Street Kitchen’s Appetite For Change

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Street Kitchen is a concept founded by The Food Initiative chef Mark Jankel and chef Jun Tanaka (former Michelin-starred chef at Pearl).

After successfully testing hatch kitchens, the foodie pair are set to launch their first permanent shop in Broadgate Circle, London, on June 16.

Jankel and Tanaka are passionate not only about creating great-tasting street food, but also about where their ingredients, producers, furniture, and even uniforms, come from.

Salt loves the idea of fully sustainable and tasty food, so we put some questions to chef Mark Jankel:

Where did you come up with the idea for Street Kitchen?
I started my career as an environmental scientist and have always looked at food in the context of its impact. After spending the last fifteen years as a chef, running restaurants and buying produce from London wholesalers, I have been constantly frustrated by the lack of information relating to the environmental impact of the produce that I buy, but have never had the time to investigate.

Then in 2011, I collaborated with chef JunTanaka to create Street Kitchen – which was a pilot for the ethos and sustainable business practices I yearned for.

We’ve heard that everything in your kitchen is sustainable, can you tell us more?
We want to revolutionise the way that a business is sourced – and the impact that businesses have on the environment. We are doing it because it is the right way for food to be produced and for businesses to operate. Having been to the farms and seen how things are produced, we only feel comfortable buying the kind of ingredients we know are produced and farmed in an ethical and natural manner – so working with suppliers is a key focus for us.

What about your furniture and your uniforms? 
Our T-shirts are produced using carbon-neutral organic cotton and printed using benign inks by an artisan screen printing company in South East London. We wanted to source sustainable furniture so our seating is made from robust vegetable crates made in Kent.

We believe that we are building a business that will compete with the ‘big boys’ in the quick-service sector, whilst under the surface, will radically change the way in which a multiple outlet, quick-service business can operate.

That’s good to hear… so how will you solve wastage issues?
In terms of wastage, all of our packaging is compostable apart from glass bottles, which we will recycle – including food containers, knife and forks and napkins. We have three bins (one compostable, one is glass, one is recyclable) so there is nothing from our operation that is wasteable that would go into landfill.

How do you keep costs down while being sustainable?
By having direct relationships with suppliers and farmers, we are ultimately cutting out two to three middlemen and the extra money saved goes back to the farmer as well as us. It’s all about getting better quality produce for the same price.

If we can buy natural, organic, free-range ingredients direct from the farmer at the same price as battery farmed ingredients that are available from the wholesalers, we are getting better quality for the same price as low quality industrial produced food.

Do you plan to open any more Street Kitchens?
Yes, definitely. We have funding for three more sites next year and our plan is to open 15 over the next five years.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had in business?
Make sure that you have an amazing bookkeeper and accountant – you can’t build a business without the correct information. This information helps you to allocate resources so as to allow the business to grow in a sustainable way.

If your company had a personality what sort of person would it be?
We would be a Mini – classic and refined, a true British icon, a bit quirky and a bit different to the rest.

What drives you?
I want to narrow the divide between the amazing individuals and the consumer so they can in some way appreciate the amount of love and attention that goes into producing food that is grown naturally. I want to celebrate the inspirational work they do and inspire our staff and customers with high quality gourmet food.

If there was one thing you could do to make the world a better place, what would it be?
Try to take my wife flowers more often, she is really wonderful and deserves it. The problem is my work is sometimes all-consuming which I love but it makes it hard to remember to do the important things in life.

How do you get the best out of people? 
We try to inspire our staff with our philosophy and standards. I think our staff are proud when they serve our food because the response is always so good.

I think if you produce an amazing product and you build a great reputation then your staff feel proud to be part of that.

Long-term, I would like to send all of our staff to the farms that we use so that they can have a direct connection with our supply chain and associate on a personal level with our ingredients from the farms to our boxes and sandwiches.

Click here to read Salt’s feature on the ‘UK’s first zero-waste restaurant’.

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