FROM STREET FOOD STALL TO RESTAURANT

A four-part look at Manjit’s Kitchen and it’s transition from food festival cart to a bricks-and-mortar Leeds restaurant.

Just over 2 years ago I was overseeing the hospitality for Manchester International Festival on Albert Square, for those who haven’t experienced it it’s a biannual international arts festival with a specific focus on new work. Along side this a chance to experience some fantastic food created by some amazing ‘foodie’ individuals served from little huts on Albert Square.

Our job was hospitality, hundreds of people a day eating everything from canapes to bowl food served from our portacabin kitchen around the back and away from view.

We didn’t really mix with the guys in the huts and one sunny morning the site organiser asked if one of the ‘foodie’ people could use the stove to cook something needed for lunch. I have no problem helping anyone at all and 10 minutes later in walked a lady in a bright yellow t-shirt with a Yorkshire accent holding a large pan of lentils, 

“Chef, who is cooking this for me?” she said as she put the pan on the stove.
“I need it for lunch”
“Look after it, and what ever you do don’t burn my Dhal”

And like a whirlwind she was gone, that was Manjit of Manjit’s kitchen, an Indian vegetarian street food stall based in Kirkgate market that she runs alongside her husband Michael. 

So, this went on every day for 3 weeks, and we became friends. We had a great laugh and my team ate some amazing food from Manjit. Not only that I became a master of making dhal -never burning it once.

One morning it was just me and Manjit chatting whilst stirring various sized pans of lentils, we talked a lot about food, cooking and business.

“I want a restaurant, it would be great to have a real restaurant where people can spend an evening and relax, not just eat and go” the words came out of Manjit’s mouth as if it was the most natural and easy thing to do, to have a restaurant.

I talk to loads of people who have a dream to own a restaurant. They have eaten in many a restaurant, looks quite easy; serve a few drinks the odd plate of food, quick chat here a quick chat there, some even think It could be a bit of a hobby and some do it. Most don’t but lots regret it because they don’t understand how hard it is and how it could go badly wrong.

Manjit was adamant about having a restaurant one day so I agreed that if they got to that stage, they could give me a call and see how we could help.

Then a year later my phone rang:

“Steve”
“Yes” I replied
“It’s Manjit, I need help, it’s happening”

In Part 2

How Manjit’s Kitchen moved from a dream to something very real.

Also read the Yorkshire Evening Post article here

Kindly contributed by Steve Midgley Consulting Development Chef, 30 years experience in fine dinning, creating fantastic experiences at Michelin star restaurants.

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