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Birth of The British Street Food Awards

Birth of The British Street Food Awards

by Richard Johnson 26 March 2014

Richard Johnson founded the British Street Food Awards with Marco Pierre White in 2009. He reports on the birth of this annual event which now has seven regional heats attracting traders from all over Europe.

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Richard Johnson is the godfather of British street food.

It was Marco Pierre White who first gave me the idea. Sat on the grass, and eating a street-vendor’s burger slathered with ketchup, we wondered why we couldn’t offer the same thing in Britain. I decided, then and there, that I would do something about our street food. Once I had ordered another burger.

In my time as a food writer and broadcaster (check out my work at www.richardjohnson.flavors.me) I’ve travelled the world. And some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has been on the streets – whether it’s the dusty lanes of Bethlehem, with its hole-in-the-wall falafel shacks serving up pittas fat with hummus, pickle and broad beans, or the highways of Mandalay, with bowls of fishy noodles still salty from the sea.

Coming back home to Britain was always a disappointment. Ten years ago, when I was restaurant critic at the Independent, our food was becoming less of a joke. We had more Michelin-starred restaurants than Italy. But our street food? An embarrassment. It was either a bag of chips, or a cheap sausage on a rusty metal handcart pushed along by a Polish man with three fingers. We needed a revolution. And, like any good revolution, it started on the street.

I signed up Tony, who runs Stoats Porridge Bars. He sold cranachan porridge, with raspberries, honey and cream, from a shiny silver stall on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. And Roland, who sold the quality Mexican food of Flaming Cactus from a classic American Airstream trailer. And Sylvia, whose Root Master vegan delights were served aboard a double decker London bus. Pretty soon we had the beginnings of a movement.

Street food venders
Street food venders

The first British Street Food Awards – in September 2010 – recognised the best of the mobilers on our streets. The first prize was a food mixer. Last year, the winner left with a business makeover from M&S, and a pitch to trade at the Olympics. And we expanded into Europe. Traders came from Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, London…and Dorking….all because they wanted to be voted the Best of the Best.

After the 2013 Awards for Best Street Food Collective went to Bristol and Best Street Food Event went to Birmingham, it’s clear that this thing has long since outgrown its London roots. So this year’s BSFAs will feature regional heats. The heat winners (determined by a public vote on the British Street Food app) get a Golden Ticket -- a place to trade in the finals of the Awards in Leeds at the end of September.

Come and join the revolution!

For more information visit The British Street Food Awards.

 
 
 

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