Pop art style image in colours of pink and purple: a woman in 19th century dress with a goose(?), pasted twice. Text on top reads 'market research' in all caps.

Market Research: Exploring the Art and Culture of London’s Food Stalls

In the next four instalments of this new series, Sofi dives into street food’s art and culture, interviewing and learning from our favourite culinary creators. She’ll meet food girl-bosses and discover how enjoying shared meals might be the short-term answer to creative fulfilment. Curious? Keep reading to find out more…

In a purely Machiavellian way, you could say that my motives for starting this series are selfish. Anyone who knows me, also knows that it’s my long-term dream to design and set up a street food biz. Not only does curating a menu and brand aesthetic appeal to a certain creative megalomania, but it also helps sustain a secret conviction that Food is the finest of all the arts. 

And I’m not talking about fine dining. Feeding is how we share our art and culture daily; without intellectualising the cooking or eating process, street food reinstates why the simple act of making ourselves ‘something to eat’ is both fun and creatively inspiring. As someone who loves to cook but mostly only eats with a spoon (and is therefore supremely intimidated by restaurants), I want simplicity and its humble beauty to be at the core of this series. 

Some context:

Ahead of the summer, I’ve set myself the challenge to learn as much as humanly possible about the art of street food. This will hopefully facilitate the impossible: transforming my artistic and cultural skills to create a food brand without any of the business know-how. First, let me give you my project proposal and a bit of background to the art heist in question.

Growing up in East London I have been blessed with always being surrounded by good food. Culturally, the neighbourhood I call home is mostly South Asian and so the familiar fragrance of fresh cooking always accompanied my daily walks to school. My own family heritage is Colombian; our house is known to friends as an HQ of plantain frying, arepa making and sancocho stewing. If you aren’t already salivating, let’s skip forward to meeting my culinary soulmate as a student in Edinburgh. His Italian pride gave me parmigiana and puttanesca without any of the pizza-flinging tantrums. We fell in love. (He’s also stupidly peng and after becoming both an artistic muse and an irresistible sous chef, I eventually decided we should probably monetise this…) 

Our business proposal is to open an Arepa street food stall in July. For those not yet acquainted, arepas are stuffed maize cakes (think: crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside) eaten every day in Colombia. They are delicious, gluten-free and go wonderfully with our signature Colombian and more unconventional Italian fillings. Perfect for summer, piping hot and straightforward to make, I am confident that the fusion-loving London market will devour them greedily…

 A graphic guide

Time to get creative! Who doesn’t want to be a master of their own delicious destiny and strategise designs from scratch? Warning: graphic content below. Browsing Instagram it soon transpired that a seasonal colour scheme and a simple line sketch have the power to aesthetically transform a business. We decided on a logo of zesty-coloured yellow, and a classic partners-in-crime portrait for our main graphic. Big thanks to insanely talented best mate Hannah who helped actualise some of our first drafts and enabled my long-term dream of having arepa earrings. Please find a fully-fledged brand design, we have arrived at this. In terms of choosing a catchy brand name; “arepa-toire” was my partners’ eureka moment born out of brainstorming our prospective ‘repertoire’ of hot fillings. Cute, huh?

follow us @arepatoire

A call out to our community

Now, I want to hear from you, our wonderful readers! Who are your favourite street food vendors right now? Do you have any favourite spots you like to get street food with pals in London or Edinburgh? Is food becoming too much of a high-brow art or is it an untapped market for creativity? How do you express our culture through food and what are some recipes too sacred to be shared? Let us know!!!