Street food interview
We speak to Nick Sharma, who was named Aramark’s UK Street Food Champion for 2020 earlier this year...
Why did you enter the awards?
I decided to take part in competition to challenge myself and my skillset after 20 years as a chef. I am passionate about street food – the branding, the big flavours, the accessibility – and wanted to showcase my take on everyone’s favourite protein, chicken. As for the awards side, I’m a competitive guy and I wanted to make something that could be a success for customers, for the client sites and for our business in Aramark.
Finally, competitions like this are a great way to gain feedback and insights from top-quality judges. I always welcome the opportunity to learn something from the experience.
Street food has become so broad, how did you decide what to cook?
Street food needs to be both simple and flavoursome. I have worked very hard and consistently within this and I believe my recipe is simple, exciting, vibrant and fits well within grab-and-go consumer trends.
My inspiration was to incorporate a fusion of diverse cultures and flavours from around the world to the humble base of chicken in a bun! This included a range of regional and national chicken recipes packed full of flavour from all over the world, all served within the medium of a savoury vegan doughnut.
This idea can be expanded exponentially, by using different, traditional chicken recipes from around the world. It also lends itself well to the plant-based revolution with a range of vegan and vegetarian fillings, which is why I have made the doughnut a vegan recipe to ensure consistency of the base for all consumers. Equally, a doughnut is a different alternative to a sandwich or burger, yet still very portable, which is a necessity for street food. These dishes are light and yet packed with flavour.
How do you stay calm under pressure when competing?
Pressure is part and parcel of life as a chef! But for competitions, I make sure I am always well-prepared and confident in my menu. These events can then be seen as a showcase for my organisational skills, my developed palate and my love for simple, flavoursome food.
Why has street food become so popular?
Diverse culture and food knowledge of our community and workplaces has grown with far more travel and the accessibility of food and culture online. People are now exploring different flavours and street vendors can be the most accessible, and most authentic, way to do this. Street food culture is easily affordable, and it gives you freedom to eat what you want in your own way.
How do you get street food onto your menus at work?
We have a number of ways of implementing street food menus at work. Contract catering has changed massively over the years and the principles of street food – convenience, innovative, big flavours – are now the expectation for customers in so many work environments.
I’m also delighted to have our company food van, which could be moved around and between our sites and is fully equipped. Added to this we also have beautiful trikes, which gives you a superb street feeling.
Finally, we have live theatre counter at my workplace, which gives us chance to cook and chat to our customers. They can see their food being prepared in front of them. This gives us a chance to interact with our clients and customers. What more could a chef ask for?
What effect has it had on contract catering?
It has made our contract catering more excited and interactive, giving people knowledge of different flavour and cultures food. It is also giving our young chefs chance to showcase their talent.
How did it feel to win?
I still have to pinch myself! It was amazing to be announced the UK Street Food Champion and it is such a proud moment when all your hard work and effort pays off – especially when recognised by the esteemed judges panel. Aside from the win, I also met some great contacts both on a personal and business level.
What’s next in the world of street food?
Street food has a wide range, but I do feel Indian food is incredibly popular as it has lots of flavours and gives you a chance to explore all the beautiful spices and fragrances. But as I said before, it needs to be simple, quick and affordable. These principles are at the core of what I am working on next – make sure to look out for it!
For info on our StrEAT Food Awards, go to www.bandistreatfoodawards.co.uk