Food & Drink

August 5, 2016

Meet the Chefs Swapping Haute Cuisine for Street Kerbs

Why carparks and roadsides are replacing Michelin starred food joints

  • Written by Hugh Thomas

Recently in Singapore, news spread about the first ever street food hawkers to officially receive the highest honour any chef could hope for – a Michelin star. But over here in the UK, Michelin star cuisine has already hit the streets.

Smaller overheads, bigger footfall and open minds have led chefs at the top of their game to leave—or at least branch out from—esteemed kitchens and start selling their food in carparks and on roadsides.

We caught up with a few of them to find out why exactly they swapped glamour for gazebos, and stars for street kerbs.

Pascal Aussignac, Duck’N Roll
Duck confit is something of a staple in homes and restaurants of Toulouse, so when Pascal Aussignac (aka Paski) came to London in 1998, it made sense to bring what he knew with him. His first restaurant, Club Gascon, earned its Michelin star in 2002, but more recently he’s been keen to not limit his dishes to the confines of his restaurants. A more street-orientated approach seemed like a good way to do that.

“Duck N’ Roll is a natural evolution of some of the other activities I’ve done, and still do, such as Taste of London,” says Aussignac. “Street food has developed so much so quickly, and we naturally wanted to be a part of it.”

Chris Harrison, Shoot The Bull
Hull isn’t exactly known as the cornerstone of top-notch cuisine, but there’s evidence that it’s starting to make something of a name for itself. Take, for example, Chris Harrison’s Shoot The Bull, which won the public vote at this year’s British Street Food Awards Northern heat.

It’s a fitting achievement when you’ve worked under the roofs of two of the best restaurants in the country – The Fat Duck and Tom Kerridge’s The Hand & Flowers. And according to Chris, making the switch is not a decision he’s looked back on. “The chance to be part of the Street Food revolution was just too tempting. I knew I had experience from some of the best eateries in the country, possibly the world, so going it alone and taking that quality of food on the road was something I found really exciting,” says Harrison.

Amy Elles, The Laughing Stock
Another Fat Duck alumni, Amy Elles, was set to be the new pastry chef at what she called “a very famous restaurant within a hotel in Scotland” back in 2009. “I was in the shower and thought of buying a food van and travelling around selling food,” says Elles. “And we thought, ‘Fuck it, let’s go for it!’ So we bought a second-hand food truck off eBay four days later.”

Though it doesn’t seem like a long time ago, things were a lot different in 2009. “Street food didn’t exist the way it does now,” says Elles. “We were at the very, very beginning, and only had the rat burger to contend with, along with relatively ratty people serving them up.”

Leo Riethoff and David Underwood, Steak & Honour
Having met at Michelin-starred Alimentum in Cambridge, Riethoff and Underwood would later set up their own business. But after Riethoff won an eBay auction for a vintage Citroën H van, it was obvious plans weren’t going to involve a traditional restaurant. “There’s less space for egos, bravado, aggression – the usual issues you find in a professional kitchen,” says Underwood.

A calmer atmosphere was no bad thing, not least because it meant both their families could also get involved. “Street food is an unforgiving business,” says Underwood. “But cooking at Michelin level instilled exacting standards in us. Every burger is bang on – from the first to the last of the night. Every time.”

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