SMALL TALK

David Carter of Smokestak on why he swapped fine dining for barbecue

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

David Carter of Smokestak, the barbecue street food concept currently at The Tasting Room at Broadgate Ice Rink
David Carter of Smokestak, the barbecue street food concept currently at The Tasting Room at Broadgate Ice Rink

Related tags: Sausage

A former front-of-house manager at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's and Roka, Barbudian David Carter turned his back on fine-dining in 2013 to launch barbecue street-food concept Smokestak which is currently in situ at The Tasting Room at Broadgate Ice Rink. 

Tell us a bit about Smokestak

I left Roka in 2013 and went out to Houston in Texas to buy a smoker. It's made by the leading guy there and is 4.5 tonnes and seven metres long. It's amazing, it can produce about 250 kilos of meat per cook.

We took the smoker out to festivals that summer and cooked for people there, mostly pork and beef ribs, before we got a spot at Street Feast in Dalston. It has been a crazy time. We had to get up really early to get ready, but it has been received really well. Street Feast was really good to us and it was through them that we met the guys from The Tasting Room where we'll be until the end of February. 

Surely working in fine-dining and operating a street food stall are world's apart. What made you change direction?​ 

They're not so different. Both require attention to detail and passion and it's all hospitality at the end of the day. It's all about treating your guests to something special, whether that's in a restaurant or from a street food stall.

I got into fine-dining because I wanted to learn from the best, but the ambition was always to do my own thing and I wanted to be the best at something, which is why I decided to go for it when Smokestak became popular. 

Barbecue has grown in popularity recently, do you think we'll see more people cooking this style of food this year? 

Barbecue is a big thing. Like burgers it's a bit of a trend now, but I think it still has a way to go here. Anyone doing barbecue doesn't go into it lightly. Cooks can take up to 18 hours and there are parts of that that are fun, but there are parts that are painful. I've been out to the US four times now to source new kit and see what they are doing, so I'm always learning more.

A lot of guys are trying to get into it, but like in other styles of food, unless you have a strong brand or product I'm not sure you'd make it as there is lots of competition. 

You grew up in the Caribbean and moved to the UK. However, we haven't seen a strong Caribbean restaurant brand make it on to our high streets yet - do you think we will? 

In the UK we tend to associate Caribbean food with the little dodgy takeaway joints, but there are some great products over there. If there was something that took inspiration from the fish markets it could work. We've never really shouted about how good the food is, but with the right guys behind something I can't see why a Caribbean restaurant brand wouldn't work in the UK. 

What's next for you and Smokestak? 

After the Tasting Room we've got a massive summer ahead of us and we'll be at Street Feast again. We've landed ourselves another smoker so we'll be using that to cover more ground and we'll just focus on getting the brand more established this year and work on making things much more operational. 

I've also got a second concept I want to launch in the summer. Birdbox is a chicken rotisserie concept that I'll be launching as a street food brand. We'll roast spatchcock chicken on a special piece of kit that can cook 60-80 chickens an hour. I don't think I've seen anyone do it within a street food setting before. 

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Small Talk, Venues

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