StrEATFood Awards interview
We speak to finalist Nick Sharma, who was also Aramark’s Street Food Champion for 2020...
Congratulations on the title! Were you expecting to win?
While I knew I was up against some stiff competition, I was confident in my chosen concept as it is both exciting and diverse, and there is definitely a gap in the market for it. I strongly believe that organisation is a key factor in building your confidence, and I was prepared from the get-go for this competition.
It was great to meet some of the exceptional chefs that I was competing against. It made for an intellectually stimulating atmosphere, which made taking part in the competition even more enjoyable.
How did you come up with your winning dish?
The concept I came up with is called ‘Bird ‘N’ Bun’. I believe that street food should be both simple and flavoursome. I always push myself to work my hardest and to produce consistent results at my working environment at the University of East London. I truly believe that my concept is simple, exciting and vibrant. It is a tailor-made concept for both the present day and for future grab-and-go consumer trends.
My idea was to create a fusion of diverse cultures and flavours from around the globe from the basis of something as simple as chicken in a bun. It incorporates a range of different regional and national chicken recipes, all packed with flavour from across the world. This concept can be expanded upon exponentially by utilising different chicken recipes from around the world, all served within the medium of a savoury vegan doughnut.
Bird ‘n’ Bun lends itself well to the plant-based revolution with a range of vegan and vegetarian options. Therefore, I chose to make a vegan doughnut base to ensure consistency for all consumers. A doughnut is a welcome alternative to a sandwich or burger, yet it is still very portable, which is a necessity for street food. These dishes are light and yet packed with flavour.
You are cooking it in the finals of the StrEATFood Awards, are you looking forward to the event?
I am looking forward to this event with a great sense of anticipation. Not only will I be surrounded by other talented chefs, but we will get to learn tips and tricks from each other and increase our knowledge base.
I truly believe that I perform to the greatest of my abilities in a competitive environment. It gives me the opportunity to showcase my skills and capability, and prove the strength of my concept and the theory behind it. Pressure is always part of being a chef!
For competitions, I always ensure that I am confident and totally prepared, both mentally and with regard to concept. This highlights my organisational skills, my developed palate, and, simply, my love for the catering industry and the flavoursome food we can create. Competitions like this are a valuable opportunity to garner feedback and insight from top level judges.
How important is street food on your everyday menus?
It is very important, as street food is exciting and gives us the opportunity to interact with our customers. The majority of consumers want to have a flavoursome and freshly cooked meal, something different from the usual limp sandwich. An exciting lunch can lift a day that is otherwise dragging and invigorate you for the rest of the day.
We have countless options to implement street food menus at work. Contract catering has changed massively over the years, and so has the very the principle of street food. Convenience, innovation and big flavours are now the demands for consumers various work environments.
I’m also ecstatic to have our company food van, which can be moved around and between our sites - it is fully suited. Add to this, we also been utilising our beautiful trikes within our business, which gives off a true street food vibe.
Finally, we have the live action counter at my workplace, which gives us the opportunity to cook for, and interact with, our valued customers. They can see their food being prepared in front of them, which always excites them. What more could a chef want!
How did you see street food evolving in the future?
Street food has always been extremely varied, but I do feel Indian is our next destination. The endless combinations of flavours give you the opportunity to explore all the delicious spices and beautiful fragrant food.
As I implied before, it needs to be simple and quick, but also affordable. These principles are at the core of what I believe and what I am developing next – make sure to look out for it!