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Photo by German Parga
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Photo by German Parga
Buster Turner and Jakob Zeller of Rooftop Smokehouse
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Photo by Erika Savandar
Van Van at La Monumental
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Photo by Erika Savandar
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Photo courtesy of All Those market
All Those market
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Photo courtesy of All Those market
All Those Market
It may have been a long time coming, but there’s no mistaking that street food has officially landed in Barcelona. However, whilst the public outpouring of love for food trucks and gourmet markets was rapidly gathering steam in cities across all continents, the Catalan capital adopted a characteristically laid-back approach to the whole thing. But why? It could be due to the already impressive dining landscape, which certainly isn’t lacking in cheap, quality eats, or perhaps the traditional sit-down dining culture that’s been centuries in the making. Whatever the reason, the city is now embracing the street food scene; we’ve seen what’s on the menu and we want more...
One of the clever collectives to get in on the action was All Those, brainchild of Santi Garcia and Viqui Sanglas, a couple from Barcelona who returned to the city after living in New York and Berlin. The duo saw a gap in the market the minute they arrived home: “Initially, we moved to Berlin to open a speciality coffee shop, but then we discovered Markthalle Neun, a food market that has been a big inspiration to us. There, all the things we loved about coffee we found in bread, beer and many other artisanal products. When we moved back to Barcelona at the beginning of 2014, we were surprised there was no street food movement in the city, so we started looking for locations of our own. Then Eat Street happened.”
Indeed, Eat Street, the city’s inaugural street food fair—organised by BCN Més—kicked off proceedings in April 2014 by taking over CREC, a coworking space in Poble Sec. As if to illustrate that the city had, in fact, been crying out for this sort of informal feed, many of the vendors sold out relatively early in the evening, yet the crowds remained, drinking and enjoying the impromptu party atmosphere late into the night.
Others followed suit throughout the year, with Van Van Market making an appearance during September’s Festes de la Mercè; Palo Alto taking over the Poblenou factory of the same name in December; and All Those showcasing their homegrown wares for the first time that same month. Each becoming spontaneous social hubs whenever they take place, these gourmet gatherings have developed into much more than the sum of their parts. So is it a foodie fad or is the craze here to stay? Well, the answer appears simple. In a city that loves socialising as much as Barcelona does, the success of such a movement seems inevitable. Many markets offer the perfect setting for selfies and sunshine and a line-up of food trucks, replete with big bulbs and bunting, has now become the backdrop to a fun weekend with friends or family. But just why is it working so well and what exactly is driving the city’s street food scene?
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE...
All cities have their own distinct appeal, but it’s how a place utilises its personality and characteristics that often defines its creative scene, be it in art, music or indeed food. The wealth of unique locations to choose from in Barcelona is just one of the many factors that make the emerging street food style so appealing. From the outset, stalls and trucks have been set up in picturesque locations across the city, unconstrained by barrios and open to all. So far, we’ve seen Eat Street set up camp in the new urban hub of Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes and Barcelona Port, whilst Van Van has taken over Parc de la Ciutadella, Montjuïc Castle and, most recently, La Monumental, the city’s last commercial bullfighting ring. Using these singular settings, easily identifiable within Barcelona’s urban landscape, lends the markets a distinct community atmosphere that makes them all the more appealing to curious crowds.
All Those, much like Palo Alto, has a permanent set-up in the city and occupies a prime location in the Universitat de Barcelona. “When we found the University we realised it was exactly what we were looking for,” commented Garcia. “It has an amazing hall where we can place our market and beautiful gardens for the street food area. And it’s in the city centre! What more could we ask for? The only problem was that the space is huge and people were initially a bit sceptical about filling it, but having that venue has helped a lot.” Which makes sense. Hosting events in the sort of places that capture people’s attention and make them want to linger on is vital to their success and as long as organisers keep innovating in terms of staging, the crowds will keep on coming. What’s more, there’s spontaneity in these markets, as they’re naturally always able to offer something new, whether in terms of vendors or location. Whilst a static, bricks-and-mortar establishment has to change fairly regularly to keep things interesting, the city’s food fairs offer an automatic opportunity for constant reinvention, keeping everyone captivated and hungry for the next event.
THINKING GLOBAL, EATING LOCAL
Just as adding a community aspect to an otherwise universal phenomenon has been vital to the staging, showcasing homegrown produce is what’s really moulding the movement. Whether from a truck or a stall, the grassroots values of the producer have emerged as a fundamental aspect and this, together with a desire to create and innovate, is what’s pushing the phenomenon forward. Garcia agreed with this notion: “We love the global food movement and it has really influenced us, but at the same time we believe that each city has its own personality and that has to be showcased in everything, even in the world of street food. Tradition and modernity don’t have to be opposite, you just have to find the right balance.”
One vendor achieving just that is Rooftop Smokehouse. Now a relative veteran of Barcelona’s street food club, they are keen to extol the virtues of smoked and cured cuisine. Buster Turner and Jakob Zeller began, as their moniker would suggest, by developing an array of deliciously smoky meat, fish, chutneys and pickles on a rooftop in Sant Antoni, before hosting pop-ups and eventually acquiring a van from which to tout their wares. Selective about the provenance of all their core ingredients, this creative team doesn’t shy away from using the cuts of meat that need a little more love, and by using processes drawn from across the continents, they’re able to create something completely of their own, right here. So do they think there’s a benefit to having a truck or stall, rather than a restaurant? “It affords us the freedom to smoke food directly at events, allowing us to cook in the moment” said Turner. “However, this can sometimes be slightly stifling to creativity, since experimental techniques can be out of the question when limited to the truck itself. That’s when your own domestic space does come in handy.” And the team have just that, a kitchen they’re in the process of developing in Fàbrica Lehmann, which Turner said will give them the opportunity to play with more challenging methods, such as fermenting and air drying. The team is motivated by a desire to create the best possible produce, and they understand exactly what’s important to any burgeoning scene: care. It’s not simply about turning up on the day in a truck; it’s about preparing, experimenting and caring enough to keep things interesting for both the punters and themselves.
This is just a single example of the effort that’s being put into Barcelona’s culinary landscape, with many artisans combining creative techniques and far-flung flavours with quality regional produce to give them a local twist. For the most part, vendors are pouring their heart and soul into the food they’re bringing to the markets, and representing the milieu with their carefully thought-out dishes.
So what’s going to define the city’s future ‘street food’ scene? That’s an easy one. Innovation, not imitation. The All Those manifesto sums this up pretty clearly: “We showcase all those artisans, entrepreneurs, cooks, farmers and food enthusiasts that add value to their local communities. We believe people should be interested in what they eat, where it comes from and how it tastes. At the same time, we strive to inspire people to follow their dreams and start their own project.”
Essentially, it doesn’t matter if what we’re eating comes from a fancy food truck: what’s characterising the current movement is the city itself and the people contributing to it. So get out there, support your local producers and make the most of these markets. Given the effort they’re all going to, it’d be rude not to...
- Van Van Market: Parc de la Ciutadella, Festa de la Mercè 2015.
- Palo Alto: Fundació Palo Alto, 3rd & 4th Oct 2015.
- All Those: Barcelona University, 19th & 20th Dec 2015.