December 11 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 6, 2013
Feast on the Street is bringing flavours from around the world to Norwich as the city centre holds its first street food festival as part of the EDP Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival.
Tony Lacey has eaten his fair share of street food over the years – so he knows exactly what makes great food-to-go.
One of the organisers of Feast on the Street, part of the Norwich Food and Drink Festival which in turn is under the umbrella of the EDP Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, Tony is passionate about good food.
He runs Mr T’s Catering, a well-known sight on the A140 near Tasburgh, where he sells breakfasts, lunches and snacks and also appears across the county at fetes, fairs and other events.
Tony started his career as a musician, where his interest in food was piqued by necessity rather than desire.
“You work strange hours in music and you need to eat at night, so I found a lovely little place called The Attic Restaurant in Leicester, where I lived, and it became like a second home,” he said.
“In the mid-1980s, the owner said he was looking for a partner and so it became my first foray into food. I carried on with the music, though, and it led to a teaching job in Norfolk, so I had to sell my shares.
“Food was always one of my passions, though, and that never went away.”
In Norfolk, Tony’s involvement in music led to television work with Anglia TV, Friday night live broadcasts that led him into the TV world and a job as a researcher on the Trisha show.
He eventually became a producer, travelling to America to work on the Animal Planet series in a range of locations such a New York, San Francisco, Phoenix and Arizona.
After years stateside, Tony was made redundant but continued working in television, travelling the world and spending time in India and Hong Kong. Throughout, he enjoyed a range of cuisines, particularly street food.
“In other countries, street food is just the norm. It’s not a big deal, it’s just the way people eat,” he said.
“When the TV work dried up, I decided to go back to food, something I know about and something I love. I opened Mr T’s Catering two years ago and I haven’t looked back.”
Tony strives to use local produce and local suppliers and is keen to offer far more than a regular snack bar – he says people are often surprised to pull over for food and discover they can buy pulled pork or venison burgers from the roadside.
Working seven days a week, on his A140 pitch and at events, Tony puts in long hours but says he loves his job and meeting new people. Feast on the Street is an event he hopes will become a regular occurrence on Norwich’s streets.
“We’d love to do it regularly and bring some real life to Norwich. Perhaps it could be a slightly smaller thing, but we’d love a group of local food stalls to serve street food in the city and perhaps around Norfolk.
“We all hope this will be the start of something big.”
* For more information, visit www.mrtscatering.co.uk or follow Tony on Twitter, @Mr_Ts_Catering.
An eclectic collection of colourful trailers, trucks, vans and gazebos have pitched up outside the Forum until 8pm tonight to serve an array of tempting treats including waffles on sticks, pulled pork, local ice-cream and grilled Norfolk cheese sandwiches.
The brainchild of three Norwich traders, Tony Lacey of Mr T’s Catering, Alex Cooper of Nom Catering and Lisa Carnell of Hushwing Café, it is hoped that Feast on the Street will become a regular event in the city.
Part of the Norwich Food and Drink Festival, under the main festival umbrella, in addition to rows of food stalls, there was also live music and mind-bending mind reading magic from Alex McAleer.
The Eastern Daily Press tasting team (web editor Cat Evans, photographer Denise Bradley and yours truly) nobly took to the streets to sample a selection of food on offer and practically had to be wheeled back to the office after two hours of culinary over-indulgence.
We tried the Norfolk cheese trio grilled sandwich from Nom Catering – Norfolk Dapple, Fielding Cottage Goats’ cheese and Mrs Temples’ Binham Blue – which was delicious. Alex said: “We thought Norwich was ready for an event like this. When I worked in New York I lived off the food from trucks and so bringing this food to the city really excites me.”
Next up was The Proper Pizza Company’s marvellous margherita with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella, the last ingredients added after cooking in a wood-fired oven to enhance the delicate flavour of the cheese.
“Street food has really exploded in the rest of the country and it’s great to see it coming here,” said James Hammond, who was working alongside Jamie Saunders (bestseller: Norfolk salami from The Marsh Pig and olive). Cat offered to try her first ever frogs’ legs, cooked to order by Geaux Cajun’s Chris Swallow, who is also offering Cajun chicken, jambalaya, po’ boy sandwiches, gumbo and black bean and sweet potato chilli.
“The frogs’ legs are outselling everything – they’ve sold out at every venue I’ve been to,” said Chris, who described their taste as “like sweet chicken”.
Served with sweet potato chips, Cat said: “They do taste like chicken but I’m finding it a little bit difficult to get past the fact that they’re frogs’ legs!”
Carol and Philip Johnson of Sprowston-based Fresh and Delicious, are street food veterans who have run catering vans for 20 years and now have four selling specialist sausages, noodles (very tasty), old-fashioned sweets, crepes and doughnuts.
“We’ve been doing it for years but now it’s a big thing and it’s moving upmarket. We make a point of buying local ingredients and people like knowing that what they’re buying is from where they live.”
At Benson Blakes, Britain’s Best Pub Burger was put to the test and declared to be “fabulous – cooked quite rare, so it was juicy and delicious”. Steve Blake explained the burger’s secret was the superior beef, added to only by a tiny amount of parsley, onion, egg and herbs.
After Mexican ice-cream (imagine a spicy Mr Whippy) and Mexican lemonade (essential on a bakingly hot day) from Tatty Bojangles, pulled pork was on the menu at Mr T’s Catering. Owner Tony Lacey explained that Feast on the Street was the realisation of a plan that had been first talked about at the beginning of the year.
“We’ve been planning it for so long that it feels strange that it’s actually happening!” he said.
Lisa Carnell of Hushwing Café said that after being made redundant from Aviva after 26 years she had realised a long-held dream to run her own café, albeit one in a vintage van rather than within bricks and mortar.
Selling her own cakes, artisan coffee and drinks, Lisa hopes that Feast on the Street will fire people’s imaginations and lead to a call for street food to liven up Norwich city centre in the evenings.
“If you leave the cinema or the theatre and walk through Norwich, it’s often really quiet – street food would bring something new to the city and keep the place alive at night,” she said.
“We wanted to bring something really special to the city, really great food stalls that offer something a bit different and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out.”
Having womanfully eaten our way through a vast array of street food, we finished in style with The Waffle Works’ waffles on sticks, made by Andrew and Alex McGovern. They were the icing on the cake, or rather the topping on the waffle.
Other stalls at Feast on the Street include Dan (who also designed the Feast on the Street logo) and Ali’s ice-cream bike, or Anne Felgate’s sweet and savoury cupcakes, blondies, brownies and gluten-free treats from Cupcake & Co and The Norfolk Duck Truck. Just don’t eat breakfast before you visit.
Read more about Feast on the Street at www.edp24.co.uk/what-s-on/norfolk-food-and-drink-festival where you will also find recipes, quizzes, an extended interview with Tony Lacey and more.
For more information about the food festival, visit www.norfolkfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk