Interview: Ben Dantzic from Big Feed Street Food Social

Glasgow street food may be at a tipping point. Across the city there is a cadre of culinary innovators who pop-up at festivals or arrive at farmers markets. If there were more permanent places for street food then Glasgow would be a more interesting place. A group of traders took up this challenge and set up Big Feed, an indoor street food market in a warehouse in Govan.

It started as one event with a handful of food trucks. Now the gathering is set to happen twice a month. It gives a focus to a burgeoning scene but fundamentally it’s just about getting together for some quirky dishes, a bit of music, craft beer and good times.

Big Feed is back on the menu in Glasgow on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th May 2017 and is set to be even bigger and better with the launch of a new outdoor seating area.

The menu at the next market runs the gamut from authentic Middle Eastern inspired cuisine to fresh Scottish seafood, Asian gastronomy to delicious burgers, hot dogs, wood fired pizzas and vegan dishes.18195029_219936038501729_1846711349343667095_n

Big Feed veterans Firedog, Street Food Putter Club, Charlie Mills Coffee are joined by Nomad Pizza, Shrimp Wreck, Freddy and Hicks, Burrito, Haggisman, The Buffalo Truck and Thorntonhall Ice Cream with Chick + Pea, Ginger and Chilli and Snuggle Muffin making their debut.

The Prosecco Tap and Daffy’s Gin will set up drinks and a selection of distinct hand-crafted Scottish beers will also be on offer over the weekend.

The warehouse location at 249 Govan Road is run by Glasgow the Caring City – a charity which supports children and young people in crisis at home and overseas in a number of ways, including providing skills to help them gain employment.

Big Feed has supported the cause through making use of the venue and donating a share of the proceeds, as well as by commissioning some of the young apprentices in the programme to prepare for the events.

To find out more, Glasgowist phoned Ben Dantzic from Big Feed Street Food Social

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Glasgowist: Tell us a bit about your own background in food?

Ben: Myself and my brother, we own and operate Street Food Putter Club, which we set up about a year ago off the back of being one of the partners in Burger Meats Bun and Bo Kantina, which we had in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Prior to that I was in more fine dining to be honest. So it was a bit of a veer away from that when we went into doing burger joints.

Before that I was at The Peat Inn for three years over in Fife, and then the restaurant, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles for three years. Then I decided to move into the more fun, casual, side of the market. When we had Burger Meats Bun we started getting busier and busier with events and pop ups and stuff, then just gradually moved more into that.

We closed the Glasgow restaurant and sold the Edinburgh one and we’ve been doing events and pop ups ever since. We’ve got our own food truck, we just recently bought a trailer so we can do more events in the one day and yeah, we teamed up with Firedog and Charlie Mills Coffee, to put on Big Feed.18195029_219936038501729_1846711349343667095_n

Street food has got a little bit of momentum behind it in the last few years. The Commonwealth Games showcased a lot of what can be done with, you know, open space in Glasgow. Was the idea behind the Big Feed related to the need for more tangible permanent spaces for street food in Glasgow?

It was a collaboration between the three of us. We were all looking to do events around about the central belt of Scotland in general and we’d also seen positive events from the Commonwealth Games and the Good Food Glasgow event down at the Broomielaw which the council put on last year.

That was a success but it didn’t last as long as maybe it really could have. I don’t know if there’s plans to bring it back but we all just felt something. The appetite was there among Glasgow punters and we’d seen similar markets and events down in London, Copenhagen, Berlin, you know.

The street food markets with great independent caterers and businesses do really well and just created a good vibe and so we wanted to do something similar in Glasgow.

So how did you end up hooking up with the Govan folk?

Through a mutual contact. We were looking for sites, we went and reviewed a few places but as soon as we went down to Govan and met Ross, the chap that runs it, and saw the space, heard about the charity and everything we just kind of knew it was the ideal spot.

We liked the charity aspect of it as well because we’d decided from the start that wherever we did it, we always wanted to do something that involved the community and gave back a bit.

When we found a warehouse that was actually run by a charity, we thought that was ideal and, just the space itself, perfect for what we wanted to do and quite liked that it was in Govan. I think the area is being rejuvenated at the moment and there’s quite a lot going on, on that side of the river.

It just felt right. And it’s very easy to get to in terms of lots of public transport links, you can walk across from Finnieston in no time at all, across the Squinty Bridge.

Was it easier to try and get something like that going in Govan than it would be to try and get it in the centre of town?

There’s not as many spaces in the centre of town. And the cost, probably, in renting them can be quite high. You’ve obviously then also got other permanent food businesses round about and we didn’t want to piss people off or anything like that. We wanted to do something positive for the city .The council have been very supportive and been quite easy dealing with them so I’m sure even if we did find somewhere in the city centre that would work.

There have been chats going forward about maybe moving Big Feed around in the future, depending on events going on in the city or even outwith the city.

So, this started off as an idea and then you’re looking for the space. Then you guys worked with the charity people and you’ve put in the basic infrastructure that you need at a venue. What was it like on the first night when you were just waiting to see if anyone showed up?

The first event we did was just one day, a Saturday. We’d sent out a press release to sort of spread the word on social media and we felt that there was good coverage and good interest. Like any event we go into, we were still nervous, hoping that somebody turns up.

And then, lo and behold we got to 12 o’clock on the day, which was opening time, and it just started from bang on 12, floodgates just opened. We thought on the day we’d maybe get about 800 to 1000 people down and I think we’d had 1500 through the door by about two, three o’clock.

So we were, we were a bit caught off guard the first time. We didn’t have enough food traders, we didn’t have enough staff, but that was totally unprecedented numbers, none of us have ever done a first time event that had got a turn out like that.

Thankfully the vast majority of people that came down still enjoyed it and understood that the problems were down to the huge numbers and were a one off. We’ve corrected all those issues since then. We’ve increased the number of hot food traders to 10, we’ve got more staff, dessert stalls, a second bar.

This weekend we are about to launch the outside licenced area, which will be a good addition as well, particularly in the sunshine.

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This is your fourth event and you are now going to have the Big Feed twice a month. How to you approach getting the right mix of traders, do you ask people? Is there an audition process?

No, not really. Well, of course we are trying to offer the best in Scottish street food. It is a slightly different thing from a farmers market though. We’ve all been doing events for a good while now and have met other traders though doing that so we had lots of contacts with people that we invited along and asked if they were interested. Then naturally after the first couple, we’ve also been approached by a lot of people that want to get involved, which is great.

You almost don’t realise how many great independent street food businesses there are out there in Scotland. It’s been really encouraging so we are trying to get as many involved as we can. As I say, we want the best so there will be some repetition with traders because we’d rather keep having the best ones back than, rotating it for the sake of it. But there is slots available and people getting in touch all the time, and as I say, we’re trying to give people a fair chance at it. The main thing in terms of traders is offering the customers a diverse range of foods, and a diverse offering.

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Any time we mention the Big Feed we get a strong reaction. One of the things I noticed was that lot of the people commenting on our Facebook page were locals from Govan. Have you found there’s been support from the local community?

Yes, really positive. Everything we’ve put on social media, there has been that sort of recurring theme of local Govan people really pleased to see it in the area I think.

Obviously they’ve seen the rejuvenation of Finnieston just across the river and stuff, and there’s maybe not been a huge amount of stuff like this going on in Govan, but I think, yeah, I think it’s a welcome addition and hopefully it’ll bring more exciting stuff to the area as well.

The Big Feed event will run from 12noon until 10pm on Saturday 6th May and from 12noon until 7pm on Sunday 7th May 2017. There is a £1 entry fee on the door and free entry for kids under 10 years old. Free parking is also available.

Saturday 6th May 2017 – 12noon to 10pm
Sunday 7th May 2017 – 12noon to 7pm
Location: 249 Govan Road, Glasgow, G51 5HJ

For further information, visit www.facebook.com/bigfeedgla

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