“I really believe food can prevent wars – imagine if people just sat down and ate a meal together – do you think they would end up fighting?” No matter if you agree with these words – spoken to me today at lunch down in the borough market by chef Patrick Williams – they give you a sense of the passion and energy this big man has for the subject of food.
Patrick used to present Saturday Kitchen, has trained under Marco Pierre White, worked at the OXO Tower and Ivy and subsequently opened The Terrace restaurant in central London. But I was on a trip to “Eat Soul Food” – his food stall – and was surprised to see the large crowd of people buzzing around the offerings. The reason is simple – Fast Fresh Food – how Patrick describes the fare – is the offering at his newest eatery; and it is delicious.
Fast, Fresh Soul Food
After a career that included Michelin star kitchens, the attraction to this style of cooking and the immediate interaction it brings with customers – some of whom even offer advice on his dishes – remains strong even after three busy years. During this time he has had to negotiate the Borough weather, the vagaries of local council restrictions on Barbequing in the market (he now operates this out of a location in Golders Green) and the daily effort of making everything from scratch – something no other food stall does.
Growing up in Hackney of a Jamaican family – it was as a young boy that he first discerned a notable difference in how his family and those of the other kids in his neighbourhood regarded food. For his family it was always freshly prepared from things his mother bought in the local grocery but for many other families it seems to always be ready prepared or straight out of a tin – something he later came to recognize as part of a viscous cycle where basic food knowledge is lost in a family and so habits of bad eating and poor health are the outcome. Patrick dearly wants to help break this cycle and change how people think about food.
Popular Jamaican dishes with a twist
One part of the answer is “Eat Soul Food” which offers a variety of popular Jamaican dishes with adjustments to ensure that everyone goes away truly satisfied. While his spicy dishes are still spicy – he has quietly retired several of the more heated Jamaican favourites – including the authentic Jerk Chicken – as it proved simply too hot for the average fast lunch diner.
However dishes like Chicken Pelau, Jamaican seasoned Fish along with a choice of BBQ Chicken, Lamb and even a curried mutton have proved a popular core menu. I enjoyed the BBQ chicken wrap as he and I chatted and it was of absolutely delicious light smoky flavour seasoned with Pimento and Coriander.
The Jamaican family always have food ready he told me – even the very poor because you never know who will drop by. This basic philosophy of the communal dish binding us all appears in many cultures across the world. “Now you may find this hard to believe” Patrick confided – “but since I started this stall I have become more passionate about food and service than I ever could be in a restaurant – it’s a bit of a surprise but I like it”.
Supporting the Trussell Trust
As a side interest Patrick is also involved in the Trussell Trust, a charitable group that travels the country showing people on marginal sustenance how easy it is to prepare great food from a range of the simplest ingredients off the shelves – even from basic canned foods.
It’s rare that a London foodie like me gets to actually meet the person behind the portions – but meeting Patrick in this case turned out to be as tasty a treat as the food itself.
We wish Patrick the very best of luck and expect to catch up with him again down the road.
If you are interested in more about Patrick and his stall:
Here’s a link to the stall website – http://eatsoulfood.co.uk/
Here’s a link to his BBC profile – http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/chefs/patrick_williams
A video of him in action – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzeOKOtql7I
East Soul Food
8 Southwark Street