Photo Essay: Gourmet food trucks in London
I have never looked at a food truck the same way ever since I saw the movie, Chef. In Chef, Jon Favreua’s character, Chef Carl Casper, a highly trained chef who tended to take himself perhaps a little bit too seriously, got into problems with his employer – the owner (Dustin Hoffman) of the top LA restaurant he worked for. Things got worse when an ill advised twit to a food critique led to him being fired. Depressed and still reeling from his treatment he, for some bizarre reason teamed up with his ex-wife and friend to launch a gourmet food truck. His reason were two fold. One he had no job and no restaurant will hire him and two quite frankly I personally didn’t think his ego, which remarkably matched his size and love for his creative integrity could have saved him from another sacking.
I was totally unconvinced that Chef Carl Casper could go on his own either. He was melancholy personified. One of those people who needed to be chained to a shrink’s sofa indefinetely or if he were African i’d have suggested deliverance both from himself and the demons that were clearly robbing him off his sound mind. This was my view of him, until of course he got hold of a very old and rotten food truck. Encouraged by his son, ex-wife and friend he jump started his calling and even managed to learn how to use social media in the process as he tried to make a good go at turning the food truck into a success. I won’t tell you what happened next, just in case you might want to watch it in full. The trailer is below.
London has just as strong a food truck culture as America. America, however, practically invented them in the form of chuckwagons in the 1800s to store dried meat and food stuff that were easy to preserve. 70 years later, another version of the modern day food truck emerged to serve lunch to journalists and press men and by the 1950s the American army was using them as mobile canteens.
The modern day food truck, however, is different. It has even managed to add “gourmet” to its name, i’m sure to force you and I, to acknowledge its importance and newly acquired princely status. In America, and before the slogan “Yes we can” and its owner became a world wide phenomenon, an economic depression led to a large number of chefs losing their jobs and building sites, which were synonymous with food trucks, ground to an operational halt. Just as as 1+1=2, a surplus contingent of chefs and a surplus of food trucks could only mean one thing. A series of dates made in heaven. Dowries and bride prices fell as supply outweighed demand. As broke chefs partnered with their respective and now cheap truck brides a new phenomenon, one that I suspect will outlast the “Yes we can” guy began to be formed in matrimony.
In London, right about the same time, food trucks began to appear in the coolest of places. Bohemian Camden market, Cool Bricklane and Borough market to mention a few. Men, mostly white and in their 20s and 30s began to grow beards, not out of conversion to a religion that obligated them to do so, but just because they could and wanted to and they did. Some tagged them with the name hipsters. Mind you they were not dissimilar to their equally bearded customers. They run some of the coolest food trucks out of which came gourmet burgers, gourmet this and gourmet that. I was so fascinated by this phenomenon that I once stood next to one – a gourmet food truck, and watched as countless number of people bought coffee from this “truck” which was actually in the form of a London cab.
Just as in the movie Chef, this gourmet food “truck” was connected to the other great phenomenon – the world wide web. The London Black Cab as it was called, had it’s own twitter handle, @BlackCabCoffee.
For a whole summer, I snapped away at almost every food truck I came across in London. Below is a selection of some of them from a selection of places including the South Bank, Portobello Road market, London’s Spitalfields market and at the Nottinghill carnival.