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It’s been a while since I posted anything remotely personal on here over the past few months. The reason partly being I’ve simply not had the time to relax and sit down in front of the keyboard and just let it flow but also I’ve had my guard up a lot more recently. I believe that being honest and frank about my ideas and issues such as the food industry, animal welfare and the business in general  has been a staple part of the success of The Troll’s Pantry from day one, but in the latter part of last year I feel like I’ve withdrawn for a number of reasons.

Many of you may be wondering why I left the Brunswick Pub at the end of the year and in order to answer that question I feel I also need to explain the reasons I decided to go there in the first place. I know some of you feel that perhaps I tried to expand too soon and I would say that you are probably right, however the reasons at the time seemed perfectly logical. Winter was coming, we were serving from the garden of the Hobgoblin which was undoubtedly going to get emptier as the weather worsened and the Hobgoblin has never really been known as a food pub. I was also getting a lot of feedback from people who didn’t feel the Hobgoblin was really their scene, whom I figured would prefer the less studenty more Hove-esque vibe of the Brunswick.

I also felt like I needed to validate myself as a chef somehow. Street food was always my thing and I’d always shunned the concept of food served with  cutlery, plated up and brought to your table. The problem was I became aware of a demand from customers who didn’t agree with my ideas and wanted the works. With the Brunswick I tried to combine high quality, ethical food, reasonably priced  along with all the other thrills and spills. Simply, it didn’t work, not when my standards are so ridiculously high. Many restaurants often cut corners and accept a minor loss of quality that would not be noticeable to many, while still maintaining some element of an ethical model such as local sourcing or organic meat. However the extent to which I try and source ethically and cook everything as freshly as possible is simply too expensive for a traditional pub/restaurant setting, unless I’m charging something like £15  per burger. I don’t just source ethical meat, but everything from the oak smoked, cold pressed rapeseed oil we use in our sauces, to the organic cheeses on our burgers. I’m not the kind of person who does things by halves or who’s content with following the same path as others. I always have to make things that little more challenging and difficult for myself. A good analogy is something a teacher said in my report card when I was at primary school. It said something along the lines of “If he wants to get from A to B he’ll go via Z”. The teacher meant this as a criticism, but as I’ve grown up I’ve learned that this aspect of myself has also lead me down paths that I would otherwise have never have taken.

As many of you may know, I have never been trained as a chef and prior to The Troll’s Pantry I had practically zero catering experience. I learned all I know from teaching myself how to cook from scratch, seeing other people’s mistakes and generally being incredibly critical, not just of food that I had experienced when eating out, but of myself as well. I am my own worst critic. In many cases this has been a blessing as it forces me to constantly strive for perfection. The downside is I often forget that reaching the standard of perfection is totally unobtainable and don’t know exactly where to draw the line. This has blown up in my face in the past where I pile so much on my plate I get to the verge of a breakdown before I slam on the brakes.  I thought that perhaps my doubts about expanding were due to my own feelings of inadequacy of not being a trained chef and fear of failure. So I decided to brush the doubts aside, grit my teeth and dive straight in without any further debate.

Despite me deciding to leave the Brunswick venture at the end of last year, I don’t have any regrets nor do I see it as a waste of time and effort. I’ve learned a great deal from the experience, not just on how to run a multi franchise operation, or to work from a kitchen, but most importantly some valuable life lessons. I feel I quickly realised after starting the venture that it wasn’t where I belonged, but persevered not only because I had so much invested in it, but because I felt a sense of responsibility. I’d started down this path and by Jove I was going to see it through. Looking back I feel that maybe The Brunswick and myself had very different ideas about what we wanted from from a food point of view and I perhaps made too many compromises. For example, no takeaway option, food served on plates, cutlery readily available and generally a less casual set up to what I prefer.  Most of all I missed talking to all of you guys as I cooked the burgers, I hated being locked away in the kitchen all the time and those damned pretentious plates! God knows what was going through my head when I decided to buy them. My heart wasn’t in it and I think that you guys probably picked up on that. The passion I have for what I’m doing and the knowledge that everything I create has every ounce of love I have put into it is what has kept you guys coming back each time. I honestly haven’t felt like that the past few months. I’ve seen each week as a trial that I have had to get through, just counting the days to the summer where I aimed to train someone else to run the Brunswick kitchen while I went off and explored the festival scene, burgers in tow.

But recently it dawned on me, what is the point of building something up, just to then palm it off on someone else who isn’t going to have the same passion I do for the business? I could have trained someone and maybe, just maybe the quality of the food wouldn’t suffer, but still what would be the point? Would it make me happier? Would it do anything for the local food movement? Sure it would increase the number of locations that someone could procure an ethically sourced burger, but wouldn’t it be better to keep things small and inspire others to emulate rather than trying to capture the whole ethical market for myself? That’s the conclusion I eventually came to. I was doing something I wasn’t happy doing and the main reason I was doing it was because I thought it was in the best interests of the business. I put the needs of the Troll’s Pantry far above my own, seeing my lack of love for the job to be a necessary penalty I had to pay for my business to succeed. But what I failed to grasp is that the business and myself are inextricably linked. If  I’m unhappy then the business is unhappy, to penalise myself is to penalise the business.

So what have I learned and how can I use that knowledge to further improve what we offer at The Troll’s Pantry, while at the same time ensuring I stay happy and sane enough for it to be sustainable? Well the one thing I’ve learned above all is that we should always strive to do what we love and are passionate about. For me, it’s providing simple, unpretentious fast food, cooked slowly and with love. For me there is no greater experience than eating food with your hands. While I accept that many are uncomfortable without using cutlery and eating food in a casual setting, I have to accept that I can’t please everyone and that there’s always going to be someone who wants to complain. Personally I believe that eating food with our hands is a totally different experience and helps us to feel more connected not only to the food we eat but to ourselves. I’m no psychologist, but you don’t need a PHD to appreciate that feeling you get when you’re sitting around the table with all your friends, juices pouring down your chin, messy hands as you moan in mutual pleasure without a care in the world as to how you look or how others perceive you. Eating should be a sociable experience where people feel they can let their guard down and enjoy the pure indulgent experience of the food without fear of being judged or looked down upon. So from now on, all the food I serve at the Hobogblin will be food that can be eaten without cutlery. I want to encourage you all to, like myself, drop your guard, stop worrying about what other people think and simply enjoy yourselves. People often overlook the importance of food, but it’s the very thing that fuels us. Not just our bodies, but our spirits. It’s what connects us to nature, to each other and allows us to feel pleasure and excitement. Quite simply, food helps make life worth living.

So that’s my new years resolution right there. I’m going to go back to doing the food I love, the way I want to do it. While it might not be for everyone and others may not understand my reasoning, it’s what I enjoy doing. I urge you all to learn from my mistakes and make sure you make time in your lives for the things you love too. Everyone has different goals, different interests and beliefs and there will always be someone you upset or who tries to judge you for your choices, but it doesn’t matter. I’m in danger of this closing chapter sounding very cheesy, but follow your passions to inspire others. If everyone was just blindly following the status quo and doing what they thought they were supposed to, it would be a very dull world indeed.

Burger mania has come to Brighton and with it an insatiable desire for partially cooked patties. The rare burger has become the ultimate in gourmet fast food and the market for them has grown exponentially over the past few years. I know I’m not telling you anything new here, you can barely pick up a magazine recently without some kind of homage to undercooked minced beef in a bun.

Recently we have had countless requests for burgers cooked less than well done and unfortunately that is not something we can do right now. Rather than reply to you each individually, I felt it best to write one long post explaining everything.

In doing this I hope to dispel some of the myths, to try and give you all a whole and balanced picture regarding the safety of rare burgers so you, as customers, can make an informed choice when eating out as to how you want your burger cooked.

There seems to be growing confusion about what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to the safe preparation and cooking of burgers with many people being under the impression that minced beef is completely safe and so long as you source your meat well there is no risk to the public.

This viewpoint is not shared by environmental health who believe that the risk of E coli 157 is present in minced beef and special preventative measures need to be put in place to ensure that all of this bacteria is killed.

Let me start off with a few FAQ’s….

Isn’t it just the same as cooking a steak? I can have that cooked rare, why not burgers?

It isn’t the same due to the very nature of a burger pattie. When cooking a steak, all of the areas that are exposed to the elements are heated to the point where bacteria will be killed. If bacteria is present on the surface of a steak, then the act of cooking will kill everything. This isn’t the case with a burger as the very act of mincing means the outsides end up inside. While beef is generally regarded as safe, if for example a chef were to touch some bacteria and then handle the meat prior to mincing, the bacteria would be spread throughout the entire pattie which if cooked rare, would not be killed by heat. It is also speculated that the E coli bacteria which is present in the stomach of the cow may contaminate the surface of the meat during the slaughtering stage.

What about medium or medium well? Are they allowed?

Unfortunately not. Microbiologists that work for EHO claim that in order to kill all bacteria, the patties need to be cooked to a core temperature of 75C for 30 seconds. This inevitably means the burgers will be well done. There may sometimes be the odd trace of pink depending on many factors such as shape, temperature of griddle and cooking times, but in general there shouldn’t be.

Is it possible for rare burgers to be allowed by using any special methods of preparation?

There is a method suggested by EHO which allow restaurants to sell their burgers rare. The goal is for the surface bacteria that may be present on the meat needs to be killed prior to mincing. EHO suggest that the cut of meat is seared with heat on the outside, prior to mincing. Then the surface of the meat is shaved off. There are a number of problems with this method however. One, being the extra time, equipment and due to the extra wastage of meat this could increase the cost of the burgers quite substantially. This is why this practice is not often used as it simply pushes the cost of the burger too high for most people. I’ve also heard of people spraying meat with anti bacterial spray before mincing, but I haven’t checked the safety of that with EHO nor would it be a practice I’d like to undertake.

Wasn’t there a judge in a London court case that said rare burgers were safe?

Yes and no. Westminster council recently issued a food improvement notice to a London chain called “Davy’s” telling them they had to stop selling rare burgers. Davy’s appealed the notice and made their case in court. The judge concluded that the “Sear and Shave” method suggested by EHO was not necessarily safe in itself as by shaving the meat you are adding an extra process to the mincing which could result in more contamination. The judge also concluded that the supplier of Davy’s, known as Donald Russell produced the meat as “safe to eat raw” in accordance with EU regulation ec2073/2005. Davy’s won the case and are now able to sell their burgers rare, however the judge was wary of the repercussions of the ruling, worrying that other restaurants may go on to sell burgers rare without such strict measures as Davy’s, therefore causing a danger to the public.

Can’t you just ask us to sign a waiver?

 Probably the most frequently asked question. Sadly the answer is no. A waiver in the eyes of insurance law is not worth the paper it’s printed on.

 

Do loads of people get seriously ill from rare burgers?

There have been some instances of E coli food poisoning from rare burgers in the US and in Europe. So far there have been no proven cases in the UK linking burgers to E coli 157, but that doesn’t mean there won’t ever be. Statistically speaking its very unlikely you will, but as long as there is a theoretical risk it will not be allowed by EHO.

 

Why are oysters, steak tartar and puffer fish allowed?

I believe with steak tartar the sear and shave method is also required to be used. As for the others, I really don’t know.

 

Isn’t it safe so long as the meat is sourced well and of good quality?

Not in the eyes of EHO. They claim that no matter what measures are in place during the preparation of the meat, a risk is still posed at the slaughter stage where cross contamination can still occur.

 

Why are rare burgers so commonplace in London, but in Brighton it feels like you can only get them in an “under the counter” manner, with no mention of it on menus?

 

 

The rules regarding safe cooking of burgers apply nationwide, however some areas are stricter at enforcing them than others. Brighton is very strict in comparison to London. Personally, I feel this ambiguity adds to a lot of the confusion and is why many people don’t know the rules about how burgers should be cooked. Chances are, if the restaurant doesn’t ask you how you want it cooked when ordering, or have it printed anywhere on the menus, then they are doing them against the advice of EHO and will eventually be made to stop.

 

So are rare burgers safe? I honestly can’t tell you that. There are many who call into question the validity of the science that is used to justify the rare burger crack down but without a PHD in microbiology myself I can’t claim to know. All I do know is what I have detailed here. The chances are you probably won’t get ill, but if you are elderly, a child, pregnant, or have a weak immune system I wouldn’t recommend eating an undercooked burger. E Coli 157 is very serious and can result in liver failure and even death.

As a chef myself I feel that with so much contradictory science and opinions it’s better to play it safe. I certainly don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting seriously ill or even dying. I’m going to look into ways that we can use the sear and shave method, but I worry many of you will be reluctant to pay the increased prices. For the time being at least, they will all be cooked well done. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t pressure our staff to cook them anything other than well done as they are under strict instructions to play by the rules. The pressure for restaurants to offer rare burgers is already incredibly high, with the public wrongly assuming that those who don’t are obviously peddling some kind of inferior quality meat. The disparity between the public knowledge of what is and isn’t safe with regards to burgers and the advice being meated out (pun intended) by EHO is the biggest problem. As a lover of a rare burger myself I sincerely hope all the evidence that rare burgers are dangerous gets rubbished and we can all go back to stuffing our faces with bloody meat but for now I have to play by the rules.

I hope you all respect this decision and understand the reasons why we can’t offer burgers anything other than well done. I hope you also appreciate that our meat is and always will be of the highest quality and personally I’d rather have a well done burger from wild range, grass fed Longhorn than a bloody pattie of cheap minced lips and arseholes from the cash and carry. I hope you feel the same. 

Personally, I’m a little bored of the Smoky Mountain. This could be down to my restless personality, or the fact that I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do an ultimate version of it for the London Burger Bash, but I can’t help but think it’s overdue some serious changes.

It’s a risky business, as it is by far my most popular creation. By changing it I risk upsetting a large group of loyal Smoky Mountain disciples. It has been this way pretty much since it’s creation. It was the first ever burger I made to generate what can only be described as a cult following.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this, the Smoky Mountain is actually very different from the original creation. In the past we’ve had two whole rashers of oak smoked bacon, a tomato slice, it never used to have garlic mayo and during the winter months it came with a beetroot and daikon slaw. Would changing it again really be that catastrophic? If it still tasted good then I hope the loyal following would remain.

The one thing that has always remained the same is the BBQ sauce. I opted to do a zesty rum BBQ sauce rather than the traditional bourbon and used lime juice instead of lemon. I’ve always made it from natural ingredients, no bottled pectin, no cans of coke, just spices, booze, fruit, veg  and plenty of sugar and vinegar. I tried in the start to make it with ketchup and more recently with tomato puree, but It never tastes as good. Until now I’ve used tinned tomatoes which help to thicken it up. The only downside to that is the time it takes to reduce, it requires a lot of time and attention than if I used a cheat. It’s the main reason I’ve been reluctant to put the Smoky Mountain on the menu permanently. Making the BBQ sauce is one task I’ve yet to delegate to any staff. It’s a bit of a sacred ritual for me and I’m finding I have less and less time to perform it these days with so much going on.

The one thing that has continued to bug me about this method is it still feels like a bit of a cheat. You know what I’m like. I like to make everything from scratch from local produce where possible. The amount of fresh tomatoes I’d need to make BBQ sauce would be ridiculous and cost over four times as much to make. Not to mention the extra time of making a passata from them and reducing it down before I can even add it to the sauce. Then there’s the problem of what to do in winter, when no local tomatoes are available. Once I’ve made the switch to fresh, it’s going to be hard to go back.

However, me being me, I just love to do things the hard way. I remember a report card I was given in school where a teacher frustratingly remarked that “If Paul wants to get from one point to another, he always chooses the longest possible route”. I denied it back then, but it certainly seems to be more true these days. However, I’d like to argue the point that the journey is equally important as the destination.

The other reason I’m considering using fresh tomatoes is as previously mentioned, the London Burger Bash is around the corner. I am absolutely determined to win this event and if I am going to do “The Legend of Smoky Mountain” as many have urged me, it needs to have the greatest and freshest BBQ sauce the world has ever known. I also can’t help but feel if this burger is the showcase to the UK of what The Troll’s Pantry is all about, then it needs to heavily feature seasonal ingredients, something the current version doesn’t really do at all.

So I had this idea I wanted to run past you? How about if I let go of the Smoky Mountain and let it evolve. Let the flavours of the seasons influence it all year around. Change and adapt the BBQ sauce so it works with the rest of the seasonal ingredients. Maybe in the winter I can use beetroot instead of tomato as the base for it. I could experiement with different types of booze. I have an idea to do a beer based BBQ sauce with honey and olde English spices. I would always keep the theme the same. Bacon + beef + smoky.

The Smoky Mountain is a great burger and I owe alot of my success to it. But clinging on to old sentiments may not be the best thing for a constantly evolving and improving business. I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

I have this problem. I’m constantly coming up with ideas faster than I have time to implement them. This more often than not ends in me putting ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself before it all culminates into one giant almighty fiery ball of stress and exhaustion until somehow, I manage to pull it all off. I’m usually left slightly broken and disturbed, vowing never to over work myself to such extremes again, before a week or two later the whole cycle starts all over again.

I’m sure one day I’ll learn my lesson, hopefully before I become sectioned. However, right now, I’m in the thick of it and I have to say secretly loving it. 

This summer is going to be jam packed with Troll activity all around Brighton, with many exciting new ventures and concepts emerging. This summer is the perfect time to really go all out. Winter is coming (sorry) and I need to make sure I’m set, as after those cold dark months I am hatching plans to possibly get my own licensed premises. This is still only a possibility, but one that I am currently exploring extensively and laying the ground work for. 

But firstly….


Now open 7 days a week!

 

I’ve taken on extra staff, bought a second griddle and gazebo and am now ready to trade at the Hobgoblin 7 days a week. This included Friday lunchtimes as well as at Street Diner!  Yes, you can now get a burger on a Friday and avoid the huge queue at the market. We’ll be running our lunchtime menu with the £1 off facebook/twitter code at the Hobgoblin and having the full 1/3 lb specials on at Street Diner. 

So lets run down what’s coming up for the rest of this summer. 

 

Nosh of the Titans – Sunday 16th June – Hobgoblin Garden

Read about the event here

This Sunday the 16th June, in the Hobgoblin garden, I’ve decided to organise a little street food festival. There’s so much great street food emerging all over Brighton right now. The only problem is the lack of pitches. This is a problem I faced in my dark days before the Wood Store and I know how tough it can be. I’m really hoping this event is a success so I can repeat it the future. The Hobgoblin garden is a great space to hold such an event and people need to be encouraged more to make better use of spaces all around Brighton. My dream is to have street food all over Brighton, not just confined to small areas. It has the potential to change the very way we live and eat. This can only be done with the help of private land owners as the council rules are very strict and unlikely to change any time soon. 

So, the line up…

Sultans Delights – Vegetarian Middle Eastern curries

Crocus – Authentic Paella

Honeycomb cakes – Home made ice creams and cakes

and The Troll’s Pantry – Launching my new “Gladiator Burger”

So why do you need to go anywhere else? That’s lunch, dinner and dessert sorted, just hang out in the garden, guzzle ale to great music and be merry!

Live music is also going to feature as a big part of the event. We have some scheduled live  music, then followed by what is basically a busking/open mic set up. In order to keep pitch fees to a minimum and food prices low we’re encouraging punters to throw a few coins in the hats of those acts they enjoyed. I want to create the same direct link between artist and  listener as I have at the Troll’s Pantry between chef and customer. I hope you will all help to reward those with talent in the hope they will come back to future events and entertain us further. 

The event starts at 12pm and carries on until you all decide to leave or we sell out. 

 

Breakfast Cafe Pop Up – Seven Bees Cafe – Sunday 30th June

 

Some of you may recall me mentioning the possibility of taking on a breakfast cafe. Well, I’ve decided to test out some of my theories beforehand with this pop up breakfast concept. 

The idea is that not everyone has time to sit around in a cafe before work, nor do they have time (or the inclination) to make breakfast. These people still want something tasty and quality at a price that they can afford. 

The idea is to do an ultimate breakfast burger. No beef this time, instead a quality Sussex sausage meat pattie, topped with rashers of the best quality oak smoked bacon, fried egg, grilled tomato and home made relish, all sandwiched between the toasted brioche buns you love. 

Veggies will be catered for as well with a bubble and squeak burger made from quality, seasonal  and local veg. 

There won’t be any table service or plated meals at this pop up. I’m using the same high quality, tight margin, no frills business model that I do with the burgers. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll offer a plated Full English Breakfast when I get my own cafe. I’d be interested in your feed back.

 

London Burger Bash – 28th July – Camden Town Brewery

 

I’ve been invited to compete in the London Burger Bash. The Brain child of Young and Foodish, you can read more about it here.

The best burger chefs and other acclaimed chefs all gather to compete for the prestigious golden pattie award. I was hesitant when first approached as I have so many commitments here, but I felt that maybe I should stop taking life so seriously and have a bit of fun, so I accepted. 

Later I realised this was no “bit of fun” and my competitors really did take this seriously. Shit, I thought, am I out of my depth? You see, I have this secret, I am normally a fairly passive laid back person, but I have this dark competitive edge that I often do my best to suppress or channel in positive ways. After checking out the competition it has returned. I have an opportunity to create what may well be regarded as one of the greatest burgers ever foretold. I’m prepared to take this challenge head on. 

This is only the top of the iceberg. There’s plenty more things in the pipeline for this summer. Once things are confirmed I’ll announce more. I’ll keep working hard to keep bringing you burgers so long as you guys keep buying them. 

 

 

 

The Troll's Pantry:

Q&A with myself on Street food and cannibalism.

Originally posted on Brighton Burgers:

Tomorrow, epic burger van The Troll’s Pantry begins his unholy pact with the Hobgoblin, taking up a residence in his ample beer garden to serve up some seriously tasty burgers to the good people of Brighton. I can vouch for their quality; I practically inhaled his Smoky Mountain, a permanent fixture on his exotic, beguiling menu that sees him rotate the specials depending on which ingredients are in season. To mark the next step in The Troll’s Pantry’s inevitable global domination, I tiptoed across the broken cattle bones littered outside the Troll’s lair, and stole a few words with Paul, the Troll’s Assistant, little knowing that I may well have been chatting to the Troll himself. I escaped with this wisdom, hastily scrawled down on parchment in my own blood, the corners slick with burger grease…

Brighton Burgers: Tell me how The Troll’s Pantry got started. What made you decide…

View original 1,804 more words

It’s been about a year since I posted the blog titled The Street Food Revolution and Why it Matters. With the move at the end of the month to the Hobgoblin pub,  I felt the time was right to speak a little more about the principles of street food and why they have continued to shape how my business develops. The opportunities the street food model brings are something I aim to continue to utilise  even after the move to the Hobgoblin.

Street food is about more than a fancy gimmick. While the idea of buying gourmet food from a van that’s traditionally only ever sold cash and carry value burgers is undoubtedly quirky, there’s a whole deeper set of principles that are central to the Street Food movement at play.

Low prices, high quality

In the wake of the horse meat scandal, the need to know our food has been sourced well has become of even greater importance  Many restaurants rely on large wholesalers for virtually all of their food, whether its meat, cheese or vegetables and while this does undoubtedly help keep costs down and save time, there is a catch. When our food is distributed in this way it can become increasingly difficult to ensure traceability  Is that beef really 100% beef or does it contain something else? It’s passed through so many different hands it only takes one weak link for the whole system to fail. This is precisely what happened with the horse meat scandal.

The greatest benefit of the street food model is the overheads are incredibly low. That means it’s possible to provide the very best local, sustainably sourced ingredients and not charge £10 – £15 for a meal. While many may argue my burgers are expensive, priced between £5 and £9.50, it’s important to keep it in context. If you were to buy a burger at a gastro pub, you’d be paying similar prices, if not more. But free from the constraints of expenses like waiters, heating and business rates, the street food vendor has the opportunity to go all out and buy the finest ingredients in the land. Best of all, this can be served up at a price affordable to the average Jo.

Chef to Customer interaction

In a traditional restaurant setting, actually being able to speak to the chef is a rarity. Often hidden away around the back, sweating buckets in a kitchen the person cooking your food has little connection with the person they are serving. This has two main drawbacks. Firstly, its possible the chef will not care quite as much about the food he/she is serving up. They don’t have to see the disappointed faces of the customers when an inadequate meal is presented to them. While this may be great for the chefs stress levels, it’s not good for the customer. What isn’t good for the customer isn’t great for the business, or the food industry in general.

When the chef is right there in front of the customer there is just no hiding. You have to have clean fingernails. You can’t drop it on the floor and give it a quick wipe because no one will notice. You are being watched constantly and the pressure can get a bit much, but if that’s what it takes to inspire excellence then so be it!

The other great benefit of the street food model is the fact that with this new interaction, it makes the whole experience just that little more personal. You can see the sweat and tears on the face of the person making this food for you. If the passion is there it will shine through for all to see, not just in the way a chef speaks about the food, but in the food itself!

It brings people together

In street food, there are no set tables, no pre booking, no stuffy waiters. It’s a big bunch of people, standing around, excited and happy to be there. This isn’t like the queue at the supermarket checkouts where everyone’s faces look miserable as sin. When you get twenty people or more queuing for some street food, an amazing thing happens. People start talking to each other! One of the problems with the traditional restaurant setting is so many efforts go towards making the experience seem relaxed and personal, but it’s all a charade, none of it feels real.  Maybe the people standing around in the rain waiting for a bit of tasty grub are a bit cold and wet, maybe they are cursing the fact they didn’t bring their wellies, but at least they are communicating. I see complete strangers strike up conversation every day, something you never ever see at other locations. Think, how often does it happen at a train station, or on a bus? The casual atmosphere of street food bleeds out into the street and affects everyone involved. It’s almost as if everyone is becoming liberated by the whole experience.

The idea

Now you may be wondering, “Why the hell is this guy harping on about the principles of street food, when he’s just sold the whole thing down the river to trade in a pub?”

Well, I shall explain.

The decision to move to a pub was announced a good few months ago. This isn’t something I was prepared to rush headlong into as I needed to make sure whatever happened, that I was able to keep to the principles I just mentioned. Low prices, chef interaction and relaxed atmosphere.

One of the reasons I chose the Hobgoblin was the casual vibe it gives off. I became aware pretty quickly that a traditional restaurant concept was not going to work here. People don’t come to this pub to be seated at a table and order bottles of fine wine. They come here to meet up with mates, down a few pints and have some banter. Coupled with the fact that it has a pretty massive beer garden, the name “Hobgoblin” and the fairly central location, this place seemed pretty much ideal.

So the idea was in place. The tricky thing was how to implement it without sacrificing the street food principles. My first idea was to build a burger shack in the garden. However after looking at the costs involved in building such a thing, I instead opted to serve from a pop up gazebo.

The downside to this is I’m once again limited in terms of power, space and equipment. However, limitations that are one of the principle drivers towards the creativity of street food. It forces the chef to come up with unique solutions to problems which inevitably lead down paths the chef may not have previously discovered.

So therein lay the next problem. I wanted to provide a more varied menu, with fries, chill, burritos and other delights, but a big menu doesn’t fit with the street food model. A larger menu means more man power, more time, less freshness and more wastage. All of these negatives inevitably lead to higher prices, especially if everything is prepared from scratch.

The Solution

So I started to think. Why is it restaurants often have the same menu format day in and day out? Surely nowadays with the powers of social media at our disposal, it must be possible to be more spontaneous and fickle. It was a theory I tested out from the trailer when for a few weeks I made Wednesday a burger free day. Instead I served chilli and pulled pork and it went down a storm!. Only one or two customers who turned up left upon realising there were no burgers. People were happy to try something different, even excited by it. The most important thing for many is the fact that the food has all been made with maximum love, from the best ingredients.

The other issue was that I had decided to trade at a new street food market that opens at the end of April called “Street Diner” on Fridays by Queens Road.  It’s taken me a year to get to the level of burger perfection you see now and it will take some time to train someone else up to ensure the quality is always consistent. For that reason I’ve decided that for now, I will always be the person cooking the burgers. Of course, I can’t be in the kitchen every day of the week, lunchtimes and evenings as well as run a business.

So I’ve decided to keep the burgers as a end of the week treat! Until the Street Diner opens, I will be serving the burgers up from a Gazebo on Friday lunchtimes in the beer garden of the Hobgoblin, after which I will be flipping them up on Queens Road. However, do not fear, there will be something equally as awesome coming to the pub Tuesday to Friday lunchtimes. I plan to launch my new Tex Mex menu, with my special smoky chilli (both meat and veggie), triple cooked fries are back, along with a whole new range of burritos! All made using the same locally sourced, quality meat principles I apply to my burgers.

These will be served from the kitchen, but it will be a no frills affair, no plates, no side salad to discard on the floor. Everything is going to be served in biodegradable, sustainably sourced takeaway containers for you to casually enjoy with a pint in the beer garden. For me, the hand to mouth experience is an essential part of street food, so there will be no cutlery barring a wooden fork to eat the chilli. The menu is going to be tight and there will be less choice than at virtually all other restaurants. This once again helps me keep costs down, so I can continue to provide you with the very best ingredients at a price you can afford. No cutting corners!

The Weekend will be all about the burgers. Both Saturday and Sunday I’ll be outside in the Gazebo serving up the burgers you all love and cherish. I’m keeping the format exactly the same. Small menu, cooked to order, queue until it’s in your hands. At the end of the day why change a system that works? Maybe one or two of you long for table service and hate the idea of queuing  but I hope now I’ve had a chance to explain my reasoning and you’ll understand that it’s all for the greater good. After all, it’s a quality product that made this business successful. I intend to do everything in my power to keep that quality consistent.

Finally, I hope to see you all on the 31st March for the opening launch of The Troll’s Pantry at the Hobgoblin. We’re both going all out to make this a day to remember, with live music, DJ’s and an amazing atmosphere. It starts at 1pm and will continue on until the early hours.

The event is here;

http://www.facebook.com/events/355177117933611/

Much love to you all and I hope to see you this week, for my final week at The Wood Store. Saturday the 23rd being my final day.

 

 

The Troll's Pantry:

Great review of the Troll’s Pantry. Well researched too!

Originally posted on Philippa Ratcliffe:

The Troll's PantryThe Troll’s Pantry – Brighton

Want to know what’s in Stinky Breath? You might think you know but it’s not related to the morning after ten pints, 20 cigarettes and a dubious doner…The Troll will tell you.

Tucked away in the corner of a woodstore car park in Brighton is a Troll.

This isn’t any old Troll though. He’s not hiding waiting to pounce on you as you ‘trip trap’ across the car park. This Troll makes you drool and salivate. This Troll wants to make you eat a burger as you should with juices running off your fingers, down your arm and off your chin. This Troll uses ethically sourced produce and makes his own buns…yes, really.

Two years ago after working in dead end jobs in pubs and kitchens, the recession bit and the Troll found himself unemployed. Struggling to find a job, instead of crawling into a…

View original 510 more words

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