Culture, Travel & Sport

Bringing Georgian street food to the UK

It is hard to imagine living abroad without missing your national cuisine. Especially when the food from your country is exotic for your country of residence, and it is impossible to buy in street markets, and restaurants are costly. So it is with Georgian cuisine in the UK. I have tried to prepare my favourite dishes by myself you really can’t cook a proper Georgian meal without Georgia’s magic spices.

Then a friend told me about a Georgian couple, living in Reading and running a small family business serving Georgian street food and spices. Keti and Zezva Maglakelidze have lived in the UK for more than 15 years. They founded The Georgian Feast in 2014 and have not looked back since. Keti Maglakelidze says that their primary goal was to take part in street food festivals and increase awareness of Georgian cuisine.

“That is to say that our neighbours played a crucial role in starting this business,” Keti tells Emerging Europe. “They knew the taste of Georgian food and pushed us to prepare some for street festivals. So, we set aside one day per week and started cooking for the local street markets. The first challenge was finding out that there were no Georgian spices not only here but anywhere else in Europe. So, we went back to Georgia, met a few Georgian entrepeneurs and negotiated to start the export of spices.”

The first attempt was not successful. The online store of Georgian spices did not work because not a lot of people knew how to use them. Then Keti and Zezva came up with a new strategy: they started free tastings of Georgian food in different places and food markets. Everything changed quickly, and today, the Georgian family business is a frequent visitor to various festivals. According to Ms Maglakelidze, they always have fresh food, because people know a lot about food technology and love to see the preparation process.

“People know about Georgian rugby, chess, or the country’s war with Russia. When they see our flag in the street market, they come and tell us how happy they are to have found us. We receive lots of emails from around the world, asking about recipes, travel in Georgia and so on. We often prepare workshops and teach people how to prepare khachapuri or khinkali,” says Keti.

Unlike Georgian Restaurants in London, The Georgian Feast tries to offer its food at an affordable price. In order to maintain the range, the company has decided to focus on three kinds of dishes: aubergine with walnuts, khachapuri and chicken in a Georgian sauce. Beside street food, the online spice store has become popular and, they now export spices to the US, Australia and the rest of the EU.

The Georgian Feast has already won a number of street food competitions and plan on winning more. According to Keti Maglakelidze, their primary goal today is to expand their business to Georgia, to bring as many local products to the UK market as possible. Moreover, The Georgian Feast works to encourage Georgian people to start exporting their cuisine. They are currently preparing the Ajika Festival in Samegrelo, to be held on August 31 and September 1. The winner of the festival will take part in the European street food competition in Berlin, in September.

If the Georgian Feast encourages others to start serving Georgian street food, it may no longer be such a challenge to find Georgian spices or even eat Georgian food at affordable prices in the UK and elsewhere in the EU.