StrEATFood Awards interview

We speak Erica Hines, assistant development chef for Fooditude, who was a finalist at the 2021awards...

What's your everyday role?

My day-to-day role involves developing menus, dishes and pop-up concepts for Fooditude. You'll usually find me working with our head of food development and innovation, chef Susi, in our central production kitchen, testing fresh new flavours for our clients' meals. I like to bring inspiration to my recipes from the exciting tastes I find in London's buzzing food scene and my travels abroad.

For me, Fooditude is a great place for me to get creative in my own way with cooking. No idea is a bad idea, until tried and tasted. The company's commitment to cooking to the seasons is something I relish, because, firstly, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients are good for the planet and taste better, and secondly, I enjoy the challenge. 

I’d also like to take this chance to give a shout out to the kitchen team at Fooditude, as they’re doing such a great job in reducing our food waste. There’s a real commitment from the team to use resources more sustainably, and they’re absolutely killing it! 

How did you come to enter?
I entered the StrEATfood Awards because I wanted a new creative challenge, something a little different to my day-to-day at the Fooditude kitchens. So, when I heard about the StrEATfood Awards, the event sounded precisely like what I was looking for – and I haven't looked back since.  

Street food has always inspired what I cook in the kitchen. Whether I'm getting food from a stand on the streets of London or Bangkok, the ingenuity that you find from street food chefs is so inspiring. Part of my job at Fooditude is running street-food-style pop-ups at client sites, cooking meals in this style. This gave me the confidence to enter this competition.

I think it's good for a chef to stick their neck out and try something different; cooking can only get better from experience. For any chef worth their salt, they should be searching for experiences that take their cooking one more step forward. For me, this was the StrEATfood Awards. 

What was your signature dish?
My signature dish was the Bangkok Kebab, which includes charred Thai-spiced chicken thigh, som tam salad, panang mayo, coconut yoghurt flatbread and candied peanuts. This dish came with an accompanying mai tai cocktail, served in a green coconut. 

As you can probably tell by the name, Thai cuisine inspired my signature dish. There's not much else in the world that's as formidable as Thai cuisine, which offers distinct aromas and big flavours while still tasting fresh and healthy to eat. 

How do you stay calm when competing?
I'm not going to lie: competing at the StrEATfood Awards isn't exactly a zen experience! There are nerves there for sure. Cooking under time pressure? Absolutely fine with that. There's nothing there I haven't done before. But cooking in front of huge crowds? Plus all the cameras and interview questions? Now that's the bit I wasn't used to! I admit, it did make me a little nervous. But hey, it's all part of the fun. 

Did you enjoy the event?
Yes, I had a great time at the StrEATfood Awards, and so did my Fooditude support crew. The day had a really good buzz. All the competitors were friendly and supportive. I liked seeing what the other teams cooked up too. There's some superb talent competing at the StrEATfood Awards, which makes the event even more competitive and ups the stakes. It's a thrill to be part of it. 

And you know what? I think I will compete again at another StrEATfood Awards. Since the last competition, I've discovered tons of new ideas and flavours that I can bring to the competition. So watch this space…

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