The Joker, Tongue ‘n Cheek in da house !

It’s party time, the 1st of March aka this Saturday we will go full throttle with a new menu designed for our residency at The Joker of Penton Stree in Angel.

The last 3 weeks we’ve put lots of ideas, work, passion and fun into action for what we want to be a great place to eat indoor keeping our feet rooted in the street food.

On the opening night, we will present our new T&C Spring/Summer Collection 2014, (love this line as it make me feel so creative type), including: a new member of the Heartbreaker burger family, the Cheesy Deluxe, featuring our homemade British melting cheese; a Club Sandwich you can be proud of; our take on fried chicken – marinated in fermented rice;  the “Healthy” Salad – more beef, less leaves, last but not least a vegetarian “burger” that doesn’t just fill in an empty gap in the menu, and surprises are not ended.

At the Joker there will be a lots going on starting with the welcome back of our Italian Sunday Roast, with menu taking inspiration from the diversity of italian regional food culture.

On the drinks side, we’re very excited to be working with Dan and Seanan from The Joker, who’ll be mixing cocktails using homemade infusions and pulling pints of locally-brewed craft beer from The Laine Brewery in Hackney. These guys know good ingredients make a good night out, whether it’s the tea in their Earl Grey Gin, or the vintage vinyl spinning on the bar.

We love this space. The open plan kitchen lets us replicate and extend the T&C street food experience, keeping us close to our punters, while a private function room has us planning various themed nights.

Already on the drawing board is an 80s night, taking an irreverent look at the dishes on our home and restaurant tables from that decade.

Honestly I’m as much happy as anxious and impatience. Our aim is to let people have fun time and enjoy food as much as we savour thinking, sourcing, prepping and cooking it.

Note: this post is not written on the move but still please forgive any typos, grammar, syntax, or other mistakes, and yes you are free to mock me, as long as you let me know where the error is.

Heartbreaker, A Burger Story

With the London Burger Bash almost upon us, I thought  it was time to tell the origin story of my Heartbreaker burger.  They say competition is part of the game whichever business you’re in: well, the Heartbreaker burger’s birth proves that there are still generous people around.

Now I could start with:

A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away…

but I guess such a clichéd opening would have you reaching for the mouse in search of the latest funny cat video. Instead, I’ll just get down to it.

In the early March 2012 I was playing with the idea of using ox heart for a burger to be presented to a nose-to-tail event organized by Sustain. So I contacted my favourite burger maestro, Ben from Lucky Chip for some advice.  He proved to be a star, inviting me to try a few guest spots at his Sebright Arms’ s kitchen and providing – at his own cost! –different combinations of patty mix (with different % of ox heart plus its own patty mix) just to try out the taste and how the patty  held together. He gave me the idea to dress the burger with chimichurri sauce and so came the Original Heartbreaker, as well as teaching me a lot about bread types.

I also have to thank Manuel from Mother Flipper, who shared his tips on cooking, provided his own griddles to let me experiment with some patties and gave general advice, all this while trading at Brockley market. Cherry on top, he custom built my first closh, which I still proudly use.

From this early start the whole process to create the Heartbreaker took a long time, involving a lot of tests with the active participation of friends and brave customers. Still fresh in my mind the time when Wilkes ( randomly appeared at Kings Boulevard KERB market, as only he knows how, just in time to test a 100% ox heart patty.

Well, the story would not be complete with out the credit to the Heartbreaker name origin. In the process of naming the Heartbreaker, I was often trading next to Danny of Kimchi Cult and one day, while I was loudly blabbing about possible names, I came up with “Braveheart”, then Danny, probably tired of hearing my mumbling, suggested “why not Heartbreaker”.

From these very first steps, lots have happend and the meeting with Nathan of The Butchery, led the Heartbreaker development further to the nowaday burger pinnacles.

And this is it, more or less.

Finding a pitch or else where to trade…tips and hints

I clearly remember that few months ago I was asking information to a street fooder that was trading in a busy London business lunch market and he stated to me“ …before you plan anything or make any project or else…apply for a pitch as I‘ve met many nice people with well-organized business plan that could not work out their way to find a place where to trade their food”.

Honestly at that time I got shocked a bit as I was in the between to organize my arrival to London from Italy and his words sound like, it would have been a hell of problem or almost impossible to find a place for trading.

Actually, it’s not easy and I’m still in middle of my way but here there are some things I’ve came to learn in the past months that could come handy to someone else…so here we go.

First it’s not easy but not impossible.

Give your self the time, and it literally means do not expect to succeed at the first try and if you do, good.

Believe in what you do and be prepared to sell your ideas of street food. So have pretty clear in mind of what you want to do and how you can explain it in a simple and catching way.

The city or London central areas could be very good places where to trade but there are also councils out of zone 1 or 2 that have some free pitches available and they might be quite interesting to test and this could actually works for other city or places.

Yes there is always a waiting list for any interesting market but some times market managers are looking to differentiate what the market has to offer and you might find ears to listen to that you have to say.

If you planning to cook on the street using electrics appliances be aware that power supply is not unlimited and it’s a cost and it’s not always available so be prepared to adapt yourself and your cooking needs.

When you apply for a pitch is essential to know the exact name of the person in charge and his/her contact details as you might end up talking with someone who will say “ yes yes yes ahh umm ohh good wonderful..ohh local” but once the application or papers are collected those will be just piled up.

Do web search, that doesn’t mean just google the keys words “market, London, pitch” but follow also food blogs, social media, street fooders web sites or else involved locally with food as you might find some hints for events or other possibilities that are not widely publicized.

A pitch in a market is not the only solution to trade as a street fooder and you might find your local or else Pub, just as an example, quite interested to guest your street food ideas.

it’s vital to talk with other street fooders as there are a lot of nice people out there that are willing to give tips and advises, or introduce you to someone who could be helpful.

Be open to other street fooders about your ideas, projects otherwise you cannot expect others to share anything with you.

If you succeed to get a pitch be present if it’s rainy or sunny as you have been trusted and you have to show interest and respect…isn’t it P.  😉

Where do I cook ?

This is a question that puzzled me for quite a while before starting my street food project.

Where I’m going to prepare the food? I mean where I can legaly prepare my food as you require the evidence of that.

It might be essential for a street fooder to have a preparation kitchen. Sure, some street fooders cook everything on he spot, especially if they have a well equipped van but there are also many of us that need to work out preparations before getting to the street and there are actually few solutions depending on the needs.

In London you can find some commercial kitchen for hire but I think it can be good choice for a short term as these kitchen are usually quite expensive or they could be located far from where you are based so you will end up wasting a lot of time just reaching the kitchen and enjoying the London traffic

Good opportunities to find working spaces are provided by the many pups, restaurants or other catering companies, that sometimes hire their kitchens too. It’s then important that when you find a pub or other commercial kitchen you make sure, that they comply with the Health & Safety requirements, as you’ll need lately to register you company with the local authority and Health & Safety that will come to inspect the premises as long they don’t have already prove of good standard of health & safety practise.

A different solution for a street food start up is to register your private home as a food business premises.

Let’s say that being in UK helps a lot as here you can actually legally register your home kitchen as “home commercial kitchen”, where in Italy for example that would be impossible.

If you want to register you kitchen with your local authority and the health and environment authority, the first step is to get on contact with them and ask for information. This is a way to present your self and your food business projetc to your concil.

The law requires food businesses to register their premises with the local authority. This should be done at least 28 days prior to opening. Registration is a very simple process and the registration form should only take a few minutes to complete. There is no charge to register premises and registration does not need to be renewed periodically. Local authorities cannot refuse to register premises.” as stated by the Greenwich council in theri web page and you have to register in any case either you are using a van or a mobie kitchen.

So the registration cannot be refused but you still need to get your home kitchen approved by your local Food Hygiene, Food Standards and Health & Safety office. so after appyling for the food premises registration you need to set an appointment with the Health & Safety office to inspect your home. It’s important that before you get the inspection you obtain a Level 2 award in Food Safety for Catering, that you can easily gain with an on line course. The Health & Safety office asks this certificate and it is generally required when you apply for food trading in markets and events, so you have to have one soon or later.

My kitchen will be eligible and it will pass the inspection of the Health & Safety officer?

Well generally the Health & Safety officer want to make sure that you are aware of what you are doing and that you understand all the risks involved in your food preparation. This can be proved providing a H.A.C.C.P. plan.

Other thing to consider is the kitchen condition. Of course the preparation area has to be tidy and depending on what type of food you are producing is more or less important to have a separate fridge to keep separate the food for home consumption from the one you sell on the street. I actually consider quite essential to have a separate fridge. There are also more things/rules that you need to consider when you set up your home kitchen as work space for food production and generally you attend the Food Safety for Catering course you will be able to get the understanding on how to set a proper and safe food preparation enviroment.

What to expect during the Health & Safety office visit?

During the visit you’ll be questioned about what you do and how you will use the kitchen. You’ll might be asked to give details about each step of the food preparation starting from sourcing the ingredients, delivery, preparation, food temperature, whashing up, cleaning and so on. The fact is that you have to prove that you know what your are doing, providing evidence of it. If there are things that are wrong the Health & Safety office will advice you on how to manage them and they might require a second visit to check if you did follow their suggestions.

Here few usefull links

Safer food better business ‘Working with food? What you need to know before you start’

Running a Small Food Business from Home pdf with general guide lines

If you have anything to add or if you thing that some information reported are misleading or incomplete, please come back to me and I will take good consideration of sugestion and advice.

Sourcing ingredients

This is version of the same post as I did change few times the content.

Umm this is a huge subject and actually everyone involved in street food, catering, restaurant and more in general in the food industry has it’s own way to manage it. The web helps a lot with loads of information but because are loads are difficult to decrypt. I found quite useful the links you can gather from well-appointed restaurant web sites that are more often willing to share with their customer names of the producers they use as they understand that is an added value to their menu as well as subliminal premium price.  What about the farmers markets or market in general where you can actually have a first try? Associations web sites are useful too if you are looking to find an organic, biodynamic or what else range of products. I also find vital to keep always an eye open especially on other food traders as if you operate in a market or near by there might be some really good producers that will be more than happy to supply what you need and this type of collaboration could lead to a cross communication or else.

What about the product quality ? How do I find a good high quality product? Well these questions lead to a more general one…what is a high quality product/ingredient? It’s an organic one? It’s a fair trade product? It’s local or else? It’s the one that adds distinctiveness to the food prepared? It’s seasonal? It’s secret?

Could it be that it’s a mix of recognized factors that are embedded by everyone values, beliefs, cultural background, knowledge, experience, aims and objectivity as well as a good amount of values’ marketing ?

Now if you are thinking that from these lines are missing mre consideration about: food miles, sustainability, biodiversity, ethical, fair trade just to say few I agree with you and that’s it.

Further consideration should hopefully come shortly.

what’s about this blog

Hi there,

so I have 3 more weeks to go before I get rid of my full cast but let’s step back and explain few things…in June I did move with my family from Italy to London to give birth to Tongue ‘n Cheek but unfortunately on the 29th of June I’ve got hit by a car and I ended up with a full cast on the my left leg that doesn’t really help at all my project. Any way luckily I have the support of a good friend that came from Italy to help me in the early June and he ended up working very hard to support Tongue n’ Cheek that could not exist at the present with out him.

And so what ? Do I want to praise Federico, it’s him,  with one post a day…well no

but I‘m actually going to write a sort of diary that will deal with things that I can manage from home like: communication, pitch search, street food bureaucracy, menu planning, sourcing ingredients and so on, basically I want to share information that could be of some help to other street fooders.