What can FBC attendees expect from you at the event and where can we usually find you trading?
We will be serving our signature dish, which is #Souvlaki. We will have a vegetarian option on the menu too!
So far, Greek cuisine has been at best misrepresented in the UK. A lot of the time the options on offer are outdated, the ingredients not fresh and it is very rare to find dishes that are almost always listed on the menu of a Greek taverna and are part of everyday cooking and culture. This is what we are trying to change. Our food is fresh, hand & home made and we put a lot of effort into making it look as good as possible.
How did you hear about FBC?
The FBC team contacted us, which is rather flattering. The reason we are taking part is in order to connect with Food bloggers and take our food to the next level. We want more people to find out about us and we believe the FBC is the right place. We will serve our most popular dish, which is Souvlaki, with chicken pork and halloumi cheese with home made dips.
What other events do you take part in throughout the year?
We trade at Brick Lane market on Sundays, Shoreditch Sclater Street from Thursday to Saturday and we do popups, festivals and supper clubs.
Our most recent include the Street Food Festival at Alexandra Palace, a monthly supper club at Isle of Olive in Broadway Market, a monthly popup at Boxpark in Shoreditch, and a new collaboration with Craving Coffee in Tottenham.
Bite into Greek Street Food with @TheAthenianUK on Instagram and Twitter!
How did you get started and what’s your mission?
The Athenian is a newly launched Greek street food. Our journey began at the remote mountain village of Vamos, on the Greek island of Crete. This is where we cooked some unique traditional recipes for the first time with a local lady, Mrs Koula. That was a life changing experience which made us seriously consider to promote traditional Greek cooking and food in London.We are bringing a new wave of Greek dishes to the local communities of London.
Our main dish is #souvlaki. Dating back to ancient times, souvlaki is now Greece’s most popular street food. Based on a characteristic round and soft flatbread, it is then filled with grilled chicken or pork skewers, lettuce, tomato, red onions, parsley and a choice of home made dips and sauces. We also make a grilled Talagani (similar to Halloumi cheese) souvlaki as a vegetarian alternative.
Street food is part of the London culture, and we absolutely love it. The incredible thing with food markets is that you get the chance to try food from pretty much anywhere in the world for a much smaller price than sitting at a restaurant. We were big street food fans before we started and that’s one the reasons why we chose to trade in the streets of east London. The other reason is because you have straight access to people, right on street level. It’s easier to communicate with them and let them try your food.
Our mission is to update the image of Greek food and culture in the UK. We want to share all the food that we grew up with but is not available in Britain at the moment.
What does your set-up mean to you and what are your goals and challenges?
We put so much energy and effort into our current setup, so it really means a lot. And it is rewarding to see passers by that get captured by its aesthetic.
The Athenian has already grown quite a bit in a very short time, so I think at this point is hard to predict which direction it will take. I want the food to stay hand and home made. Every time I eat something that’s mass produced, I can really taste the difference. All I know is that I want it to stay true to the food I grew up with, but also evolve in line with the food in Greece today. I think the biggest challenge with Greeks taking their food abroad has been the fact that after a certain point they lose touch with the country and the food stops evolving, whereas the food in Greece moves on into new directions.
I think that the biggest challenge with setting up a street food is finding the right market. All of the successful and busy markets are getting to saturation point and it is really hard to get in. And if a trader joins a small market with a small footfall they won’t be able to make ends meet and potentially give up.
I think there is a real concern with the direction that street food is going. It has become so popular over the past decade that big chain restaurants are starting to set up street food market stalls that look independent. And that is a threat to anyone who’s truly independent and has started off with their own savings and ideas. The good thing on the other hand is that if something isn’t appealing it will probably not do so well.
In terms of street food trends, I think that street food goes through phases. We had the burger phase, the churros phase, the paella phase and now we are going through a healthy yet tasty phase and I think that’s why The Athenian has been so successful.
What sets us apart from other stalls is the fact that The Athenian has a clear identity, a simple menu and a visually pleasing setup. I truly think that if we want our food to go further we just need to stay true to our values and authenticity of our food.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to join the street trader scene?
All I would say to anyone thinking about starting up a stall is this: JUST DO IT. It took me three years to finally make the first move and it couldn’t have come sooner. I didn’t take part in any classes or workshops but I volunteered for a month to help out for free at a market stall in order to gain experience and understand what it’s like to run one.
If you could cook for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My mum. She still hasn’t tried my Souvlaki. She’s in Athens and I haven’t seen her since we started the stall so she would have to be the first in line!
Are you a fan of food, travel, lifestyle blogs?
I am a really big fan of food and travel. In February I came back from a big trip in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It was so inspiring to go around the markets and cook with the locals. We actually followed a couple of food bloggers while on our travels to get some tips on where to eat which really helped discover places we wouldn’t have normally heard of.
How have social media and bloggers helped you connect and engage more with a wider audience?
Social media and Facebook in particular has helped us a lot in terms of reaching out to a wider audience. Our social media pages are a little bit like a blog in a way, as we post updates about our food and articles we find interesting.
We think that food bloggers can really help with small start-up street food businesses to get the word out. The best thing a blogger can do for us is to try our food and hopefully if they like it then write about why they did. We hope to get people to try our food at FBC and tell the world about it!
If you could tell people to eat one thing more often what would it be and why?
Souvlaki! And that’s because despite The Athenian being popular, souvlaki has a long way to go before it becomes as popular as Pizza. And that’s how popular it is in Greece.
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