21 | May | 17

Richard Johnson

Devon’s Above

Street food doesn’t have to be served in grubby, industrial warehouses covered in graffiti. Oh no. These days it pops up everywhere, making Britain’s villages, towns and cities taste better. So we were very excited to be invited to host the Wales and the West heat of the 2017 British Street Food Awards in Tiverton’s historic Pannier Market. Markets have been held here for centuries. But not markets like this. We laid on some music (thanks to the Cormorants), face-painting, a craft beer bus and the 15 finest traders from Wales and the West. The Victorians would have been impressed.

The Judges’ Choice was Truly Crumptious, with home-made crumpets slathered in rhubarb and and apple conserve with star anise, ginger, clove and black pepper on goats cheese. The People’s Choice winner was Brother Thai. With his Thai basil chicken roti all the way from Cardiff. So now they both go to the finals of the 2017 British Street Food Awards with the winners of the Scottish Street Food Awards. And – possibly – on to the inaugural European Street Food Awards. In Berlin. Fair to say that, because Devon is so HOT right now, we’re likely to take more than two traders from this heat to the finals. Watch this space.

FINALISTS

Lemon Jelli
One of the originals. Just look at the man – a one-off. And so gratifying that he’s now in charge of such a successful operation (including five vans, and a bistro in Newton Abbot) bringing French-ish fare to the peoples of Devon and beyond. There are some real superheroes out there. Men and women doing great things in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp — now there’s a superpower. But Paul is one of the MOST super. Have a look at this interview, with the founder of British Street Food.

Cracking Nuts
A perfect example of how an ingenious idea can create something wonderful. Started in Spring 2014, Jon Nuts got hold of a 200-year-old German recipe; played around with it a little; and came up with a range of sweet cinnamon, salty and chilli roasted, peanuts, cashews and almonds, all with his own, unique, modern twist. Freshly-roasted nuts are nothing like the nuts that you will have had in your mouth before. Still warm from the griddle. Now Jon’s dipping his nuts in chocolate. Swirling them with ice cream from his neighbour’s farm. Should he just leave his nuts alone? Come down and try for yourself.

Truly Crumptious
Is there anything more delicious than a crumpet? Yes. A homemade crumpet. Made with organic flour from the South West, and cooked up on a lightly-oiled griddle to give it a crisp, thick base. Serve it out of a 1967 Cheltenham Waterbuck – built in the day when caravans looked like caravans – with butter, jam or cheese, and you’ve got something just a little bit special.

Mr Croquewich
Heading up the Welsh contingent, with Brother Thai, comes Mr Croquewich. What’s a croquewich, you ask? It’s a grilled cheese sandwich, essentially, but also much more than that. A certain This Morning presenter’s favourite, in fact. ‘Best cheese toasted sandwich I’ve ever eaten’, said Holly Willoughby on the programme in December. High praise, coming from a lady who won’t talk about her diet because she’s worried it would encourage eating disorders. We, however, aren’t that sensible – keep Mr Croquewich’s ‘Glamorgan’ on your radar, a crunchy sourdough sarnie containing leeks, garlic, onion in béchamel sauce, Dijon mustard, and the all-important Caerphilly cheese.

Brother Thai
Admittedly, hardcore Thai food isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. ‘Spice is a very hot topic!’ Brother Thai founder Andrew tells Olive magazine. Turning the heat down to appeal to our inferior British palates is verging on sacrilege, so Andrew will only do it if it really won’t compromise on the dish too much. With the rise of street food however, he admits people are opening up to new flavours. Flavours like his thai red curry, the pad pao: stir fried beef with green beans in a nam prik pao paste and thai papaya slaw.

HornBrook Kitchen
This is a venture dreamed up in America. You could say it’s the real American dream. Tom hired a camper van, driving some 4,000 miles coast to coast while keeping an eye peeled for BBQ and street food joints along the way. For him, the jackpot was Franklin’s BBQ, in the Dirty South. Only took 4 hours to get a table. But a life changing experience. Tom’s brought his American dream back to north Devon with him, along with all the right ideas. Question we have to ask is, how will the self-professed BBQ geekery translate in Tiverton?

Murray May’s
This street food start-up, based in Bristol, is destined for greatness. The couple behind the business, Thecla and Ewan, have converted a Mercedes 508d ex military ambulance into a rolling kitchen, complete with a mangal charcoal grill. Expect a Silk Road menu, including the couple’s take on kebabs – grilled meats and charcoal-roasted aubergines, served with chopped salad, griddle breads, pickles and tasty sauces.

The Glorious Oyster
The Glorious Oyster operate out of a rather glorious horsebox. A horsebox they inherited from 2013 BSF winners Katie & Kim’s in Bristol. Small world, eh? Smaller still – Glorious Oyster founder Lyndsay shared a flat with Kim back then. She’s known what she wanted to do since Katie & Kim’s win, and here she is, three years later. Shucking Appledore oysters in Tiverton. Humble they may sound, but don’t be fooled – finalists at last year’s BBC Food & Farming Awards, this lot are big contenders.

Calaca Loca
Harry Harvey of Calaca Loca is a joker.
What’s unusual about your food cart?
That it still works after 4 years of abuse.
How is it customised?
Liberal use of gaffer tape holding it together.
Where do you park it?
Anywhere I won’t get a parking ticket.
But his food can’t be dismissed so easily.”I spent most of my career as a chef in fine dining restaurants such as Petrus, The French Laundry and Patina” he says. “In 2013 I moved back to England from California to help my Mum start up a street food business for her retirement. Since then it has become a full time enterprise for myself, where I get to enjoy the freedom, creativity and ingenuity of the street food environment whilst using fine dining innovation from my Michelin-star training.” Get him. But his ox cheek tacos served with pickled fennel and habanero jam, confit duck tamales served with chipotle salsa and signature Exmoor National Park shredded beef chilli with black beans and chorizo need to be taken seriously.

Nelly’s Barn
Nelly’s Barn were the winners of Best Looking Mobiler at 2015’s British Street Food Awards. This van is a one off. As Ben Mills, Nelly’s founder, puts it, ‘We have a crooked chimney, and I’m not sure anyone else has.’ Now Ben wants to win Best of the Best – and he’s trying to do it with an old-school Bristol favourite. ‘Big copper pans with faggots simmering in gravy used to flavour the streets of this city,’ says Ben. ‘We’re paying homage with our own home-made faggots cooked in a cider gravy with local potatoes mashed with West Country salted butter.’ Well then, who cares about the chimney…

SeaDog
People should be VERY excited that we’re including the 2015 BSF champions back for this year’s awards. They came out Best of the Best that year, at the O2 in London. Seadog are all about innovative world street food that takes the local Devon catch on a wondrous journey across the globe, picking up influences from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and beyond. But can they repeat their 2015 feat? If their signature dish – seaside popcorn – is as good as it was then, you’d better get yourself down to the bookies.

Eat like a Greek
The Greeks are famous for their hospitality, their food, and their dancing. If they can just get past the whole plate smashing thing, they would be market leaders in the street food game. This husband and wife team fell in love in Greece, and relocated to Devon, intent on marrying their two cultures together — the best of West Country ingredients with organic herbs and spices from their farm in Samos Island. Their converted horsebox, which has only recently come out of Leeds Trinity Kitchen, embodies what they’re all about. ‘We wanted to bring the memories of that little holiday beach side taverna to our customers’ minds by using handmade olive wood counters, hand painted décor, and little trinkets from home.’

Seasonal Samosas
Here’s something you don’t often see – a trader doing EXACTLY what it says on the tin. The seasonal bit is to do with how they source their ingredients, often from Nin and Tom’s own garden, where they have a flock of runner ducks to keep the pests at bay. It’s all about DIY sustainability here – pesticides and commercial fertilisers are a big no no. As for the samosas, they take on the form of the ‘Punjabi’ and the ‘Gobi’, both filled with seasonal veg and their own unique spice blend: a garam masala which, like tradition states in India, is handed down from generation to generation. A very homegrown operation, all things considered.

The Teign Canteen
Yes, his application for the 2017 British Street Food Awards was late (‘he’s always f****** late,’ says one Facebook commenter). But SO convincing. Dan Edge from the The Teign Canteen really really really wanted to cook up a Vietnamese menu of Pho and Banh Mi at the Wales and the West heats. ’I have eaten these whilst travelling and absolutely loved them’ he said. Dan says he makes his sarnies ‘with my own home made bread and wild venison shot to order by a game keeper I know who’s been controlling fallow deer on Haldon for over 40 years. I make everything where possible myself and serve it all from a beautiful vintage Citroen HY van I restored and converted myself.’ Bit full of himself, but a handsome fellah and a beautiful van. With a good line in foreign sandwiches. A possible contender?

BBQ Brazil
John Curtis? Not a very Brazilian name. “But my wife is Brazilian”, says John, “and our family lived in Brazil for eight years. So I feel we can tick the authenticity box.” John has converted an old military trailer into a Brazilian charcoal rotisserie grill with 21 rotating skewers and foot-high flames as standard. Stand well back! The picanha – or rump cap – is proving to be the most popular, and carved in front of the hungry crowd. But there are vegetarian options! Muito delicioso!