Good veggie street food is out there, but it tends to get overshadowed by its beefier cousins. Matt Paice is attempting to change all that with his killer veggie food that’s ‘bad for you’. From ‘drowned’ sandwiches filled with refried beans, chipotle, avocado salsa and radishes – all smothered in hot chilli de arbol sauce – to charred sweet corn with chipotle mayo, feta, chilli flakes and lime; this is vegetarian food that packs a punch.
What did you do before you set up Killer Tomato?
I used to be a commis chef (the lowest of the low) in a number of different restaurants. I was lucky enough to work for Carl Clarke (Disco Bistro, Rock Lobsta) and before that, I worked in television (I won a Bafta, ooh). The TV industry is shrinking whereas food is booming and exciting.
How did the idea for it come about?
In the poshest restaurants, chefs are doing more and more with vegetables and I thought it would be cool to try and bring that to street food. All the vegetarian restaurants in London are quite po-faced – some of them are even proud of the fact that they won't serve chips! – so I figured there was room for a fun vegetarian option, which is where my slogan "vegetarian food that's bad for you" comes from.
Do you think there’s a dearth of good veggie street food in London?
There's amazing veggie street food in London but it's always Indian – Rola Wala and Horn OK Please make brilliant veggie dishes. Selling vegetarian food on the street is definitely harder, because the caveman instinct seems to kick in, especially with male customers: often, blokes on Leather Lane (where I trade at lunchtimes) say to me "ah no I need some meat today". I want to hit them over the head with a rolling pin and say "just TRY something without battery chicken in it!"
Your menu has a Mexican/South American slant – have you done much travelling there?
I lived in Buenos Aires for three months and I ran a supper club there – weirdly there's not much spice in the local food, so I made curries. I get Mexican customers from time to time – I sell a vegetarian version of a Mexican sandwich called the pambazo that you can't find anywhere in London – and I get a good reaction from them, thank god.
What’s been the most enjoyable part of running Killer Tomato so far?
The absolute highlight of my day is when a customer comes back with a friend and says to them "here, you have GOT to try this". Having regular customers on Leather Lane who I know by name is awesome. Also, I traded at Street Feast's chilli & tequila festival, Chilli Chilli Bang Bang, earlier this year which was very busy but so much fun. There's a Michelin-starred chef whose cookbook I have used for 10 years who came to the stall there, bought some food then came back to say he loved it. That was a good moment!
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Making shit happen and bringing the vibes.
So far no deaths or arrests.