Supporting vegan business around the world is one of the missions of this website. Specially new and small ones. It feels my heart with warmth seeing more and more business dedicated not just to vegan food but to vegan lifestyle and when it happens close to home it’s even more excited because you think you will be able to actually go there and really support the place soon.
Since I’ve first heard about The Mighty Fork I became extremely curious. Why? They make plant-based hot dogs. So what? Really, hot dogs are the best fast food on Earth and I will want to try every single vegan version of it I can find. “We do globally inspired hot dogs so packed with flavours that you’ll want a fork to go back for the toppings” is what they say in their website. I wouldn’t mind going back for toppings with a fork, I am sure!
Based in London, The Mighty Fork is on top of my list of places to go when I’m back in London but I wanted to know more about the business and the people running it so I’ve interviewed Rita Correia, chef hands and brain on charge of it to present the world the newest option of vegan hot dogs in the UK:
First of all questions: Why hot dogs?
Right from the beginning I knew I wanted to explore fast food classics. It became obvious to me while weighing whether to focus on burgers or hot dogs, that the latter has gotten far less attention lately. It also fit really well within the idea of creating globally inspired recipes for the diverse cultural backgrounds of Londoners and the street food industry.
How and when the idea of The Might Fork was born? Was there a day when you’ve thought “I must do it”?
As a long-time vegetarian living in countryside Portugal most of my life, I didn’t have any ready meals available and sourcing meat alternatives was almost an impossible mission. Therefore I’ve developed and mastered my own recipes purely out of food cravings. This also got me daydreaming about having my own little vegetarian restaurant sometime in the future.
After moving to London in 2011, I realized it was fairly easy to live a plant-based lifestyle, so I became vegan. This spurred even more interest in creating innovative and “flavoursome” plant-based recipes.
We started developing the concept on the summer of 2012, analyzing the market and what were the current trends and by April 2013 I had left my day job as a digital project manager in a creative agency to fully focus on The Mighty Fork. I spent long hours experimenting in the kitchen and I can tell you our closest friends and family have had a few too many hot dogs in the months prior to our launch!
You’re open since July 2013. How’s things going so far? How British people react to hot dogs, one of the most popular snacks in America, and how do they react to vegan ones?
Most people are surprised by the fact they are actually plant-based – they just can’t believe their eyes. It’s definitely interesting to know that most people aren’t bothered if they’re not made of meat. If they look appetizing, they give it a try and come back saying they simply loved it. It’s the highlight of my day to know we changed a person’s perspective on vegan food by showing it’s equally tasteful.
Do you have a best seller already?
I must confess there’s a close tie between the Yasai Dog, the Big Chilli and the Brew Dog. The Yasai Dog is a japanese inspired hot dog topped with japanese yasai curry, sautéed onions, wasabi mayo and spring onions. The Big Chilli finds its inspiration in America, being topped with black bean soya chilli, jalapeño peppers, red onions and american mustard. The Brew Dog finds its origin in a secret-ish recipe from northern Portugal, it has a tomato beer sauce best known as Francesinha sauce, which we proudly “veganized”.
What people can find in The Mighty Fork that they wouldn’t find that easy in any other place or at least not in the UK?
We do mighty hot dogs for everyone. Despite their diet, vegetarians, vegans and meat-eaters alike can find some good grub that is nutritious, bursting with flavour without nasties.
We tried to come up with a concept that was simultaneously surprising but not too crazy. We figured we would reinvent a street food classic and give it a healthy twist by coming up with a menu that was globally-inspired, we try to capture flavours from around the world and put them in a hot dog. I think that is our unique selling point.
How to make one food that is usually considered “junk food” a healthy and nutritious option?
What makes junk food unhealthy is the little nutritional value and often high amounts of fat, sugar, salt, and calories, not to mention the use of preservatives and artificial additives. We figured that by replacing all the nasty stuff with high nutritional, fresh and filling ingredients like organic tofu wieners, daily baked buns that are free from preservatives or hand picked vegetables that we use on our homemade sauces; we could reinvent fast food and make it healthier.
Tell us a little bit more about the person and life of Rita Correia, the chef behind The Mighty Forks.
Apart from being the chef, as an entrepreneur you have to be a jack of all trades and a master of all. In the course of a week you can find me managing stock, being an accountant, developing recipes, cooking, trading at markets and meeting lovely people, managing social media, taking care of branding and design, among other things.
Personally I’m a very down-to-earth type of person who obviously loves cooking, animals and making the most out of life. I share a flat in southwest London with my little family: my husband Pete and rescue cat named Yoshi, who we brought all the way from Portugal with us.
When I’m not doing anything Mighty Fork related, you can probably find me hanging around, eating some grub, at a music gig or, erm, watching either striking documentaries or non-stop Discovery channel. The truth is out there now, I like boring things, they excite me.
Tricky question: favorite snack? I mean, besides hot dog, of course! And favorite meal?
That’s the worse question someone can ask me! Am I allowed to say what’s my *least* favourite snack and meal instead? Sh*t, even that is hard! Anything comfort food is heaven for me: mashed potatoes with veggie gravy, a proper vegan roast, miso soup, burgers. But then I’m also nuts for fresh fruit, specially pineapple, passion fruit, kiwi. Oh and kale chips.
What can we expect from The Mighty Fork in 2014?
For now we are embracing the street food scene in the vibrant city of London. If the opportunity arises we would love to open our first diner-style joint, where we would be able to expand our menu and offer indoor seating for our customers all year round.
And last one, there are more and more vegan business being launched around the world, food based or not. In your opinion, which is the big challenge of running a vegan business?
It may sound scary and it certainly isn’t an easy task, but sometimes being a niche business will make you thrive no matter the economic situation. Starting your own business means trusting your creativity and judgement. The key is to develop a concept to a point where you have something solid but flexible enough to allow for business growth. Being ahead of the curve doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Instead think, if you see a bandwagon it might be too late. We’ve only been trading for little over 4 months, so we have yet to see where the curve will take us.
One thing that keeps us positive is that there is a growing demand on vegetarian and vegan food in London and the UK in general as people are increasingly switching their diets to a more plant based one for a variety of reasons.
Our biggest difficulty so far lies mainly on getting a spot at street markets which is always a challenge because of the sheer lack of pitches available in a city like London. The most positive thing has been our customers and their feedback, we’ve gotten so many great reviews and praise we feel truly humbled and motivated.