01 | May | 12

Richard Johnson

There’s Lovely

My least favourite word? ‘Produce’. There’s something about it that sounds so smug and self-satisfied. But there’s a new word that is starting to run ‘produce’ close — ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘sustainable’. Aaargh. Simone Miché tells me to shut up, and get on-board the ethical streetfood groove train…

I love streetfood. It’s fresh, quick, no-fuss food which costs a tenth of the stuff you find in restaurants. And there’s never this ‘queue for a table’ malarkey, because quite simply, there are no tables. Whether you’re pulling up to a roadside stall in North Thailand for a dried-fish snack, swigging oysters at Borough Market, or being hankered at from left, right and centre by traders in Marrakech offering ‘the best tagine in town’, there’s always enough street for everyone to enjoy their food. So when I arrived as a student in Cardiff three years ago, I was blown away by its thriving street-food scene: the stuff, it appears, making Wales the best home nation when it comes to ethical and sustainable eating.

One of the key figures in the city’s growing street-food frenzy is Deri Reed (above). He’s a local trader who works to bring better, more sustainable and ethical food to the Welsh public. You can’t step into a vegetarian restaurant without hearing his nickname – The Ethical Chef. During the week, Deri works on Blaencamel Farm in South Wales in exchange for produce to supply his stall at the Riverside Market in Cardiff. His is the first stall in Wales to be accredited by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and it’s here that he becomes ‘The Ethical Chef’, cooking up food that is healthy (albeit the Beetroot and Chocolate Cake is a slice of gluttony), vegetarian and sourced within a 50 mile radius. Now he’s getting mobile. By travelling to his customers, he’s generating much less waste and emitting fewer greenhouse gases than if they were all to travel to him.

Steve Garrett, Riverside Community Market Association’s (RCMA) chairperson, plans to deliver ethical and sustainable street-food to more and more people in and around Cardiff. Like ‘The Ethical Chef’, Steve and his team have plans to create a travelling street food van, that distributes not only fresh fruit and vegetables, but ready-meals made from organic ingredients, sourced from Welsh farms and local businesses, which can be parked at the end of just about any street in Cardiff. His vision is to create a real movement towards street-food, similar to the one which has already begun in places such as Los Angeles. The task, Steve says, is really very simple: ‘All we need to do, as a community, is reclaim our public spaces. Think of St Mary Street in the city centre. The whole place has recently been renovated and would be perfect for a collection of street-food stalls. And that’s what RCMA plan to do.”

And it’s not just in Cardiff. It’s everywhere. I visited Abergavenny Food Festival last September and met the winners of last year’s British Street Food Awards: Café Mor. They’re dedicated to supplying seashore foraged ingredients and fresh local seafood from the Pembrokeshire coast at markets and festivals across the country. And in London, Squid And Pear, the first street-food stall to be acknowledged by the SRA, deliver ‘top-notch seasonal and sustainable catering’ to just about anywhere in the UK. Now if that’s not “street” ( urban dictionary definition: “awesone”, “fly”) then I don’t know what is…

Ethical Eats is running a sustainability workshop for festival and street-food stallholders on 8 May.  For details see –http://www.sustainweb.org/ethicaleats/events