There are some combinations that are just meant to be. And chips, cheese curds and gravy is one such combo, which for the as yet uninitiated is also called ‘poutine’. The Gravy Train Poutine are fine purveyors of this delectable dish so we sat down for a chat with company founders Tom and Ben, to get ourselves educated on the Canadian cuisine.
So let’s talk gravy, what made you guys pick Poutine?
Tom: I’d finished university and found myself working full-time in a London bar and wondering what on Earth to do with myself. Despite being a rural white boy from Devon, I’d been listening to a lot of Biggie at the time (North Devon can be dangerous) and decided I wanted to go to New York. I had a rough plan to follow my nose around North America and was urged to cross the border to the land of milk and syrup by my Canadian friends in London, who set me up with a place to stay and a ready-made group of friends in Vancouver. I headed to Montreal and after a night supping Canadian Club, my friend took me to this late-night takeaway full of people tucking into this gooey, cheesy, steaming concoction.
Being the sucker for food that I am and needing something to line my stomach, I ordered and began shovelling this supremely decadent delight down my pie hole at increasing speed. I wondered how I’d never come across it before, which surprised my friend as it’s such a cult classic in Canada. I left the East Coast for Vancouver with a gravy-covered light-bulb blinking in my head and spent the next six months living in a tent on the lawn of my soon-to-be-best-Canadian-buddy whilst helping out on her grilled cheese street food stall. Safe to say, I had an absolute blast and many more portions of poutine were scoffed. Like an Elizabethan explorer, I returned home with flavours of the new world for my countrymen and as they say, le reste est de l’histoire.
I hear you’re available for events? What’s been your favourite event?
Ben: Peddler Night Market in Sheffield is always a riot (figuratively speaking) and the organisers Heather and Jordan are great. One day we’ll be able to shed our aprons and finally make it to the after party. North Leeds Food Festival was ace as well, despite the ridiculously high winds and driving rain – it felt like we were on the set of 90s classic Twister. We made some great friends there (shout out to the Sausage Box massive) and had nothing left save a few crumbs of stilton, which is always pleasing.
What’s the plan for the next year? Are you planning on chugging along the tracks or hopping onto a platform and setting up somewhere more permanently?
Tom: In all honesty we’ve been blown away by how much people love our poutine. It seems like every third person we serve is Canadian and every other person has had poutine before. It’s rapidly becoming the worst-kept secret in street food. Plus, we’re now making our own cheese curds, which are almost impossible to get hold of in the UK (believe me, we’ve tried) so when we serve up the good stuff with real curds we get a great response from the Canadian contingent. (FYI curd-craving Canadians, we’re expanding our cheese curd-making and will shortly be supplying the general public. Drop us an email if you need a fix.)
It’s been an fantastic journey so far, so we’re definitely sticking aboard this gravy train and seeing where it takes us. We’ve just opened a second stall in London, so will be roaming all four corners of the UK. We also have a good few weddings and private parties penned in for 2017 and are keeping one eye on bricks and mortar, so yes, all is rosy in the garden.
Why do you think Sheffield was a good place to start this journey?
Ben: Sheffield’s street food scene is growing rapidly and is complemented by events in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. New events seem to be popping up all over the shop and, from our experience, the people of Sheffield are really keen to try new things, no matter how weird and wonderful. Plus, I don’t think chips, cheese curd and gravy covered in barbecued chicken, soured cream and crispy onions is too much of a hard sell to an inquisitive Yorkshireman or woman. Northerners love gravy.
And finally, what does gravy definitely not belong on?
Ben: Whilst wanting to leave my menu options open, I’d have to say Baked Alaska. Can you imagine? Could make a great album cover though.
Interview by Erin Lawlor
Images courtesy of The Gravy Train Poutine