What we can learn from the London food scene
Being responsible for the organisation of Sunday UpMarket on Brick Lane for a couple of years has been pretty inspiring in terms of creating a creative food business. I have been very lucky to not only get to know many professional and passionate foodies, I was also able to vet and taste their products, making sure they were fit for the market. (I can’t remember being very strict though, as long as their stuff was creative and tasty, they were in!)
Traders would come to see me to present their lovingly prepared dishes in small containers on quite a regular basis, the food was usually passed through the office, making sure everyone got a spoonful.
We were truly spoiled for choice on good days; from Brazilian rice puddings with passion fruit sauce, to home-cooked Malaysian curries and British hog roast in soft white buns with tangy apple sauce. Doing this job was the most amazing time I had in London and getting to know my food traders was a huge bonus.
There’s an amazing street food scene in Britain that is made up of food traders who have converted buses, ice cream vans, old vehicles, trailers or work from beautifully decorated stalls on markets. They have come a long way from the roach coaches that once roamed the countries. British street food is truly something else nowadays. You can find Paella, Vietnamese Banh Mi, Tacos and Burritos, Japanese Okonomiyaki and so forth. A lot of traders have really made a name for themselves, I have heard, that even a British Street Food Award has now been created.
Flying the flag for the British street food scene is my friend Petra, who runs Chocstar and Eat.st. Petra’s Chocstar is a converted ice-cream van, which now serves the most ridiculously delicious chocolate goodies. Her offers change, but the main ingredient mostly remains chocolate. Having worked for Pierre Marcolini and being well traveled, Petra is the bomb when it comes to street food on a sophisticated, yet highly creative level. I still dream of her Millionaire’s shortbread with salted caramel. They’re awesome!
Street food is the best food you can get in Britain, the people behind street food have this wish to make people happy with great tastes and appealing visuals. A lot of love and attention is lavished onto the dishes, the stalls, the vehicles, which clearly raises the standard of the food. Street food is revolutionary. It frees people who love to cook and eat from the shackles of traditional “eating out” structures. It is guerilla-style working and eating intertwined with vision and professionalism.
The quality of the food being served is really important, as is the way it looks. Street trading means attracting as many people to your chosen type of curbside stall or vehicle as possible and looking the part certainly doesn’t hurt. Whilst in Berlin a vinyl banner displaying your offerings will do, in Britain the stall is part of the concept. Making your food look pretty attracts people because curiosity kills the cat or in this case, the cupkake….