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What got you into loving street food and then forming your own collective?
Ultimately, it was my first taste of a Steak and Honour burger that got me into proper street food. Based in Cambridge and run by a talented local chef, the Steak and Honour wagon is a red vintage Citroen H van that serves the most perfect classic American styled burgers you have ever tasted. They were the first street food van to start parking up on the streets of Cambridge and built quite a following, including me! I realised how much I loved this idea of eating fantastic quality food, cooked to perfection, using locally sourced, high quality ingredients, but taking away the fuss and frills of choosing a restaurant to go to. At around the same time, in late 2012, I was asked to co-organise the Eat Cambridge food festival, which focused on local independent food and drink businesses and featured a street food market – the first of its kind in Cambridge – which I loved organising and got me hooked on the street food events side of things. The Eat Cambridge festival is now an annual event, taking place each May, and this year’s street food night market was a huge success and showed how people have really got on board with the street food scene! I’d been working on launching a regular street food event of some kind to run all year round, rather than just once a year, and plans came together to launch the foodPark collective and first market site at the beginning of June.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I’ve been writing a food blog – mainly restaurant reviews and commentary on the local food scene – called The Moving Foodie Blog for a few years and have always had a big interest in food and drink. In my spare time I also write a food column for local magazine Cambridge Edition and, of course, organise the Eat Cambridge food festival. My background is actually in property and law… almost 10 years ago I left a rubbish office job to go back to college and ended up going on to Cambridge University to study Land Economy (property, economics, and law) where I became really interested in temporary land uses and bringing up the value of an area using temporary activities such as markets and pop-ups. Although I work part-time in marketing for a day job, my interests in property and food have finally come together through foodPark – and my marketing and events experience comes in handy too!
How and when did foodPark first become established?
I had been speaking to street food traders in Cambridge about finding places to trade, and how hard it is in the city to find suitable places to park up, and everyone was really keen to establish a regular presence. Inspired by the likes of KERB at Kings Cross in London, I scouted around for sites that would bring the footfall the traders needed and approached the developers of the CB1 development on Station Road in Cambridge about using their land for a pop-up weekly street food market whilst the rest of their mixed-use site was being built out. Forming a collective at the same time meant we had an awesome selection of traders, ready to go and all with the same shared goal of bringing good, affordable food to the streets, when we were given the go ahead for our first market – on Friday 6 June. It was a busy one!!
Tell us about the growth of foodPark since it’s inception
We have two weekly markets now, on a Thursday and Friday, at the CB1 development on Station Road, and we are currently agreeing a site for a Wednesday market elsewhere in the city. We have some amazing traders joining the collective, more queuing up to join!, and some pretty awesome regular customers who come along to eat street food with us every Thursday and Friday without fail!
Explain the benefits of your current location for the event.
We’re right by the busy rail station in Cambridge, which helps, but we’ve found we are perfectly located to pick up customers from all the local offices based on and around Station Road too. These office workers have proved to be very hungry for street food and we’re providing one of the few lunch options in the area! We’re the only place to get proper coffee near the station, too, and our craft coffee trader, Warming Your Cockles Coffee Co serves at foodPark from 7am to catch the morning rush.
Have you any plans for future expansion or does your current venue allow for that?
We’d like to trade at different sites around the city and we’ve also got plans for evening and weekend foodPark events, to be announced soon!
How well have the foodie lovers of Cambridge embraced foodPark?
VERY well! We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response – but I shouldn’t have expected anything less considering how popular and hard working our street food traders are.
Are you ever short of traders for foodPark? Or are you totally over subscribed?
We’re tight on space at our Station Road site and we’ve got traders desperate to join so we’re definitely not short on traders, and we’re trying to rotate traders monthly to give all a chance to trade at foodPark.
How many events do you have planned for the rest of 2014?
Every week until the end of the year, maybe beyond, and we’ve been invited to partner on a very special winter festival in Cambridge to provide a pop-up foodPark – more news to follow soon on that one!
Tell us a little about any new traders you may have lined up for this year, their food and the criteria they have to meet to trade at foodPark?
Two new traders joined foodPark this month: GoGo Gogi Gui!, a Korean BBQ trader serving up BBQ burgers with a spicy sweet hit of Korean Seoul! and Braizing Saddles who serve tacos filled with braised meats, pickled vegetables, and other freshly prepared treats!
Meeting the quality and safety criteria is really important to foodPark’s trader application process and we’re looking for a street food product that stands out as creative, unique, delicious (of course), and fulfils all necessary legal and food safety requirements. We’ve got a good relationship with our local EHOs and we’re striving for the highest standards possible for our markets and traders.