THE ORIGINAL FESTIVAL CURRY IN A WRAP! An interview with Chris Rai from Chapati Man
Headlining bands aside, another factor that can really make a difference at festivals is the food that we eat.
While many festivals limit themselves to the usual burger van type offerings, there are are many events which strive to provide a great variety of nom-noms for all to enjoy. One food vendor in particular who has fast gained a following is the delicious and unique Chapati Man!
If you could describe your food in one sentence to potential festival attendants what would you say?
Booming Spicy Indian Wraps! Our chapatis are filled with a choice of four freshly-made curry fillings - filled and rolled to create a delicious wrap.
We noticed this year you are set to appear at a few festivals, would you like to remind us of which ones they are for our readers?
Confirmed for Bestival and Camp Bestival. We are just awaiting confirmation on another three but can't reveal them just yet! We usually trade at Glastonbury (traded there for the past five years) but its a having a year off - we cannot wait to return in 2013.
Out of all your great selection of wraps, snack boxes, chutneys and dips, what is your personal favourite and why?
At festivals we only serve our Spicy Indian Wraps (our retail side of the business, Chapati Man Ltd is where we have developed a range of Chapati Man products - not just wraps!). We keep our festival menu very simple, with just our four curry fillings - three meat and one vegetarian. All our chapatis are served with a fresh salad and cooling raita yoghurt. Optional chopped chillies on request!
My festival favourite wrap is the Keema Aloo (Spicy lean minced beef with potatoes) - it's not a mainstream curry filling but is what my mother used to make me when I was young and has been my favourite curry ever since. We even used to eat it for breakfast, alongside a fried egg!
We love the fact that your chapatis contain low salt and have no harmful hidden surprises, for festival goers looking for fresh healthy and light pick me up, what else makes your product so popular?
The Chapati Man mission is to give festival-goers the choice of a unique, tasty and healthy option! Our wraps are filling enough for a snack, lunch or dinner. They are easy to eat and just one piece of wrapping paper is used to package the wrap making packaging waste extremely minimal.
Judging from the pictures of queues by your stand, you are in great demand, have their been any festivals where you have sold out or had a similar stock disaster?
We have traded at many festivals over the past five years and on occasions we have sold out! Selling out is not necessarily a negative, as we are a specialist festival caterer and all our products are made freshly, so we would rather sell out then waste top, quality food. You learn in this game quickly and soon get to judge what amounts of product you should be taking to the various festivals.
We love the family run style of your business, and also adore the fact that your mother still makes the recipes, do you feel more food stands at festivals could do with this personal touch?
Festival catering has changed dramatically over the past five/six years. Gone are the days of your cream and green burger/all purpose units - these have been replaced by your boutique, specialist caterers offering a quality product - the majority of these do offer that personal touch, which is what the festival-goer deserves.
What were you doing before Chapati Man appeared at festivals, and what inspired you to start the business?
Chapati Man was created by husband and wife team, Chris and Andrea, in 2007. The idea came from taking left-over curry in a wrap to work. Their love of music festivals inspired them to share with other party-goers, the authentic curry recipes Chris grew up with; still being made by Chris's mother Martha - and the Chapati Man brand was born!
Chapati Man was created while Chris and Andrea were in full-time employment (Chris a civil servant – he left after nine years service in April 2009 to fully concentrating on building Chapati Man; Andrea a textile designer – now a full time mother to their two year old son, Cassius!). Trading at festivals meant them both taking all leave from work to work on their mobile catering trailer unit during the festival season; working 18 hour days for four days (sometime five days!) and then returning to their jobs the following week – proper hard graft!
Chris and Andrea used to go to music festivals as punters for years and spotted a niche in the market. They realised times where changing and festival goers wanted something different, authentic and with more quality to it than burgers and chips – festival organisers knew this too so saw Chapati Man as a breath of fresh air. The food was becoming was just as important as the music. Their purpose-built trailer, emblazoned with their striking Indian elephant design has become a festival landmark and focal point to meet, eat and get back to the entertainment refreshed and satisfied!
With a growing reputation as an outstanding festival caterer, with a quality product and a brand that catches the imagination, Chapati Man’s cult following and growing customer base has successfully filled a gap in the festival market.
We are THE ORIGINAL FESTIVAL CURRY IN A WRAP!
What advice would you give anyone looking to start their own festival food stand?
Make sure your offering is different, keep your menu as simple as possible and make sure your unit stands out from the crowd. There is an element of risk involved, so be prepared to take a few - that is what business is all about at the end of day!
We noticed you have received a lot of favourable press, what has been your favourite compliment or accolade so far?
We have won two really good awards:
Chapati Man was voted No.1 food caterer at Glastonbury Festival 2007 by Virtual Festivals.com – an outstanding achievement in our first year of trading.
Our Chicken Saag wrap, with a mint chutney and cachumber salad won it's National category (sponsored by the food giant, Oasis) at the British Sandwich Designer of Year 2011 (The Sammies!) - up against top chefs from large manufacturers, Chapati Man beat them all!
We adore following you on Twitter, your tweets are always uplifting and seem to receive a great reception, Do you think businesses could do with being a bit less corporate when reaching out to their fans?
I enjoying tweeting on Twitter and am just being myself - the Chapati Man business reflects this. At festivals, me, my wife and staff are always up for having banter with the punters and we love this customer interaction loads - this is one of the Chapati Man festival traits. All businesses are different but it looks like a unique, high quality product, strong branding and a customer base built from grass roots is still a winning formula.
And lastly for anyone hoping to check your food out at the festivals you've mentioned, what are your opening times?
It depends on each festival but at Bestival for example we are open from 10am to possibly 3am! Long days but all booming fun.