Paving the way for Leeds street food success

Tom Hunter, from Street Fodder, one of the Street Food vendors within Trinity Kitchen. PIC: James Hardisty
Tom Hunter, from Street Fodder, one of the Street Food vendors within Trinity Kitchen. PIC: James Hardisty
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As the unique Trinity kitchen celebrates its first birthday and The British Street Food Awards come to Leeds for the first time, Catherine scott takes a looks at the trend

Street food to me suggests either something dodgy from a van as we stagger out of a nightclub, or some mysterious concoction from bubbling away on an Asian pavement

Well, British street food 2014 is neither of these. It is the fastest growing eating trend in the UK and beyond as people are increasingly time and cash poor and in search of something more exciting than a soggy sandwich for lunch.

And Leeds is at the forefront of the movement which is revolutionising the way we cook and eat food.

In testimony to this the

City has been chosen to host

the fifth British Street Food Awards next week. (September 26 - 28).

The man behind the awards is journalist and food writer Richard Johnson, who was involved with creating the boundary-pushing Trinity Kitchen.

“My relationship with Leeds started some years ago when I had a conversation with Land Securities who own Trinity Leeds,” explains Johnson.

“They wanted to put street food onto the first floor of a building. I thought they were mad.”

According to Paul Smith, Trinity Leeds Marketing Manager, he wasn’t alone.

“There was a time during the development of Trinity Leeds that we had to stop for a while. It was worrying at time, but actually it gave us the opportunity to sit down and decide exactly what we wanted to do moving forward. There were lots of meetings where people were just invited to come up with ideas, no matter how outlandish they may sound.”

It was at one of these meeting that someone suggested lifting street food wagons, vans, carts, sheds and truck up onto the first floor of Trinity Leeds. Five vendors would spend a month in Trinity Kitchen and then the whole process of lifting the wagons into place would be reversed and another five street food.

“Once we had decided that we could do it we had to work out how,” says Smith.

They had to find a way of lifting the vans up the side of the building, in through an opening in one of the walls and in to the first floor food hall. Every month the road next to Trinity Kitchen (above Boots) is close so that specialist hydraulic lifting equipment can lift the vehicles into place.

“We did have a few sleepless nights,” admits Smith. “Nothing like Trinity Kitchen has ever been done before and so there was nothing to follow we had to take the lead in everything.”

Once they had worked out the logistics they then had to find the street food traders to take over the pitches.

“We knew about everything that it had to be authentic,” says Smith. “People are very savvy and they know if something isn’t genuine.”

As Richard Johnson had been in on the idea from the beginning it made sense that he be consulted about who could fill the five pitches.

“I have been passionate about British street food for many years and that’s why I started the street food awards five years ago.”

Johnson comes up with lists of people he believes would be suitable for Trinity Kitchen and so far it has proved a huge success with more than 25,000 people a week passing its threshold to try some of the delights within. Smith needn’t have had so many sleepless nights.

“We knew within days that we had his on something good,” he says.

In the last year Trinity Kitchen has seen street food from Morocco, Japan, Caribbean, Vietnam, Spanish, French and English serving everything from Seafood chowder, Naan rolls and noodles, to crepes and waffles. There are also five more permanent traders in Trinity Kitchen.

“We have never had a spare place, yet,” says Smith. “It has come close on the odd occasion, but we have been really pleased with how it has turned out.”

There has only been one close shave, he recalls, when one street trader wanted to bring an old American ambulance up the side of the building.

“The hydraulic lift takes a maximum of two and half tonnes and we were assured that was what the ambulance weighed. When it came to it it was actually nearer four tonnes. We managed to get it into the building but then the lift company refused to take it out again so we had to set about dismantling it to reduce the weight. We even had to take the engine out.”

It is a testimony to the success of Trinity Kitchen and the street food scene in Leeds that Richard Johnson has decided to hold his annual awards in the City.

“I have been working in the city for 18 months and have grown to love it. The City Council invited us to hold the awards here and it just made sense.”

Johnson fell in love with street food after he had an epiphany with a burger.

“In the old days, British street food meant cheap sausages and over fried onions, served off rusty metal handcarts. But that’s changing.

“I had this burger from a street food trader in a car park outside a carpet warehouse and it tasted amazing, It made me realise what a burger should taste like, that there was a different way of doing a burger, it was incredible and yet he made it in front of me in the street with 28 day aged Hereford beef.”

Johnson talks about this burger, and the bun it was delivered to him in, with such reverence it is hard not to be infected by his passion.

It was this burger that set him on his mission to raise the profile of British street food.

“Street food is anything that is sold on the street, but for me I want to see action, I want theatre.”

Back at Trinity Kitchen there is plenty of theatre. There is Tom Hunter from Leeds who with his wife Louise have run Street Fodder for just over a year.

Working out of a blue van decked in bunting, chef Tom worked in restaurants all over Leeds before deciding to go it alone.

“There was a gap in the market for Asian style street food which is what I love,” says Tom who

also does events, festivals and wedding.

Zopito Di Domenico, is selling both ice cream and pizza from his Piaggio Ape Classico for Brio Gelato, part of Brio restaurant in Harrogate.

“We were lucky, we started just before the Tour de France and now we have this space at Trinity Leeds. It was a big investment but worth it.”

Behind a brightly coloured shed with its own decking area is Tanja Quinn from Pop-a-Ball - a a complete reinvention of Asian bubble tea with jelly-like balls that pop in your mouth.

“Suddenly they get a shock and they just love it,” says Tanja.

There is also Lewis Maude from The Salty Cow in Clifford who was selling locally sourced beef which they brine for 7 days to produce tasty salt beef sandwiches.

To start weeks of 1st birthday celebrations Trinity Kitchen is sponsoring the British Street Food Awards.

“Trinity Kitchen is a year old and has been a huge success already,” says Johnson. “It was a very brave move, but it will now be copied around the world.”


The Finals of the British Street Food Awards take place in Millennium Square Leeds on September 26 to 29.

More than 25 street food traders from across Europe compete to win the coveted title.

Regional heats have already taken place culminating in the final in Leeds next weekend.

Visitors to the finals also get the chance to vote for their favourite in the People’s Choice Award via the BSF app.

The other categories are judged by the panel made up of Lisa Markwell editor of The Independent on Sunday, Yianni Papoutsis is the godfather of street food in Britain, and the owner of the MEAT chain of restaurants, actress, Gaynor Faye, Ed Baines thechef and owner of Randall & Aubin restaurant, champagne and oyster bar in Soho. and Richard Johnson.

Here are the categories for the 2014 British Street Food Awards:

Best of the Best (sponsored by Trinity Kitchen)

The People’s Choice

Best Main Dish (sponsored by NCASS)

Best Sandwich

Best Snack (sponsored by Cauldron Foods)

Best Pizza

Best Burger

Best Dessert

Best Drink

Best Overseas Trader

Best Newcomer – One To Watch

Best Street Food Collective

Best Street Food Event

As well as the amazing variety of food there will be street performers, live music, craft beers, and other events aimed at making it a true celebration of the all things street food.

To find out more about the awards and tickets visit:

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