We speak to Tom Frost, development chef for Elior, who won Vegan Meat-Free Street Food Dish of the Year in 2019.
Why did you enter the awards?
I entered to represent Elior Uk and show off what we can do. It’s also a great day for networking with other chefs and suppliers. I have entered a few times now and its always a great day, winning or losing, as there are some many ideas on display and chefs to chat to.
Street food has become so broad, how did you decide what to cook?
My winning vegan chorizo scotch egg ticked all the boxes for me as veganism was on-trend and the dish itself was full of texture and strong punchy flavours that could all be handheld. The spiced tomato confit I served alongside the scotch egg was something I have been working on for years after getting the recipe from the head chef at one of my first restaurant jobs, and it went perfectly with this dish.
How do you stay calm under pressure when competing?
After working in busy kitchens for years, you get used to working under pressure. In a busy Elior site you can see 2,000 lunches being prepared fresh daily, so only having to make six dishes wasn’t too bad. The most daunting thing for me on the day was having some of the key players in the industry watching me cook.
Why has street food become so popular?
Personally I think it is because the consumer is wanting to eat high quality food packed with flavour, but fast and in a more casual environment compared to traditional restaurant dining. You don’t have to look too far back in time to when if you wanted to eat quickly on the high street in your lunch break, the options were very limited. Now with street food you can have something delicious and different at an affordable price within minutes.
How do you get street food onto your menus at work?
We offer some great grab and go concepts at Elior. To deliver street food in contract catering you have to design the dishes to be served in handheld packaging. We also do a lot of pop-up events, creating a serving area outside for the authentic street food feel.
What effect has it had on contract catering?
Street food has had a massive impact on contract catering, and the consumers have driven the caterers to change their thinking from traditional sitdown counter services. It has also allowed caterers to serve large numbers quickly and efficiently in areas where they may not have had the space for a traditional service.
How did it feel to win?
It was an amazing feeling! All of the chefs on the day were seriously good, so to be one of the winners really was great.
What’s next in the world of street food?
‘Seacuterie’ – charcuterie made with seafood – is one trend that is set to boom in 2020. With tons of flavour and quirkiness about it, I think it will be perfect for street food. Over the last few years more out there seafood has been appearing on the street food scene, with the likes of Asian-inspired octopus dishes becoming readily available on London markets.