Head over to South-East Wales and you may just stumble across That Street Food Van, the Mexican Street Food kitchen on wheels. Serving a variety of delicious Mexican dishes, ranging from decadent quesadillas to fully loaded nachos, all from their renovated carpet van Ivy, That Street Food van prides itself on being 100% gluten-free and catering for omnivores, herbivores and carnivores alike.
Stacie and Curtis were inspired by the creativity and friendliness of street food traders (along with their delicious food) to take the leap and start their own business. Years later, it’s not just their business that has grown and after welcoming their son in October 2021, Stacie and Curtis are focused on rebuilding their business after the pandemic. We sat down with Stacie and Curtis to find out more about their journey, their food and their love for Jon Favreau!
What was it about street food that inspired you to start your own business?
After attending our first Street Food Festival in Cardiff back in 2017, we fell in love with everything it had to offer. Not only was the food sensational, but the standout memory was the incredibly unique trailers and trucks and the personalities that were occupying them. Everyone looked to be having a great time while being busy at work, which just seemed an alien concept for us in our careers at that time. Stacie “joked” about quitting her job and us starting a business ourselves. It took about 24 hours for that joke to turn into a resignation and there was no turning back!
Mexico to Wales is quite the distance! What drew you to Mexican cuisine?
We’ve always loved gathering family and friends around a big table and cooking up big feasts that everyone can tuck into. Mexican food and culture marries perfectly with this, especially when it comes to Fajita night, or building your own Tacos with all the fillings, sides and sauces spread around the table. We also love how Mexican food incorporates flavour, freshness, vibrancy and heat with simple affordable ingredients. Mexican food never tries to be pretentious. It’s just great tasting food that is accessible for everyone!
Your food is 100% gluten-free and you offer veggie and vegan friendly options. Why is it important to you to cater to different dietary requirements?
We fell into being gluten-free accidentally; most Mexican food is naturally gluten-free due to the use of corn and masa rather than wheat. We took the decision to fully commit to it to offer a safe space for coeliacs to enjoy a full menu of food without having to worry about cross-contamination with other dishes. As a result, we have been welcomed into a whole community of local gluten-free groups who have been our biggest supporters since we setup. We also have a surprisingly high number of friends who are veggie or vegan so it was always important to us to be able to offer something they could enjoy too. If you visit us with a group of friends, chances are we will have something for everyone!
What’s one dish every customer must try when they come and see you?
Elotes! It’s a humble Corn on the Cob, taken to whole new levels with cheese, spicy mayo, and lime salt. As it’s a small side dish, it’s one that people sometimes skim over on the menu, but it’s the one that once people try it, they always come back for seconds, or thirds, or fourths… and then ask for the recipe! Once you try it, you’ll never want plain corn again.
What events do you enjoy doing the most?
Street Food Festivals. They’re the most stressful, the longest hours and the riskiest when being at the mercy of the weather, but they’re always the most enjoyable. No 2 festivals, no 2 days, and no 2 customers are ever the same. But for us, the best part is the family of traders that attend each event, jumping in to help each other out, celebrating the sun and cursing the rain together, and of course, the food swaps! In no other industry are your main rivals also your biggest supporters.
Congratulations on your growing family! What does the future have in store for you and your business?
So, we welcomed our first family addition back in October 2021, so we are just now finding out how much more stressful this business is when you also have to juggle being parents. We’re currently fast-tracking him in the Taco making process as we speak so watch this space for the world’s youngest tortilla slinger!
As for the future, we’re still building ourselves back up after the chaos of the last 2 years but we’re hopeful that now we are back to some form of normal, we can start planning on expanding what we currently have (although we’re quite happy being a small little team).
You’ve got a busy season ahead of you! What events/festivals can we find you at this year?
We’re currently busy catching up on rescheduled private events and weddings from the past 2 years so have limited festivals this year – but we will be rocking up in Dorset for a street food festival early September, as well as a few regular popups around South Wales whenever we can! Keep an eye on our social media pages if you’d like to catch us this year.
Covid-19 regulations have now expired in Wales. What will this mean for your summer?
Some normality! While we will be forever grateful for some of the apps that helped make events happen during Covid, we will certainly not miss the dinging of an order, non-existent queues that led to being bombarded with order after order without let up and being at the mercy of WiFi.
It was great being back at a festival recently, chatting to customers as they waited and seeing that instant feedback on their face as they took their first bite.
What do you love most about working in the independent hospitality industry?
Setting our own goals and limits by being our own boss is a big plus but, specifically for hospitality, it is that sense of pride when you get feedback from customers who have loved the food that you spent so long preparing the night before or early in the morning. It’s a lot of hard work, but the payoff is far greater.
What led you to become NCASS members and how has it helped your business?
NCASS was our first port of call when setting up. The catering industry is a gigantic maze of information and regulations and with NCASS, everything was in one place with a helpful advisor at the end of the phone if ever we had any questions, no matter how big or small or strange our question was.
Also, the Safety Management System and help with paperwork was invaluable. The courses more than paid for the membership, and we are now 5* as a direct result of the help and guidance we’ve received along the way.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger selves as they began this venture, what would it be?
Start small – probably with a gazebo! We jumped in the deep end and made a huge investment by converting our own van without having ever catered an event. 5 years in and we’re still discovering things we could have done better. We’ve also changed the setup of the van and now have a room full of expensive equipment that we only used a handful of times! Our advice would be start small and simple and build up from there. Also… never apply for an event before checking your van can actually fit in the venue…
You’ve been asked to cater a mysterious event for an anonymous celebrity/public figure – who are you secretly hoping it is?
Jon Favreau. Anyone starting out in street food wants to be “Chef” and watching his Netflix show gives you a sense that he’s just a massive foodie fan like the rest of us. Hopefully he’s invited the Kogi gang along to his event so we can pick their brains too! We’re also massive Marvel and Star Wars fans, so maybe if we impressed him enough he could use his connections to have us feed some Avengers on the next Marvel project, or sneak our Tacos into the next Cantina scene. Or maybe Elf 2? Featuring a more cultured Will Ferrell who has now replaced his love of sugar for a love of Birria? Just some ideas for Jon to mull over…
Thank you for sitting down with us Stacie and Curtis! We’re sure you’ll have an amazing summer and we can’t wait to see the youngest tortilla slinger at work!
Keep up to date with other Caterer Spotlights here.