By Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association
What do you get if you take two former fine dining chefs, a hunter, one of the UK’s most under-utilised and most environmentally friendly meats and a food truck?
Yes, just six months after their first test event, Warwick Kidd and Zach Hermon, who met while working together at Dormy House in the Cotswolds, are celebrating success with Wild Street Kitchen.
As with most start-ups, they’ve been flat out since launch – so much so that they were busy at Ludlow Food Festival when their victory was announced at this year’s finals at Hackney Bridge. Former colleague Harry Bevis was on hand to collect the award on their behalf and their absence did nothing to detract from their delight.
“We are absolutely buzzed,” said Warwick. “It really is huge for us. When Zach and I were coming up the concept, sustainability was right at the heart of it. Of course we wanted it to be delicious, as that has to be number one, but not so it costs the earth.”
So what’s Wild Street Kitchen’s concept and how did they win over the judges?
Warwick explains the concept: “We wanted to change the way people think about and interact with game – particularly venison. It is so prolific and needs to culled to keep the ecosystem in check, but few people know this and many people have this negative concept of game being posh and animals hanging until they rot.”
Using figures from the World Resources Institute for British farmed beef and Nature Scotland’s calculations for wild deer, a wild venison burger could have a third of the CO2e/kg of a beef one.
The Game Changer burger (we love the pun almost as much as Warwick and Zach) is the signature dish. Warwick and Zach take delivery of a whole deer from the one and only hunter they work with, Tim Harrison at the Raby Estate. They skin and butcher the animal and for the burger, brine and cold smoke the shoulders. At events later in 2022 they’re planning on educating their customers’ palates even more broadly.
“Getting people to try venison for the first time can be challenging, but the feedback has been absolutely amazing so far with people telling us they’re the best burgers they’ve ever had. We like to think that we’re taking quality food to the people, with incredible ingredients and none of the pretensions of fine dining. Next, we’re going to start serving offal kebabs. We want to be doing completely nose to tail and personally for me, offal and heart, in particular, is the best bit.”
It’s quite a switch for the two former fine-dining chefs, with CV’s boasting stints at the likes of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Moor Hall. But while Warwick says there are many kitchens that fall well short on sustainability, it’s their experience at restaurants like Le Manoir that also showed them what is possible when you want to put it front and centre like ways of cooking sous vide without the need for single-use plastic.
As well as the venison burgers, Wild Street Kitchen also serves some seafood and they’ve put huge care into making connections with day boat fishermen in Cornwall and lobster and crab catchers in Anglesey.
One of the inherent features of running a street food stall works to Warwick and Zach’s advantage. “While you still have to be careful with your ordering, with street food you set up to sell out. In a fine dining restaurant it’s not acceptable to tell a guest a dish has run out, but that’s the beauty of street food. That really helps with our food waste. On the rare occasions when we do have surplus, we donate it.”
Warwick and Zach admit to being on a steep learning curve. They recycle their cooking oil for biodiesel and use 100% biodegradable packaging, but are well aware that what their customers do with the disposables and how the food festivals etc they work at process them, is to a large extent out of their control.
“We are committed to this and want to continue to improve. For example, in time we’d love to have an electric vehicle. There are always barriers to overcome when you’re a business trying to make a living while also operating sustainably.”
We reckon Wild Street Kitchen’s off to a pretty damn good start, quite literally putting it at the heart of everything they’re doing.
Read about all the Sustainability Award finalists at this year’s British Street Food Awards here.