Street food in the City? Street Kitchen co-founder Mark Jankel on his locally sourced alternative to Pret

More and more people want to know where their food comes from

We were professional chefs and we thought it would be good fun to set up a street food kitchen, just to see how it worked. We did it as a bit of a laugh for two weeks, and loved it so much we decided to pursue it as a business. I left an executive job running five restaurants to go and research how food is grown and exported and reared in the UK. I was fed up of not being connected to the supply chain.

So I spent a year meeting farmers, working on farms, lambing and working on egg production. In that process, I gained an understanding of how food is produced in the UK, and from that I was able to say I only want to sell food that comes from a farm where the animals are allowed to grow naturally and are grown to a natural weight. It was a really interesting journey because you choose to connect yourself with the farms.
Throughout the world, all of the labelling criteria is so loose that big business can get away with putting what they want on the label and make you feel that you’re buying something natural, when the animal’s had a really bad life, even if it’s free-range or outdoor-reared. You can label a pig outdoor-reared if it’s been outside until it’s been weaned. So it might have a nice time outside for the first few months, but then they can stick it in a shed for the rest of its life and still call it outdoor-reared.
We only use farms that we approve of. More and more people want to know where their food comes from. Buying only from trusted producers meant we had to create a small menu so it seemed to fit the street food idea. Our first site was in Devonshire Square in the City, purely because it was offered to us. It’s funny because this quite conventional landlord decided to put a funky street food business in the City.

We were incredibly lucky because it had great footfall and we did really well. Battersea is our prep kitchen and we simply put a hatch out the back and started serving out of there. On Fridays, we have a burger operation because people don’t want a salad or a sandwich on a Friday, it’s the end of the week and they want a burger and a beer.
To me, street food has to be made in front of you so you have an interaction with the people making it. You can say hold the pickled onions or add a bit more coleslaw and you’re involved in the process of making that dish. We call it edible soul – if you don’t feel something eating it, then it’s not worth eating.
We want to be on every corner like Pret A Manger but still keep the same quality of food. We’ve been working out ways to make good food quickly, and technology is one of the things that has helped. We’re going to have a click and collect service where you can order at your desk, pick it up, then have really good quality food in 15 minutes. Our new venue is also going to be in the City, and it sounds crazy but we’re already looking at a another venue in the West End.
Once we open up Street Kitchens in these bricks and mortar sites, people might say that we’re not really making street food anymore. But for us, it’s all about creating a business that breaks the mould. We don’t want to do 10 things quite well, we’d rather do a couple of things brilliantly with the best produce we can find from British farms.

DISH OF THE DAY

Crispy chicken salad with lardons and crushed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 Chicken legs
  • 100ml water
  • 10g Salt
  • 5g sugar
  • 200g potatoes
  • 50ml vinaigrette
  • 50g lettuce
  • 20g croutons
  • 20g bacon lardons
  • 20g pickled red onions
  • 50g mayo
  • 25g grated Old Winchester cheese

Method

  • Dissolve the sugar and salt in the water and place the legs in this solution overnight. The next day, steam the chicken legs for 1 hour or until soft enough to remove the bones easily. Place skin side down on a tray and cover with cling film. Crisp the skin of the chicken in a non stick pan with rapeseed oil until golden and crisp to the touch.
  • Fry the bacon lardons until crispy and golden.
  • Cook the potatoes in well-seasoned water until soft. Drain and then crush with vinaigrette to taste.
  • Mix the mayonnaise with the finely grated Old Winchester cheese.
  • To assemble – place the warm crushed potatoes on the base of the plate/box. Place the lettuce leaves on top of the potatoes. Scatter the lardons, croutons and pickled red onions onto the lettuce. Drizzle the salad with vinaigrette and half of the Old Winchester mayo.
  • Place the crispy chicken on top of the salad and drizzle with the rest of the Old Winchester mayo.

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