Written by: Jack Wyness AKA Big Dog
How this Pacific Street Food Journey all started
I would like to share the journey we have taken with our food since I have started in 2019 and how this actually all started for me a few years ago in Manchester.
The vision from 2017 brought into 2019 and the triAl, error and learning along the way.
The idea came from conversations with my brother a couple of years back when we were working on a concept for a potential restaurant idea in Manchester. Looking for the newest food trends that hadn’t really hit the UK yet, but a theme that was close to both our hearts. I have to credit my brother here as it was he who coined the phrase “Pacific Rim Food.” Bells rang in my head, soon as those words left his lips.
The street food trend was already massively on the rise but we hadn’t seen anywhere that was “Pacific Rim” themed street food. Japanese food culture was on fire at the time and all the top chefs were using specialist cooking techniques with ingredients and tools from Asia.
Mexican food done properly was making a smaller appearance as well, along with many other areas of South American cuisine too. Korean BBQ was another huge interest of mine but id yet to see it anywhere up north.
To create a food concept that was so broad was like a dream. No constraints to keeping it specifically french or Japanese for example. It seemed like there were no boundaries with such a huge area of geography (this also helps to keep the chefs interested in the long run.)
In the beginning, I wanted to have a really strong bbq theme running through the menu, so I did my research and came across something called a robata grill. I’d used Konro grills with binchotan coal before but never used a custom made commercial gas-powered grill like this. The grill in question was multi-fuel and multi-purpose giving us lots of reasons to take the leap.
This was mostly going to be new for all of us, but I knew it would be the USP we’d been looking for. Yakitori chicken to grilled whole fish and veg. At the time when we were launching this menu, the skill set was varied and admittedly there was part of me that thought it may be too much of an undertaking, but I had a clear vision in my mind and it had to be done.
Once the concept had been agreed with everyone on board, it was time to purchase the Robata, which ended up costing close to £7000. A big leap of faith but we were sure it would pay off.
“I would say 90% of the kitchen team hadn’t heard of half the ingredients”
It’s fair to say the first launch was pretty rushed and the kitchen was already in quite a bit of strife with 3 agency chefs on at any one time, people not turning up on time, holidays booked for the middle of summer, 90 hour weeks back to back and deep clean with two of us after a Saturday night service. Sometimes I wonder how we did it looking back. I was manic trying to spec, cost and finish all these brand new dishes whilst trying to run an extremely busy kitchen at the same time.
I would say 90% of the kitchen team hadn’t heard of half the ingredients used or even seen a Robata, but hats off to all them, they made it happen (with a lot of tests and adjustments.)
I think what helped the launch was a lot of the dishes were all very new to the lake district. We were the first to do ramen and bao buns in the area and with Bowness being slightly on the traditional side, it was either sink or swim for such radical change.
“3 revised menus and 2 kitchen teams later”
3 revised menus and 2 kitchen teams later we had finally hit the sweet spot. I managed to secure 5 skilled and talented chefs who now are instrumental in this menu. So many new techniques learned, hundreds of new ingredients and systems in place, it finally felt like it was starting to work.
Look back if I had to do it all again I wouldn’t rush such big changes in a concept, design or the menu, but we don’t live in an ideal world. The Summer of 2019 was fast approaching and we were all desperate to move away from the old menu, to give Baha a fighting chance of survival through peak season. Also changing menus due to mistakes or design faults isn’t something I like doing either but with something so new and cutting edge, I suppose it can only be expected and it in turn ultimately created a better product.