28 | Feb | 18

Richard Johnson


The parmo, (or ‘Teesside Parmesan’ if you’re a Times reader) is, officially, The Next Big Thing. The breaded cutlet which originated in the North East of England is an adaptation of the classic chicken parm, with béchamel sauce instead of the classic marinara – and, now, it’s lighting up the world of street food.

Parm Star are bringing their beloved signature dish to the heats of the 2018 British Street Food Awards. Before starting the business, John Coulson and Lisa Cheung both had corporate jobs in London. John was senior account director at a multi-national marketing firm, while Lisa worked in corporate hospitality. Until the couple’s epiphany.

“We’d talked about starting a street food business for years” says Lisa, “but it wasn’t till the summer of 2015 that we bit the bullet. We both quit our jobs and headed for the north east to set up the business.” Now they’ve got bookings in London, Bournemouth, Leicester and Derby, as well as gigs all over the North East. The parmo is going nationwide.

John and Lisa set out making everything from scratch, although at their first event they realised that making huge amounts of panko breadcrumbs wasn’t as easy as they (sorry… John) thought. Parm Star still prep every portion by hand, make all of their sauces from scratch and use only fresh Yorkshire chicken, which is cooked to order. It’s their recipe for success.

“We’ve had some problems along the way” says Lisa. “Like leaving the cash drawer at home and going into Tesco to blag change off them in exchange for free food. And like John spilling 10 litres of cooking oil on the floor in the middle of our gazebo during service at a busy festival.” Selling parmos to hungry street foodies with votes in their hands at the BSFA heats? A walk in the park.