MC Meets: Candida Balfour on being at the centre of London’s exciting street food revolution

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  • Candida Balfour, also known rather adorably as Shrimpy, set up the super-healthy Rainbo street food van with her boyfriend, Ben Sheinwald. A chunk of money from their delicious street food goes to their Food for Freedom initiative, which rescues child labourers in Nepal.

    As Candida, Ben and Rainbo get ready to start trading at Street Feast’s latest venture at Hawker House in Haggerston, London, we chat to her to find out how she went about quitting her day job and joining the street food revolution.

    Tell us what you love most about being a van foodie trader.

    ‘I love that every day is different and we meet new people every time we trade. There’s such a sense of community at an event like Hawker House, and so much great food to try out. As well as being flexible, working for ourselves means we can stay true to our values. I do hate the early starts though, especially in winter!’

    How did you get to where you are today?

    ‘I quit my office job to run Petra Barran’s ice cream van with my boyfriend Ben in the summer of 2010. We could see the street food revolution going on in London, and saw that street food was a really exciting place to be, so decided to create Rainbo, our own healthy charitable food truck, the following summer.’

    What advice would you give someone trying to break into your industry?

    ‘It isn’t easy at the start and you have to be prepared for every kind of unexpected setback. If you believe in your product and know how to sell it you will forge your own path. It’s great to have events like Hawker House that give you a platform for your product.’

    Who inspires you?

    ‘Everyone we meet through street food who does their own thing is so inspiring and we all share the same values and vision.’

    What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

    ‘Don’t worry about it until it happens.’

    Tell us your five-year goal…

    ‘We are not sure where Rainbo will take us, we are just doing our thing and seeing what happens! We have set up our own initiative, Food For Freedom, where 20p from every sale goes to BASE, a charity that helps children in Nepal, and would love to raise enough money to build a transit home for the child workers we help rescue through the charity, which costs thirty thousand pounds. Slowly slowly…’

    What’s your plan B?

    ‘We don’t have one, we are flying by the seat of our pants and enjoying the ride!’

    Which career achievement are you most proud of?

    ‘Getting Rainbo and Food for freedom off the ground has been a huge achievement.’

    What have you learnt along the way?

    ‘To expect the unexpected and stay calm even when everything is going wrong!’

    We’re always obsessing over our work/life balance – do you manage it?

    ‘Street food is pretty all consuming so you have to really love it as you work around the clock and the work/play divide tends to blur. Time out is really important but if you love what you do and the people you work with it is less vital.’

    How would your colleagues describe you?

    ‘Chatty, gregarious and excitable.’

    Looking for more career inspo? It’s not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire’s @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.

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