12 | May | 11

Richard Johnson

British Street Food Showcased at the 2012 Olympics

The champion of the 2011 British Street Food Awards will win the right to trade at the London 2012 Olympics – and today sees the announcement of the first batch of finalists. The Awards, judged by Richard Corrigan and Antony Worrall Thompson, will take place at Harvest at Jimmy’s. And with everything from jhal muri (served out of a little truck decked out like an Indian temple), to fresh pizzas (cooked over a wood-fired oven in a vintage van), they promise to be more hotly contested than ever.

The finalists will be coming from all over Britain to take part in the event, which takes place at Jimmy Doherty’s farm from September 9-11. “We’ve been inundated with entries this year” says Richard Johnson, the founder of the Awards and the author of Street Food Revolution, which is published next month. “A pitch at the Olympics is such an amazing prize, and it shows how far street food has come. We’ve had the Summer of Love – but this is the Summer of Street Food. Yeah baby!”

The general public will be able to taste the food of the 13 finalists, who will be cooking up restaurant-quality food at takeaway prices. And they will be able to vote for the Best Looking Mobiler. The traders will be competing in all the categories detailed on the British Street Food Awards website at www.britishstreetfood.co.uk, including Best Pie, Best Dessert, Best Cold Drink, Best Hot Drink, Best Main Dish, Best Sandwich and Best Snack. But the one they all want to win is Best Of The Best.

There will be a few familiar faces from last year’s Awards. The Fish Hut (with its own seagulls and sandpit) will be back to defend the Best Main Dish title it won for the perfect fish and chips – served out of a pretty little Southwould beach hut. So will The Laughing Stock, with its family recipe for salt beef. And Lulabelle, the deliciously pink VW camper van from Yorkshire, with its tea and cakes. But the competition from the new boys and girls will be tough.

Ginger’s Comfort Emporium from Manchester, for instance, is quite a looker. The lovely old ice cream van will win fans with its olive oil and smoked sea salt ice cream, and the team hope to continue the tradition started by Kitty Travers and La Grotta Ices, who won Best of the Best in last year’s Finals. Chilli Gone Barmy is a bit of a looker too, trading out of a vintage Citroen H Van. Brian, the chilli man, would certainly win the Award for Best Name. If there was one.

Jun Tanaka will be escaping his London restaurant kitchen for the weekend to serve up some high-end street food in Street Kitchen’s beautiful Airstream trailer. There is something about the trailer’s aluminum, rust-proof skin. Its clean, sleek lines lend it a look of the past – and the future. Its monocoque body shell is still turning heads, 75 years after it was first launched. President Kennedy used one as a mobile office. The Airstream comes with a pedigree. That’s why Jun chose it.

The Black Box team are less flashy. In black uniforms, and a black truck, they’re a fearsome sight. But their skills on the griddle are balletic. And the smells they give off are exquisite. They will be competing for attention with the fresh fish being smoked next door by Rich from Halls Dorset Smokery. There’s something primeval about the whole outdoor smoking thing. The judges (who include Richard Corrigan and Antony Worrall Thompson) will do the right thing – and try both.

In many ways, crepes are the perfect street food. And ordering from mobilers (especially ones as charming as Paul from Lemon Jelli) is much less awkward than having a waiter make crepes at your table. They can’t be made in advance for a large group of people. They must be created, one by one, and eaten immediately to retain their essential crepeness. Which means that the eating must be done in the same location as the cooking. And what better location than the food field at Jimmy’s?

It’s the same story over at Churros Bros, who will be competing in the Best Snack category. George and Rachel’s crisp fingers of batter, served with a pot of rich dark chocolate, have to be enjoyed straight away. Leave them standing around for a few minutes and they will be chewier than old shoe leather. It’s hypothetical of course – no-one has ever left a pot of churros from Churros Bros around for a few minutes to find out.

Pizza is another classic street food. Although street pizza is very different from the pizzeria pizza. Unlike the 12” rounds you find in a restaurant, “pizza a taglio” is generally made on large square trays, and sold by the rectangle. It’s easy to hold, and leaves you one hand free to steer your Vespa. Jalopy cook their pizzas in an authentic Ephrem wood fired oven, and taste as good as anything you’ll eat in the South of France.

Angus Dunoon will be trundling up to Jimmy’s with his theatrical Kolkata Street Food Experience. His jhal muri – the snack that you find on every street corner of Kolkata – is the stuff of legend. It’s the snack you can eat between meals, with drinks, or with family. “Or slowly slowly, with your love,” says Angus, “because everybody love love the jhal muri. I don’t mind about winning the Street Food Awards – I just want people to love my jhal muri.”