Flaming Cactus

It was Marco Pierre White who gave me the idea. It was a summer lunchtime – in a New York park – and we were hungover from a night of Sambuca at Jay-Z’s party. 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 I’ve travelled the world. And some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has been on the streets – whether it’s the streets of Bethlehem, with its hole-in-the-wall falafel shacks serving up pittas fat with hummus, pickle and broad beans, or the streets of Mandalay, with bowls of fishy noodles still salty from the sea.

Coming back home to Britain was always a disappointment. Our restaurant food was becoming less of a joke. We’ve now got 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 sells a cranachan porridge, with raspberries, honey and cream, from a shiny silver stall on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. And Roland, who sells the quality Mexican food of Flaming Cactus from a classic American Airstream trailer. And Sylvia, whose Root Master vegan delights are served aboard a double decker London bus. Pretty soon we had a movement.

The first British Street Food Awards – in September 2010 – recognised the best of the mobilers on our streets.

British Street Food Awards 2010 from Damien Joseph Wasylki* on Vimeo.

The first prize was a food mixer. This year, the winner will leave with a business makeover from M&S, and a pitch to trade at the Olympics — we’ve come a long way baby!

Come and see for yourself at Harvest At Jimmy’s, on the weekend of September 9-11. Come and join the street food revolution!

Check out our website,  www.britishstreetfood.co.uk, for all the details.

Richard’s book, Street Food Revolution is available from Amazon.

Johnson's Street Food Revolution