With a Tripadvisor “Certificate of Excellence for 2014” and the award in the ‘Rest of the World’ category at the Eat Sheffield Awards, The Street Food Chef is going strong from its little shop on Arundel Street. When we meet, Abi couldn’t be more modest when I mention these accolades to her,
“It’s great you know, it’s a really nice thing. For us it feels like recognition for all the hard work we do and the awards really boost the morale of the staff. Obviously from a sales perspective it’s another validation for new customers, and I think that customers do pay attention to that sort of thing. So it’s great, yeah, it is really great.
Nurtured by Abi and Richard Golland, The Street Food Chef provides the people of Sheffield with healthy, Mexican, fast-food: no additives, no E numbers and, in a few of its dishes, no gluten either. At the moment there are four meals on the menu without gluten, the Mexican plate, the rice bowl, the prime mover plate or the nachos. Abi tells me they are looking into the possibility of corn tortillas. Though this is not without its pitfalls.
“The problem with corn tortillas, well, with the manufacturers of corn tortillas, is that they often put wheat in them. Which is obviously slightly dodgy but the little ones [for nachos] are easy to source and really easy to make. It’s the big ones which are really tricky and I think that it is because the larger corn tortillas tear more easily.”
Right from the very start, Abi says, there has been a decided effort to include items on the menu suitable for people with allergies and intolerances, “specifically for gluten and dairy because they’re the two which are most common”.
This is because the whole notion behind their business is that you can go in and build your own meal. There’s a set of hot ingredients and a set of cold ingredients that you can tailor to your needs. Simple as that.
And really, when you come down to it, simplicity is at the heart of The Street Food Chef. The menu’s simple, the concept is simple and they have a simple vision which they want to share with their customers:
“The main thing actually is that I want you to eat here and then feel good afterwards. Fish and chips taste great, burger and chips taste great but afterwards you do not feel great. That’s a prime driver for us as a business we want you to eat our food and be really full without that horrible, sloth-like feeling”.
Abi and her husband Richard are exceedingly passionate about their food and the ingredients they use in their dishes. Just last year they hired a nutritionist, Kurt, who brings with him a wealth of knowledge as both a nutritionist and a triathlete.
“It been really good having Kurt on board, it’s one of those things where he’s busy and we’re busy so I don’t want to put too much on Kurt but it’s brilliant in that it gives a bit of credibility to what we do and what we say”.
“It’s been really useful from a validating ourselves point of view, you know because we’re not a health food restaurant but we are health conscious. We just want everyone to know that this is what we’re about.”
So, they’re an award winning, Mexican restaurant offering a healthy alternative to fast food but how does their knowledge about the cross contamination shape up? Initially Abi laughs and remarks, “they’re chefs they know what they’re doing”.
Sadly I’m sure we’ve all had a bad experience at some point with someone who should have known what they’re doing. But she doesn’t stop there and instead continues with the reassuring information that every Coeliac wants to hear, “all the utensils are marked. The chicken spoon is always the chicken spoon, once it’s been washed and dried up, it’s still the chicken spoon. That’s the same with the flameries they go into. The preparation area is good because we use standard practises such as colour coded boards, cleaning the area down between preparation, having a specific area for meat etc.”
If you’ve ever been to The Street Food Chef you will know that they have a very small kitchen area that faces the customers and whilst on first glance this may appear to be every Coeliac’s nightmare, Abi points out the advantages of such a set up:
“You have to get people who care, and I think that having an open kitchen makes a big difference. In a closed kitchen the chef isn’t facing the customer they’re serving and I think that when they see you, eating the food that they’ve prepared, it does make a difference. They know that you can see what they’re doing as well.”
“Then of course there’s regular training and clear labelling and that’s it really”.
But that’s not quite it, the final word, what does the rest of 2015 hold for The Street Food Chef?
“We have just taken out a lease on a warehouse where all our event equipment is stored and we’re going to build a kitchen in there. We’ll then use that kitchen to supply the events which are really good for us but at the moment our restaurant kitchen is just so busy that they can’t do the quantity we would need for that. For Tramlines we produced 100 litres of salsa which is just crazy and they just can’t do that”.
“So we’re setting up another kitchen where we’ll produce salsa and event food so that we can grow the event side of the business, together with the retail arm. By doing this we’re hoping to put some money in the bank and open another shop.”
“Realistically not in 2015 but maybe 2016.”
Abi and the team are always keen for feedback on their food, feel free to drop them a message or a tweet via the links at the top of the page.