A number of the talented street food traders on our site have come from some of the most famous kitchens in the country, cooking up a storm alongside the likes of Heston Blumenthal, Mark Hix and Daniel Galmiche. Looking for a little more autonomy and longing to interact more closely with their customers, these excellent chefs embarked on independent street food missions, swapping their toque blanche for beanies, and relishing the opportunity to control their own branding, timetables and menus… Chef de partie to chef de party!
ChilliDogs, Dan Chard
Dan had worked for over 8 years as a chef in a variety of high-end restaurants, such as The Hind’s Head in Bray, cooking alongside the likes of Daniel Galmiche and Heston Blumenthal, before he created ChilliDogs with his wife, Steph. Upon realising that he didn’t want to spend his life inside a crazy kitchen working 18 hour days, he embarked on a street food journey and him and Steph now spend every waking moment together!
“When I quit my job working for Heston to create my own street food company, all my family thought I was mad! But it was the freedom that it would allow me to have and the ability to 'do my own thing' was so appealing. Working in Michelin starred kitchens taught me so much, giving me great discipline and a real understanding of the science behind food and confirmed my love of working with nature’s best ingredients. However, it was starting to seem like a never-ending treadmill and I wanted to get off! Although I didn’t think it could get much tougher than some of the kitchens I’d worked in, I’ve been proven wrong on many occasions. However, I don’t think I could ever go back, now that I’ve experienced the freedom and satisfaction you get from creating your own thing and seeing it through to that smile on the customer’s face.”
Waffle Doodle-doo, Ishmael Boateng
Ishmael was trained by Mark Hix, MBE at Hixter Bankside, where he had his first job as a chef, specialising in chicken, steak and seafood, before going mobile and setting up Waffle Doodle-Doo, finalists in last year's British Street Food Awards. He’s even made Gordon Ramsay lunch!
“I have always been passionate about cooking and with my mum being half Ghanaian and half Egyptian, I was introduced to different flavours and spices from an early age. I started my journey as a chef at Hixter Bankside, where I got to train and work with some of the best chefs in the industry. I always appreciate how hands on and passionate Mark Hix was with food - I guess that’s what attracted top chefs to come and eat at Hixter. My most memorable experience was cooking a chicken escalope for Gordon Ramsay - he wasn’t that hard to please as his plate was empty!? He would often visit the restaurant and have lunch with Mark. Street food for me is expecting the unexpected - it’s exciting that you can walk through a market and get different flavours and cuisines all under one roof. I got into street food as I wanted to raise the bar, taking restaurant quality food and delivering it to the street. I think street food is the future and I love the fact that more chefs are breaking out into street food markets.”
Cheeky Burger, Sebastien Lambot
Sebastien from Cheeky Burger was the head chef of a gastro pub in Marylebone called Chapel for 10 years before making it big in the street food world. He is a classically trained French chef and has even appeared on Masterchef Professionals! Cheeky Burger were winners of the best burger in the UK British Street Food Awards in 2016 and finalists in 2017.
“I was the head chef of a very credible gastro pub in Marylebone for many years. We won a few awards and had lots of articles in the press in the UK, France, the USA and even Japan. The focus was on simplicity and ingredients and we always made everything ourselves, from jam and bread to pasta and sauces, even butchering our own meat. When we started Cheeky Burger I thought it was a crazy idea, I didn’t want to do burgers. We started making our own bread, pickles, ketchup and everything else and Marta was the menu taster. You get caught in the game of growing the brand and suddenly you’re not a chef anymore… you’re a driver, mechanic, engineer, cleaner and then you become a manager too. For about a year, I wasn’t happy to say that I was a street food trader, I felt a bit of shame having previously been a chef. Now there is such better food on offer and even Michelin star restaurants have started to do street food, so I can finally say that I’m proud to be part of the industry. The beauty of it all is is that I get to spend more time with my wife and son.”
Pot’O’Rizotto, Chris Vine & Beata Illes
This cheffing couple have over 20 years of high end restaurant experience between them, with Chris working in a number of popular Essex restaurants, including the esteemed Maison La Talbooth, where he was head chef for 6 months. Beata was a pastry chef at the famous country retreat, Stoke by Nayland for a year and a half and they have combined their skills to create a top quality street food venture, Pot’O’Rizotto.
"My other half and I started Pot’O’Rizotto with dreams of bringing high end restaurant quality food to the streets, showing that it’s possible to have fancy dishes on the go. We both have many years of experience in high end kitchens, so for private hire we go very fancy and decorative! We often find it quite challenging to 'build the queue' as in a kitchen you have to process the dishes as quickly as you can. We brought this speed with us to markets, so usually we are the quickest of all traders to serve - I guess we need to learn how to chat to customers and just relax. Working in high end kitchens has taught us impeccable standards and we have very high standards when it comes to cleanliness and food quality. Pot’O’Rizotto has only been running since 2016 and we don’t have enough work to pay ourselves a wage, which is why we are also agency chefs on the side. It sometimes feels impossible, but we work our asses off to make it happen!”
Muffin Man & Co, Claire Hodgson
Claire has worked in restaurants for over 8 years and was both the head chef at Ottolenghi Islington and the famous NOPI. She set aside her apron for a more independent street food adventure in Muffin Man & Co, using the English breakfast muffin as her muse and taking it to the next level.
“I absolutely loved the buzz of working in a restaurant and Ottolenghi are an amazing company to work for. After 8 years of working in restaurants, including Spotted Pig and becoming head chef at Ottolenghi’s flagship store in Islington, I wanted to work for myself and took the leap into street food. I love the variety it brings, being in different locations everyday, as well as having a much more direct interaction with customers. It’s lovely when people come back to the stall and tell you how delicious your food is!”
Urban Cheesecake, Tony Jackson
Pastry chef, Tony gave an old pub in his hometown of Nuneaton a complete makeover, turning it from an abandoned establishment to a booming gastro pub with a month long waiting list. When it was time to move on, Tony and his brother Ash took their most popular dessert from the pub and turned it into a sweet street food venture and a work of art… Urban Cheesecake.
“I’ve worked in the pub/restaurant industry all my life and my family all owned pubs, restaurants and hotels, so service is in my blood! Having spent years as a manager, I took on a closed, tired and outdated pub in a housing estate in Nuneaton. After a negotiation with the brewery, I renamed and rebranded the pub - we served the best cocktails in town and our restaurant was booked solid 6 days a week, 3 or 4 weeks in advance. It was a huge success, but alas, all good things come to an end. Our cheesecake had been a real talking point and pastry chefs (myself and my brother Ash), had perfected the recipe and it was to die for. We did a couple of pop-ups and realised its potential, so it was time to take the plunge - get rid of the pub and enter the competitive street food world, setting our sights on Digbeth Dining Club. One Tuesday afternoon the phone rang and it was DDC asking us to come that weekend - we were a roaring success! Next on the hit list were Peddler in Sheffield, Bustler in Derby, Grub in Manchester and Baltic Market in Liverpool. We have now traded at all of them with many more dates in the diary. Turns out the UK has a bit of a soft spot for good old cheesecake.”
Taco Bill, William Burnett
William is an immensely talented chef who worked at The Goods Shed - Canterbury’s famous farmers market, restaurant and food hall. He started in the butchers at just 15 years old, before moving his way up to the restaurant, Rafael’s, where he was a chef for almost 6 years, before leaving to start his street food business, Taco Bill. The Goods Shed reached 77th in the top 100 restaurants and has been named amongst the top 20 farmers markets in the UK.
“I grew up in the countryside and my step dad was a keen hunter and fisherman type. He would always come back with pheasants, rabbits and lots of different fish and teach me to prepare them. I think this is where my love of food began! I love the business of working in a restaurant and strangely I also love the stress that can come with it. It was when I wanted to start doing other things and spend more time with friends and family that made me decide to leave. Although Taco Bill is in its first year, I’ve noticed such a change in how you can spend your time with a mix of work and life! I’ve always been a fan of street food, especially after working in fine dining restaurants. I love being able to queue for something, and then for something else, and then quite possibly for something else, all within a short space of time. I think the street food industry is growing more popular rapidly. People don’t want to go out and sit for a couple of hours for lunch all the time. Nowadays a lot of people don’t even have time to do things like that! They love grabbing the food on the go and getting messy!”
Bam Bam Crêpe, Karolis Sideravičius
Karolis has been a chef for a number of years, working in well renowned establishments, Cafe Rouge and Strada, with a stint at one of Cambridge’s favourite bistros, The Senate. In October 2016, he sat down in a coffee shop and created his independent street food venture, Bam Bam Crêpe.
“Working in the restaurant industry was one of the best times of my life. It was one big happy (sometimes dysfunctional) family with lots of ups and downs. I learnt a lot - teamwork, placing orders, calculating stocks and managing and motivating a workforce are all key elements that I learnt. I’ve taken it all forward to my own venture in starting a mobile food business. The thrill of choosing which events you do, your working locations and creating menus and picking your own ingredients is special. The best thing is when things are going well and your name is mentioned by people you’ve never met. For me it was a very surreal ‘oh that’s me’ moment. I didn’t get the same satisfaction back when I was employed in the restaurant industry. In street food, the owner of the business wears many hats - we are the cleaner, cook and manager. The people in this scene have started up their own businesses because they are great cooks and enjoy sharing their creations - this tends to be their passion and calling. We often swap food and analyse each others dishes because it’s what we love.”
Rad Burger, Benjamin Kelly
Take it from us, these are some of the best burgers around, handcrafted using the finest ingredients. As well as top quality free-range meat, Rad Burger make all their sauces in house and we love the Rad Beef, made with grilled halloumi, streaky smoked bacon, garlic mayo, mango chutney and rocket. We spoke to Ben about his time amongst the culinary crème de la crème on the Orient Express…
“I spent 3 glorious years working on the Orient Express as a silver service steward. During this time I met some of the best chefs in the country and rubbed shoulders with the culinary elite. I also worked at my uncle's restaurant, Wallets Court. He is now at the ripe old age of 70 but was the head chef at Le Gaverouche for more than 20 years working under the Roux Brothers. Being brought up in a massive bustling family, there was always a huge meal being prepared and the younger generation would be expected to jump in and get involved. I decided to move into the street food world because I loved the buzz I got from it and the open platform it gives you to express yourself and your food. There aren’t any rules or boundaries and I love that! Overall I feel pretty positive about the street food industry, but the game is changing and we need to keep on top of it all the time as so many new stalls are popping up all the time - competition is healthy though!”
“We’re foodies that have been born out of the restaurant industry.”
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