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A Day In The Life Of A Street Food Vendor

15/06/2014

in your corner had the great pleasure of interviewing Harry Goicochea, chef and owner of Peru Sabor Street Food Vendor recently. We were left with a great taste of Harry’s passion for bringing his native Peruvian cuisine to the street food scene of London, and we’re happy to take a little of the headache out of his day. Take it away Harry:

IYC: How long have you been trading as a Street Food Vendor?

PS: We started up last year in May 2013, so just over 1 year, but we only trade weekends and holidays because I work full time as a chef at the Fresh Olive Company during the week.

IYC: Where are your local hang outs?

PS: We have a couple of regular pitches: the Windsor Independent Market in Windsor town centre every 3rd Saturday of the month, and we are currently doing the first season for the Urban Food Fest every Saturday night in Shoreditch High Street. We also do one-off events like Food Festivals and Carnivals as they come up.

IYC: Describe your typical trading day?

PS: I do all the prep for my street food business during the week after work and into the night. For Shoreditch on a Saturday night I start to get ready on Wednesday evening. I buy my meat at Smithfields market in East London at 3 am on Wednesday morning and vegetables at the International Western Market in Southall at 4am on a Thursday morning. I am there anyway to buy food for Fresh Olive where I work as a chef.

I prep between 4 and 5 hours each day on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings: cutting, marinating and vac-packing the meat and preparing the vegetables and salad ingredients. I am paranoid about running out of food so prepare up to 300 servings of beef, chicken, chicken liver and ox-heart, quinoa, salad, & vegetables, wraps, buns, and skewers. I prepare the sauces from scratch on a Friday, so they are fresh for Saturday. I don’t use any preservatives, so everything has to be freshly prepared each week.

On a Saturday morning, around 10am I load the van and drive to Shoreditch. Setting up the marquee is pretty quick now we have invested in the pop-up. We used to have one that had to be screwed together, which would take over an hour to put up or take down. The new one pops-up in a few minutes but it takes longer to attach the counters and side walls and weights. Unloading all our equipment from the van and loading it back up again at the end of the day takes ages but we are ready to start cooking by 5pm.

On a good evening we will be busy all the way through to 10:30pm. Shoreditch starts to close down at 11:00pm with only cold food allowed to be sold between 11:00 and 11:30pm. We are usually finished packing up by 1.30am and get home around 3am. It is a very long week I generally sleep most of Sunday and wait until Monday to clean the grill and do all the washing up.

Then on Wednesday I start again!

IYC: How did your customers react to your new Folding Tent when you re-branded your set up?

PS: Everyone loves it. Lots of people have taken photos of the marquee and we have had lots of queries from other traders wanting to know where we bought it and how much it was.

IYC: Did you see any impact on your daily takings?

PS: Yes we believe so – the marquee definitely makes us stand out from the competition, and the counters and awnings have been fantastic for people wanting to stand and eat by the marquee.

IYC: And how about your staff? Do you think the new look changed their outlook?

PS: I think my staff like the feeling that they are working in the best marquee on the street.

IYC: What’s your favourite item on your menu?

PS: I like the traditional ox-heart anticuchos (skewers) – a popular party food and authentically Peruvian, but we sell mostly beef and chicken.

IYC: What is the most demanding thing a customer has ever asked you?

PS: Someone once asked us if they could have a sausage roll .……. we don’t sell sausage rolls!

IYC: What’s the worst weather you’ve ever traded in? – And how did your Folding Tent stand up to the elements?

PS: We have traded in torrential rain and howling wind. The marquee stood up to the elements fine and we were safe and dry inside…. Unfortunately, the potential customers were not as sturdy and did not venture out to brave the elements.

IYC: What would you like to say to anyone interested in becoming a street food vendor?

PS: I love the feeling that I am making something that people enjoy, and the positive feedback I get for the food I cook – especially when people make an effort to walk back a couple of hours later just to tell us how much they liked it. But it is hard work, ridiculous hours, and to be successful you have to be committed to it. My now-ex-girlfriend thinks I am insane, but she did help me write these answers!

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