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Following his UK road trip to uncover the finest street food available in the British Isles, chef Andy Bates, aka the Pie Man, headed west across the Atlantic to hunt down, eat and enjoy some of the US’s finest street food, writes Theresa Smith.
THE Food Network is fast becoming one of DStv’s most favoured channels in South Africa. You don’t need statistics to tell you that – the mere fact that the channel is bringing out some of the talent to market their new shows tells you that their programmes are popular enough to merit marketing attention.
DStv recently brought the British presenter of Street Feasts, Andy Bates, to South Africa to promote the second series of his popular show.
Bates travelled to the US in the middle of last year to discover some of the culinary secrets behind the world’s most diverse grab-and-go grub and he was in Cape Town at the end of last year to talk about his experience.
He started his own business – Eat My Pies – back in 2008 and riding the wave over the past decade of the resurgence of British food, he quickly made a name for himself as The Pie Man.
By the end of 2011 street food was the big craze and Bates presented a food programme on how easy it is to make old-style, hearty British snacks.
The 30-year-old now spends about three months travelling for the tv show and appreciates learning about new people and music as much as he loves discovering new foods.
He’s passionate about food, but the self-taught pastry chef (“I watched a lot of food programmes, read a lot of books and decided to get into pastry”) has a bit of an obsession with partnering pastry with just about any kind of food, which certainly comes out in the second series as he finds out how Americans fuse anything from Mexican and Korean food and how to make a legendary Philly steak sandwich.
Just as he started his own business four years ago the global recession hit Britain, but Bates succeeded by thinking differently about what he had to offer and doing it to the best of his ability – a trend he noticed last year as he travelled around the US.
“I met a lot of people who now do street food just because they thought, ‘Listen, I’ve lost my job. I make great… whatever… I’m going to give it a go,’” he said.
Bates describes Austin, Texas, as one of the most crazy little liberal towns he’s ever experienced and a good example of entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy when it comes to food trucks and trailers.
“In America you’ve got a mix of food trailers which stay on the same spot, or the trucks that just drive around and turn up.
“It’s becoming very much organised events. The good thing about America is that if you think, for instance, you see there is a stadium over there, a fancy stadium,” said Bates, gesturing out the window of the Grand Westin Hotel’s business lounge at the Cape Town Stadium.
“It’s not used every day, is it? So there’s a car park empty for at least two days a week. So the Americans will speak to people and have truck events, they’ll just take the car park over and put 30 or 40 trucks in it.
“The idea of it is using stuff that’s not being used, making use of space,” explained Bates.
While this was a trend he discovered when already in the country, the places he visited while doing the show were chosen beforehand after extensive research helped along by feedback from social media networks.
In the first episode of Street Feasts, season two, we see Bates touch down in Los Angeles for glamorous cheeseburgers on Hollywood Boulevard, fried chicken done the French way and an introduction to a grilled cheese truck complete with mac and cheese and a grilled cheese sandwich created in his honour.
The ensuing episodes see him travel from the East Coast to the West Coast for New Orleans fusion food, Malaysian chicken curry on the go, Moroccan cuisine, sushi and even some Yasser chicken from West Africa served with a bunny chow roll.
Not only did Bates get to try out his own spin on what he saw by making up new recipes, he also sampled everything, but he’s certainly one of the thinnest food chefs you’ll see on your tv screen.
He laughs when people in his store ask “why aren’t you fat?”
“I don’t eat bad food every day, you know. Moderation is the key, pace yourself. Eat butter, enjoy it. Eat cake. Just don’t do it every day. It’s simple. It’s really baffling why people think that I really, generally eat cake and pies every day.
“Plus, I cycle everywhere in London.
“I work on my feet all day, if I sit down I fall asleep.”
• Andy Bates’ American Street Feasts will air on the Food Network, DStv channel 175, from Thursday, every day at 12.15pm and 5.15pm with a double bill on Mondays at 8.10pm and 11.55pm.