So you want to be a Street Food Trader
In this article I’ll give you an insight as to what equipment you may require dependant on your menu to make your business a success. There is no one that knows your business better than you. After months of research and development as to the type of food it is you will be producing, you now need to prioritise how you are going to produce it in an affordable and cost effective way. If you have been fortunate enough to have begged, borrowed or blagged some kitchen space to prepare and cook your food during the research and development stages, you now have to produce that same quality at your chosen first event.
Adequate work space to suit your menu is vital, cluttered table tops or counters, equipment scattered to the 4 corners of your outfit whether it be a Gazebo with trestle tables and minimal props or a custom built £75000 vehicle looks very unprofessional and will mean a lot of to-in and fro-in back and forth during the cooking process. You need to establish area’s for the various stages of your menu. Keep raw preparation area’s separate from the cooked or cooking area’s to prevent cross contamination. Storage of menu items are divided into strict groups which are governed by Environmental Health Regulations. The law allows food to be left at room temperature for limited periods during service or when on display. The temperature of chilled foods can exceed 8ºC for up to four hours, while the temperature of hot foods can fall below 63ºC for a maximum of two hours, however hot cooked food that has fallen below 63ºC must be by law returned to over 63ºC before serving and food should be initially cooked thoroughly to kill food poisoning bacteria. The core temperature should reach 75°C instantaneously or equivalent, e.g. 70°C for two minutes. The core is taken as the centre or thickest part of the food. . However, these flexibilities can be used only once for each batch of food. In other words, the same food can’t be left out at room temperature for more than one period, even if the separate periods add up to a combined total of four (or two) hours. After one period at room temperature, food should be thrown away or chilled until final use.
The best way to achieve this is by using Thermos Boxes with adequate ice slabs to keep it cool. These boxes are airtight and serve to keep food both chilled and warm. Thermostat controlled holding boxes will keep cooked food hot at or above 63°C. Depending on the menu, certain foods will need to be cooked on or in separate equipment. Fish products that require deep frying should never come in contact with oil that has been used to deep fry a meat product. Separate utensils for serving and handling cooked and raw will be required to prevent cross contamination. Colour coded knives and chopping boards will also be required. They are, white or grey for dairy and bakery products, blue for raw fish, green for salad produce and fruit, brown for vegetables, yellow for cooked meats and red for raw meats. Chopping boards that are heavily scores or stained will have to be replaced periodically by law. Sauces, soups or any hot accompaniments like vegetables, pulses or rices will need to be held above 63ºC ready for serving. This can achieved by using either a LPG or an electric Bain Marie. Depending once again on your menu, consideration should be given to the size required.
LPG powered grills for the authentic flame grilled effect add another dimension and attractive sight and smell to your food. Electric griddles for cooking meat items are also very effective as long as the size is sufficient to cope with the volume of sales you are anticipating. Most venues that you will be trading at the electricity will be provided for you via a generator or mains supply of some description. A personal petrol fuelled generator, although expensive is a godsend should your promised supply of electricity fail as is sometimes the case. Any equipment you intend on using that runs on LPG or to give it its full name of Liquefied Petroleum Gas must be checked annually by a competent engineer who must have a valid current certificate of competence. As with any appliance that produces Carbon Monoxide as a by product, ventilation guidelines are to be followed and adhered to. Adequate fire safety equipment is also required by law. You should have a minimum of a multi purpose fire extinguisher (Dry Powder) and a fire blanket. A suitable first aid kit is required also by law. Specific catering first aid kits are now available. Good hygiene practices are also required to ensure you and your food comply to the necessary regulations. Adequate hand washing facilities are essential. Temperature monitoring equipment and record keeping is also necessary. Investing in a good food temperature probe is advisable and is an inexpensive asset to any catering operation. Sanitising wipes are also required to clean and sanitise the probe to prevent cross contamination before and during temperature monitoring.
Records of temperature monitoring are to be kept to ensure the food being served is hot enough. Environmental Health can and will ask for proof of temperature monitoring if an inspection is being carried out. It can not be stressed enough the importance of good hygiene practices where you and the food you produce are concerned. Depending of the level of financial commitment your business has, losing your source of income as a result of poor hygiene practises is devastating and can and will result in a criminal record, heavy fine and or a prison term. Providing you have adhered to a few simple rules from the very beginning of your Street Food venture then good hygiene practises will become second nature so never be tempted to not was your hands or allow yourself to use the wrong equipment or utensil for the job. Should you require the use of a tin opener, commercial table top mounted ones are the best for the job. Be aware also that Environment Health often check these first for cleanliness as a guide as to how clean you and the rest of your venture is. Food production labels clearly stating what the product is, when it was cooked and its use by date are also required. Same goes for raw produce as well. Always clearly label every item of food for your own safety and sanity, no one likes to have to second guess the content of a sealed container before, during or after service. Refuse is also an unsightly by product of your venture. Never allow your work space to be cluttered with packaging on the counter tops or tables or floor. This can lead to an accident that might risk yours or even a customer well being. A bin with a lid is better than a sip or fall. Anti Bacterial spray specifically designed for and food safe tested should be used.
Always do a C.O.S.H.H (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) assessment on any product you bring in to a cooking environment and keep physical records of actions required should any be ingested accidentally or spilt.
Seek advice on any matter and at any stage of your venture. Get to know the British Street Food scene and you will soon pick up hints and tips on what is best for you. Depending on the capitol you have to invest in to your business you should look to only buy what is necessary for the job. Acres of shiny stainless steel tables and equipment and utensils might look good, but by starting off small and managing your venture correctly and effectively, this will enable you to grow as a business at a pace that is user friendly.