Who will define British street food in 2017? Last year, it was Baked in Brick and Buddha Belly – backed up by 15 other traders on the top of their game – who played to the hearts, minds, and stomachs of the British public at the final of the British Street Food Awards. How’d they get there? We’ll give you a hint – there was nary a pizza in sight. The success of Irish tacos, beef shin calzones, and live fire-baked angel cakes meant the people were after something a little different from the usual.
So what’s on the cards this year? We’ll tell you pretty soon – the applications are coming in thick and fast for the Scottish Street Food Awards, and we’ve got the scissors primed over the red tape, as entries for the 7th British Street Food Awards will open shortly.
We’re divulging this now because there’s a lot at stake for entering traders (and, let’s be honest, we’ve got a bit of prep to do if the number of entries comes anywhere near last year’s 3,000). Dishes need to be perfected, suppliers need to be secured, and the public needs to be wooed. But don’t take it from us. Take it from the traders who’ve been there, and bagged a trophy or two in the process. Here are their tips on how to be a good candidate in the awards. So, y’know, if you think you’ve got what it takes…
Broughgammon Farm, 2016 Best Snack Winner
‘Be true to your food story. And try and represent your local or regional food story also. We wouldn’t be here [at the Awards] if it wasn’t for the primary producers, and it’s their stories that are so rarely told.’
Man Meat Fire, 2016 Best Dessert Winner
‘Build a strong social media presence. Remember that once you’re out there on the internet, it’s open season for customers who eat your food to give publicly visible feedback, good or bad – so set your standards of customer service and food quality as high as you possibly can and don’t let them slip under pressure. If you’re not ready, don’t start serving until you are. To be chosen for the BSFA you have to have one of the best all-rounders, plus have something special that sets you apart from the rest.’
Le Bao, 2016 Best Sandwich Winner
‘Take big risks in the flavours and believe in your product. And always ensure the quality of your food is the same all the way from the first to the last customer.’
Dosa Deli, 2016 Best Vegetarian Winner
‘My advice for anyone wanting to get into the finals is to come up with an original food idea – something new and fresh. Maybe something that hasn’t been done yet in the UK. Also make sure your look and feel of the stall or van is also original. Be creative and innovative; don’t be afraid to be the first at something.’
Baked in Brick, 2016 Best of the Best Winner
‘Be different. Stand out. Be the black sheep. Be prepared for the awards to take over your life, always serve every customer as if they are a judge, and don’t over complicate your menu – do one or two items but do them amazingly, and stay true to street food.’
Cheeky Burger, 2016 Best Burger Winner
‘Focus on the quality of your product. Make sure you use top ingredients. Don’t compromise. Each final category decision comes down to judges, so make sure you have a product which is good and represents your brand and what you believe in.
Secondly, it’s a street food festival so the public are interested in many things – good music, cool staff, great look of the stall, half naked dancing lady on the front, you name it. To have a chance to showcase your product to the public you need to first get them to your stall – only then will they try it.’
Buddha Belly, 2016 People’s Choice Winner
‘The hardest thing for us was choosing what dishes to enter – we agonised for ages. Then we just worked on making sure those dishes were the best they could be. We got up at 3am the morning of the awards to get the freshest ingredients possible. Best advice – get some sleep and relax. James didn’t sleep for a week leading up to the awards, which made those two days [at the a Awards] pretty hard work.’