Food Busking Preparation

Food Busking. The term itself is a little difficult for my brain to process, for two reasons:

The first; my mouth salivates uncontrollably just from letting my imagination wander. Delicious food dished out for passers by to enjoy on the streets; what’s not to love about the idea? Granted, you run the risk of being stuck on the toilet for what can feel like eternity. Yet, having survived Vietnamese street food for months without a hitch, I would certainly enjoy taking that risk.

Secondly; the use of the term ‘Busker’ itself. Now, everyone can get on board with the illusion of free food. However, I imagine the performer would like to see a little return for their efforts? Considering the potentially high overhead costs for ingredients and equipment, it’s difficult to understand how this could be profitable in the long run.

Sparking my interest in this relatively un-chartered busking realm is John Quilter; who’s Youtube Channel and numerous television appearances have earned him the infamous title of ‘The Food Busker.’ With Jamie Oliver a considerable fan and generous supporter, it seems rare that John’s still hitting the streets to earn a living.

Closing the doors on his restaurant, he took his food to the streets. Travelling across London, his main goal was to bring a little soul and energy back to his cooking. With minimal utensils and inviting black board he offers people the chance to try out his mouth watering food for a voluntary donation.

Here lies my issue. Where a musician or magician are happy to leave donations to audience discretion; accompanying your ‘act’ with a board which asks for you to ‘pay what you think it is worth’ is perhaps where ‘Busker’ may be misused in his title.

John Quilter Food Busker
Accompanied by Black Boards such as those pictured (above) along the South Bank

Whether you give a penny or a pound, most Busker’s are grateful for any contribution. Now lets be fair, as a gesture its polite to leave a little change if you have enjoyed some talent for a few moments. Nevertheless, its not obligatory. Yet, to present a sign which encourages people to assign money to what you offer, just feels like the complete opposite of what being a ‘Busker’ is all about.

Let us be realistic for a second. It’s rare to find a street performer out to pay for his million dollar home and several cars – the reality is, a constant undercurrent of the art is the necessity for the money. But a stigma starts to develop if donations are judged or even rejected. In an interview with Zoe Ball, Quilter discusses how he was unhappy with what he received from one ‘customer.’

After actually prompting them to give more money, the ‘give what you think it’s worth’ becomes completely redundant. £35 for a crab pasta and he still seems unsatisfied? This is street food, not a Michelin Star Restaurant.

It would seem, with your ‘food baby’ comes a side of considerable expectation.

Still, I am very much in love with the idea. If you push pass all the boring health restrictions and throw out a high probability of a law suit – I think there is an exciting gap in the busking market yet to be explored.

Judge John’s street-food style for yourself via the links below:

John Quilter Official Site

Food Busker: Youtube Channel