Special feature: Streets ahead

Britain’s appetite for gourmet street grub smashes £600m a year

Across the streets of the UK, magic is being made, as young chefs spin their culinary wizardry from converted campervans, trucks and trailers. 

Now in its ninth year, the British Street Food Awards has welcomed a record number of regional cooks to the competition, bringing a carnival of multi-cultural cuisine, in the run-up to the London-based finals next month (September 21-22). 

Street Food Movement and Awards (2009) and European Street Food Awards (2017) is astounded by the variety of inspirational dishes being dreamed up on our streets. 

The 2018 Awards come at an exciting time for BSF, the team behind the British Street Food Awards. They are still curating their craziest street food scheme yet . . . to HOIST vans, trucks and trailers onto the first floor of the upmarket Trinity Leeds. They are also developing street food ‘brands’ for Euston station and putting traders into pubs with their Pub Takeover project. 

Richard, a former food critic for the Independent, has been at the forefront of the UK’s street food scene. He says: “When I started the BSFA in 2009 we struggled to fill one car park in Ludlow with good traders. The prize back then was a stick blender. 

“This year, we’ve had over 3,000 applicants, we have five regional heats, a big London final and last year we launched the European Street Food Awards. It’s just so inspiring.” 

Richard describes the variety of food now on offer in the UK as “quite staggering” . He adds: “To give you an idea of the range of food we have in the competition this year, there are Sri Lankan, Punjabi, South African, Korean, Greek, Peruvian, French, Caribbean and Chinese cooking side by side across England, Scotland and Wales.” 

“Each year this exciting and funky food scene grows by 20%,” says Richard who reports that the sector is now worth a staggering half a billion pounds. 

And in the year the Michelin Guide created its first ‘starred’ street chef (Chan Hon Meng, Singapore) Richard believes the UK is THE street food hot spot to watch in 2018. 

“It is indicative of a change that Michelin is modernising enough to realise that great food does not have to come with white tablecloths,” says Richard. 

“There is no question that the quality of finalists at this year’s British Street Food Awards are producing Michelin-starred food every day, but street food doesn’t really fit in with the Michelin system. As far as I understand, the difference between a Michelin two star and a Michelin three star is all about the shine on your knives and the thickness of your tablecloths. It’s about utter perfection, rather than anything else. 

“The British Street Food Awards in their widest, most glorious sense are all about finding the new food heroes, bringing them to the streets with music and craft beer, wine, cocktails, big tables lots of talking and hanging out together. They make the world a better place to be.” 

Visit the British Street Food Awards at britishstreetfood.co.uk/awards/.

>>Click here to read the rest of the August 2018 issue of Stir it up magazine <<