Archives for posts with tag: British Street Food Awards

BSF 2013

This week the British Street Food Awards 2013 were announced and there has been a lot going on since I talked about these awards last year.

Street Food has long been the centre of food creativity in many many countries, most especially in the Far East and India. But since it hit the avenues and promenades of the US it has taken on a marketing slant, defining a whole new way of eating. New York quickly tagged on but it was in LA that I really got it. I fondly remember being in Abbot Kinney and experiencing First Friday –  a hyper street of food trucks on the first Friday of every month. The food truck is where the city discovered chefs like Roy Choi and his Kogi tacos and in the same way, so young pretenders came into the fold in the UK.

I have spoken a lot about Pitt Cue co. who started in an airstream trailer under Hungerford Bridge and now they are permanently placed in their restaurant near Carnaby Street. The mobile food truck was the birthplace of other now permanent places such as MEATliquor, Yum Bun, Homeslice and Daisy Green. This formula of trying out a concept in a more secure and less costly format has worked for many.

Eat Street

As individual traders, it is hard to know the best sites to go to and so it is important for people to find ways of pulling together and create a big street in which to eat. My first experience in Britain was at Eat St in Kings Cross, now under the brand KERB. The team cherry pick the best of the best for their offering every week at the ever growing enclave that surrounds the Kings Cross development. It is such a great place to chill and the mobile offering is a clever position for people discovering all that is in the area.

Specially commissioned by the clan at Trinity Kitchen

Specially commissioned by the clan at Trinity Kitchen

Last weekend I was up at home and my Mum took me to see the new Trinity Centre in Leeds city centre. It is quite a development, most fitting for such an important UK city, and then I learned about Trinity Kitchen. Those clever people at the centre decided to embrace the whole street food trend and put mobile trucks on the food floor of their impressive mall, supported by 5 pop up traders to add variety. This team have really understood the fashion and so it was no surprise to see them sponsoring the British Street Food Awards and celebrating the winner with these specially commissioned biscuits.

So who won this year? well the top prize went to Bristol based duo from Katie and Kim’s Kitchen. Their stovies, oatcakes and toasted cheese scones were all highly commended in different categories and overall, this added up to the big prize.

Here comes the book...

Here comes the book…

Entries covered the whole world in cuisine with offerings from across Europe, Taiwan, Mexico and the US. People really have figured out the truck concept and the quality of food is now better than ever. True to form, previous winner Ginger’s Comfort Emporium won again with their incredible ice cream and the one to watch went to Best Young Trader Stan’s Snow Cones. This 13 year old discovered People’s Pops in New York and brought the concept back to Lewes to create his wonderful snow cones. Clever boy.

Nick Jones is a clever man and someone who has his finger on the zeitgeist pulse.

He is one of those entrepreneurs that you cite when the debate about education comes up having left school at 17 with poor academic qualifications and an unsupported issue with dyslexia. He moved from school into the catering world simply because he had a love of food…and the rest, as they say, is history.

Babington House

Private Members Club Soho House was closely followed by Babington, a country house hotel and suddenly Mr Jones was on the radar. At the time, indulging in weekends away at a boutique hotel was simply a concept in the lovely Nick’s mind and yet some 14 years later it is positively mainstream. He developed an old country house with contemporary fixtures, flat screen TV’s and cosy dressing gowns in every room plus a lovely restaurant  and spa on site. So the Cowshed brand was born.

Now the Soho House Group has an international repertoire of houses, hotels, restaurants, cinemas, magazines, drinks and so much more. But what I find most interesting is how every time there is a new project it is on the money in terms of trend.

Pizza the Mozza way

The latest developments to hit the mark are the Pizza East restaurants. Created in the Tea Building, Shoreditch, they are wonderful spaces that took a pizza recipe from the iconic Pizzeria Mozza in LA and signature meatballs from The Meatball Shop in NYC putting the two together into a trendy setting with wood fired ovens, great ingredient sourcing, uber trendy staff with thick rimmed glasses and there you are….a recipe for success.

I have been going to Pizza East, Shoreditch for some time now, combining it with the lesser known rooftop garden at the Boundary hotel in the Summer and more recently going to Boxpark. When they opened their second site in Notting Hill it was wonderful to see how they had developed the concept from a huge open warehouse space into a local neighbourhood eaterie with a clever use of colour to differentiate the two.

So when Pizza East Kentish Town opened round the corner from me, I was fascinated to see how it would be further developed. What was clever about this iteration was the use of the site itself, which combines three concepts onto one site keeping rents down and footfall up…genius. First there is Pizza East taking centre stage, but below that is The Chicken Shop: a below stairs simple roast chicken restaurant and at the back, in a glorified car park shed lies the last piece of this jigsaw: Dirty Burger. Each place has a look, feel and venue that matches its identity perfectly. And each specialises in doing one thing well whether it is a burger, simple roast chicken or great pizza.

It strikes me that Mr. Jones has finally figured out how we as Brits embrace the whole street food culture. There has been much debate over the years how this can be done as the US led the way in clever mobile units of scrummy food but it never really kicked off here. More recently, and with the launch of British Street Food Awards, there has been some growth in that whole style of eating. This year, winners come from even further afield and underpin the quality and diversity of food that can come from passionate people who really do want to bring something unique to the market. But what happens then? How do you make a living selling one thing out of a mobile, however well you make it?

The options vary. In London, the Eat Street team do a great job of pulling together talented cooks and their street food. They have a consistent and prominent site in Kings Cross and together have more power to market themselves for events, catering and much more. Also going from strength to strength are the Pitt Cue guys who have become pin ups for the evolution of street food with their central London restaurant going from strength to strength. They are now breeding their own Middlewhite and Mangalitza pigs in Hampshire…who have their own twitter feed, should you be interested! So street food chef becomes restaurateur and evolves into food producer.

With his three concept site, Mr. Jones has found a way of offering customer choice without incurring crazy infrastructure costs. Mobile units are replaced with permanent sites but each one shares a third of the risk. The only challenge for me is the product itself. Whilst it came highly recommended, I found the chicken lacklustre. Maybe it was the early time we arrived (in an attempt to miss the queue) but our 6.30 meal was lukewarm, soggy skinned and a little bit dry. Even the sauces, which will surely become a foray into retail, were watery and lacking depth. Still, this didn’t seem to stop people coming and I found it particularly endearing to see so many male friends sharing a plate of chicken with simple sides. Me and my very own Mr. Jones found some comfort in the apple pie served directly to our plates from one enamelware pie dish but sadly it was not enough to compensate for the disappointing chicken.