Why did you enter the awards?
I love street food! It really is a driving force on the high street and reflective of so many current and upcoming food trends. We’re doing some exciting work around street food at H+J, so entering the awards was a great way of raising our profile in the marketplace and showing exactly what we can do.
Street food has become so broad, how did you decide what to cook?
I cooked arepas with bone broth at the final. I chose this as it’s a fantastic example of street food, which also reflects key trends and areas of focus within the industry and our business – namely, free from and reducing food waste. Arepas is a gluten-free Venezuelan dish and, as you can imagine, the bone broth uses ingredients that would usually be thrown away. The result is an exciting and current dish that is accessible to those looking for gluten-free options which also supports the ‘war on waste’.
How do you stay calm under pressure when competing?
Competitions are always nerve-wracking, but once I start cooking I find that I become so absorbed in what I’m doing that I totally forget about the people watching. ‘Practice, practice, practice’ is also my mantra for competitions. If you know exactly what you’re doing and you have your timings worked out, it automatically removes a layer of stress.
Why has street food become so popular?
Everyone now recognises street food and it’s become an established part of our eating out culture. People love to go to street food markets for lunch and evening meals, whether that’s the large established ones in our cities – such as Pop Brixton, Borough Market and White Cross market – or the smaller pop-up food stalls and ones we see in towns across the country. There’s just so much choice and diversity of flavours and textures from across the globe. We’re also seeing street food vendors making the move into commercial businesses, which is bringing it even more into the mainstream.
How do you get street food onto your menus at work?
We do ‘local forages’ to see what’s current and new in the marketplace. We then recreate and adapt the look and feel to work at site level. We work closely with the on-site chefs to keep them engaged and excited about street food and this is a real driver for success.
What effect has it had on contract catering?
Street food has certainly created interest and excitement around menu development at site level with a focus on doing a fantastic job at great value. Some may say that street food takes sales away from sites as people want to go out and enjoy the complete street food environment and experience, but we see that as an opportunity to create different, appealing experiences.
Did you enjoy the competition?
I was very nervous right at the beginning of the final, I can’t lie, but it was a great experience that I thoroughly enjoyed… so much so, I’ve entered the 2018 StrEAT Food Awards and I can’t wait to hopefully compete again!
What’s next in the world of street food?
Street food is ever evolving and at present we’re seeing plant proteins, bone broths and vegan/green bowls proving very popular. But, there will always be room for the classics, such as the burger. Take a look around – the queues speak for themselves!