By Christina Dean and Circe Hughes

It’s difficult to remember a time when street food wasn’t a dominant force on the London food scene and KERB has played a big role in that

KERB has been feeding hungry Londoners since 2012, when it started championing the best street food talent of the day with a lunchtime market in King’s Cross. Over the ensuing decade, it has grown in multiple street food markets across London, a food hall, an event caterer and a business incubator, and as of spring 2023, the markets and business development arms have become part of the not-for-profit social enterprise KERB+. It still has the mission of finding and spotlighting the next up-and-coming street food traders as well as supporting people in their work with membership and coaching programmes, and we went in search of London’s next big street food star with them.

The inKERBator programme, KERB+’s food business incubator, is one of the principal ways that KERB+ supports and develops new businesses, which come from direct applications or referrals from impact partners like The Connection and The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network. It’s an eight-week programme, run quarterly, that gives people a chance to accelerate the growth of their businesses by giving them a chance to learn on the job. Following a three-week period of classroom learning, encompassing topics like health & safety, finances, logistics, and branding, the traders get a six-week run at the Cowcross Yards market to get real-life market experience.

The goal is to have the participants graduate from the inKERBator programme and become full KERB+ members, paving the way for them to become regulars on the London food scene, joining the likes of Baggio Burger, Biff’s Jack Shack, Wheelcake Island, Salt Shed and Palm Greens, businesses who’ve all passed through the programme.

Eight businesses were part of the spring/summer 2023 InKERBator cohort, including Italian kitchen Sugo82; Thin and Crispy, who specialise in lahmacun; birria taco experts Mexclub; and Andhra Rachuluu, with Hyderabadi biryanis. Across the nine-week InKERBator programme, there were four that really caught our attention. 

Mina Tavakolian, a Cordon-Bleu trained chef, showcases modern Iranian food, like walnut stew and chicken and barberry stew with crispy baked saffron rice, with Deeg, run out of a beautiful hand-painted horse-box trailer. After working in finance and falling in love with street food, Tom Goddard decided to ditch the office and spend time in the kitchens of Hawksmoor, Smokestak and the Dusty Knuckle before going out on his own with smoked meats biz Hank BBQ. Now he slings BBQ pork belly rib with pickled fennel and smoked beef chuck with bread & butter pickles on house potato buns.

Sean Oware-Kissi knows what’s what when it comes to fried chicken, having honed his craft managing two of the top chicken brands in London. With Chicken Bandits, he’s putting his own spin on fried chicken, serving up Bandit Burgers (buttermilk chicken, bacon, American cheese, lettuce & chipotle mayo) and Louie Blues (buttermilk chicken, Louisiana hot buffalo sauce, blue cheese sauce & lettuce) with South London attitude.

Omran Abo Zainaldin came to the inKERBator programme from one of KERB+’s impact partners TERN, where he was one of the food entrepreneurs from refugee backgrounds on their Food Power programme. He’s all about showcasing authentic Syrian flavours with Faté, including the namesake faté bowls – a rice and chickpea base topped with chicken or beef, crispy pita bread, aubergine, parsley, spring onion, pomegranate, tahini and secret sauce.

Come and meet the street food stars of the future yourselves: