by Mat Amp
The culture of street food goes back as far as ancient Greece. Apparently Theophrastus, successor of Aristotle in leadership of the Lyceum, held the custom of street food in low regard.
But what did he know? For me, there really is nothing like the smell of fresh food cooking on the street right there in front of you.
History is rife with examples of a culture that has flourished in the most urbanised of modern western cities. It seems we just can’t get enough of street food and neither can Sam Boyd, 27, and Cynthia Shanmugalingam, 34, the co-founders of Kitchenette Karts.
Kitchenette Karts is a project based in Tower Hamlets, with it’s roots firmly in the east London community and aims to use street food to help young people (18-24 year olds) into employment. Cynthia said: “[The project is geared towards] helping young disadvantaged, low income people from east London to get into the booming industry that is street food. The idea is for us to have our own street food truck serving healthy and sustainable fish and chips. We want that income stream to help 20 young people each year to learn the ropes.”
Once they’ve recruited the young people they plan to offer support primarily through hands on experience in the Kitchenette Karts vehicle itself and street food work placements. Sam said: “We think the most important thing is learning by doing. [Trainees] will be trying their hand at front of house serving customers which will develop their communication skills and with the cooking and food prep comes the technical skills… and the business side of things too. We want to help them into a job either with a street food trader or restaurant and we’re hoping to support some trainees in starting their own street food business.”
Cynthia and Sam have established partnerships with local charities and job centres to recruit young people who might benefit from the programme. They have identified that the biggest attributes needed for the job are a positive attitude and an interest in all aspects of the business, rather than a passion for the food itself.
Cynthia’s connection with Bootstrap goes back to the days of a food-market, the Long Table, that used to take place in what is now the Bootyard. She said: “Bootstrap is actually how
Kitchenette got started after I met someone here at the long table who ran a food incubator in San Francisco. They did another event and gave Kitchenette a pitch, so you could say it has come full circle.”
That circle was completed when Bootstrap helped to promote the launch of Kitchenette Karts at Dalston Roof Park on Monday 4th July. The launch sold out and raised £1000 towards Kitchenette Karts crowd funding appeal which successfully raised over £30,000, with the Mayor’s office pledging £15,000. The successful campaign has secured them the funds to get their first vehicle, with a further £9,000 earmarked to kit it out. Sam said: “The benefits of [the van] are once you’re done you can just drive away. Being on wheels will be a huge plus.”
The pair are determined not to sacrifice quality for the social mission. Cynthia said: “We both really love food so it’s important that the food is,delicious, appealing and compelling in it’s own right.” In their van Sam and Cynthia will serve Scottish Collie fried in rapeseed oil for a light batter that will be served with locally sourced slaw, fennel, capers and lots of fresh herbs, together with a tartar made from yogurt rather than mayonnaise.
In the future they want to buy several more trucks with the hope that bookings at events such as weddings and festivals will ensure a robust business model. Sam is confident that there is room for the idea to grow in the future. He said: “The exciting potential is the network that could grow out of it. In terms of both the trucks that we operate, but also the new food businesses that the young people might create and the employment opportunities that that will provide for other people that come through the programme. It can hopefully multiply in terms of impact in that way as well.” Cynthia added “I hope that some of the young people we will have worked with will be running the trucks and working in the organisation. I hope there will be at least five or six other street food businesses that will be run by graduates.”
If Sam and Cynthia’s enthusiasm and commitment is anything to go by the future’s looking bright for Kitchenette Karts. Keep your eyes peeled for the truck of healthy and delicious fish and chips supporting young disadvantaged people in and around East London.
This blog was created for Bootstrap, by volunteers at Poached Creative.