StrEAT Food Awards interview
We chatted to Robbie Lorraine, who won the Best Meat-Free Street Food Dish at the 2018 finals, about his new business...
You seem to have been busy since you won at the StrEAT Food Awards! What have you been up to?
Yes, that’s very true [laughs]! I’ve been extremely busy working on my new business. I moved on from Grazing at the end of 2019, as I was keen to start my own business and pursue one of my long-term goals of opening my own restaurant.
I worked on a couple of consultancy projects, doing menu development for a meal prep company in the early part of the year. However, I focused the majority of my time on building Only Food and Courses, which is a restaurant and pop-up events business that I launched earlier in the year.
Where did the concept for Only Food and Courses come from?
I moved to Kent in the latter part of 2018 and I wanted to get involved in the local cooking scene, so I decided to do a series of pop-ups in and around the local area. I didn’t feel confident that anyone would be interested in a chef coming down from London cooking tasting menus, so I decided to come up with something that would resonate with people. I got in touch with a friend of mine who lives locally and had done a couple of pop-ups himself.
I always knew what I wanted the pop-ups to represent and what they were going to be in terms of food and service – essentially, a seven- to eight-course tasting menu offering good value for money. I also knew that I wanted a relaxed level of hospitality, with no airs and graces and a real sense of comfort and nostalgia.
After bouncing a few ideas about, we randomly ended up talking about Only Fools and Horses, and the more we discussed it, it began to remind me how much I loved the food of the 80s and 90s when it was at its peak. The show really resonated with what I wanted to incorporate into what I was doing with the pop-ups – in particular, the banter, hard work, fun, generosity of real people, positivity, love of family and friends and so on.
Doing the NPD must have been a lot of fun! Where did you take inspiration from and how did you settle on a menu?
Yeah, it’s been great fun, having the freedom to do my food in my way with no boundaries has been amazing! My dishes are inspired by food memories from my childhood and growing up in the 80s and 90s, which was a blast.
How has street food influenced how we eat now?
I believe the quality of street food has improved the food landscape massively over the last five years or so. It has completely broken the mould and has influenced us massively – even high-end restaurants take inspiration from street food nowadays.
You’ve moving into street food at Pop Brixton first. Will that give you an opportunity to test and refine the concept, or were there other reasons?
Absolutely, Pop Brixton is a great opportunity to showcase what our food is all about. It’s a fresh, modern look at dishes that we all know so well from the 80s and 90s, with a playful spin and an element of surprise. Pop is a fantastic urban location which is perfect to launch a first restaurant.
What will the business ultimately evolve into?
We have big aspirations for the business. Firstly, we would like to establish a couple of fixed local restaurants across London and Kent, while also popping up in a few locations across the country. We also plan to roll out a line of meal kits with online cooking courses.
Do you have any other plans for the future?
We have loads of plans for the future… but I can’t reveal them now, so watch this space...