Zavala Goes Rogue With Illegal Tamale Truck

“Maybe I’ll get arrested,” she notes.

Jennifer "Fear" Zavala is not a fan of red tape.

Jennifer “Fear” Zavala is not a fan of red tape.

We don’t hear from Philly chef Jennifer “Fear” Zavala that often, but when we do, there’s always a good story there, whether it’s her insane wedding, that time she singlehandedly foiled the world’s dumbest caper with a dirt-simple South Philly sting operation, or tales of her cannabis catering. And now, she’s back with a rogue South Philly tamale truck. Er, make that a tamale van.

Jennifer Fear Zavala and her son Santino in front of their tamale van.

Jennifer Fear Zavala and her son Santino in front of their tamale van.

Zavala will launch her latest venture on Sunday morning with her ten-year-old son Santino, selling tamales out of her graffiti-covered van. We can’t tell you exactly where this is all going to be happening, because she’s not saying until the last possible minute.

You see, Zavala’s tamale van business isn’t exactly above board. You can’t just make and sell food in the city without jumping through all kinds of hoops. You know, the Health Department. The Revenue Department. Licenses & Inspections. Lots of fees to be paid and forms to fill out. Mounds of red tape.

Instead, Zavala simply decided that she wants to sell tamales out of a tamale van, and so she’s doing it, using the Better to ask for forgiveness than permission adage.

“Maybe I’ll get arrested,” she told us when we asked her about it. “No one cares unless haters wanna hate. I’ll go to jail for tamales. Better than violent behavior.” (In all seriousness, we’re pretty sure that you don’t get arrested for an illegal food truck.)

The tamale van will offer a veggie option that’s gluten-free and vegan and — thank goodness — a pork version, both available with a green or red salsa. The tamales are $3 each or two for $5.

“The restaurant scene is boring right now,” Zavala explains. “There’s no staff to staff anywhere because everyone wants to be famous before they work. I miss cooking and it just being that simple. No reviews. No stress. No drama. I just wanna enjoy life and cook, and I’m really good at making these things.”

Plus, she says that she’s using all of this as a teachable moment for her son.

“This is a family operation,” notes Zavala. “Trying to teach humility, purpose and work ethic while still having a blast.”

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