We all know that the way to anybody’s heart is through their stomach. So say hello to ‘You Say Potato;’ a great new business venture from Cara McVean who has packed in her job in the media industry in London, to pursue the dream of reinventing the jacket potato! She has bought an ex Salvation army van, converted it with a loan from Rockstar Youth (www.rockstargroup.co.uk) and is in the process of applying for her street food licence with plans to start trading in mid November. We caught up with Cara for a fluffy spud and a chat!
What made you decide to quit your job and come up with You Say Potato?
The street food revolution was in full swing when I started thinking about a change of career, and I became excited by the notion that you could start a food business with a small(ish) loan and grow it from there. I’d already decided to move from London to Manchester where my boyfriend lived, and one weekend when I was up staying in Manchester I saw an ex Salvation Army van for sale… and that’s when You Say Potato was born!
Why jacket potatoes?
When I worked in London I used to get a jacket potato nearly every day from a little Italian round the corner from my office. I love jacket potatoes but there aren’t many places that get them just right. It’s not rocket science; all you’ve got to do is cook them long enough in a proper oven so that the skin is crispy and the flesh is really fluffy, and then pile them high with delicious fillings. I decided it was time to step in and resurrect the humble jacket…and when I found out that Cara is a variety of potato, I realised it was meant to be!
What is your favourite filling?
Depends what mood I’m in. I love a classic cheese and beans, as long as it’s piping hot and the cheese is a rich mature cheddar. But I also love a chilli on a really cold day, or BBQ pulled pork with apple and fennel slaw – which I know is going to be a popular one on my menu.
Do you make all your fillings from scratch?
I make as many of my fillings as I can, and those that are better pre made I have sourced from an amazing local supplier. I think it’s very important that my fillings are consistently good, and for some that means buying them in rather than making them myself.
Once you have your street food licence, where do you plan to be situated?
I’m in discussion with various sites in the city centre to start trading around mid November when the Christmas season is getting into full swing. Though my main customers will be office workers who want something other than a sandwich in the middle of the day, Christmas shoppers may well need something filling and delicious to sustain them too.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years and would you consider opening a shop?
I would love to expand to several units in the North West and then see where the journey takes me, but yes – a shop would be the ultimate pinnacle.
Who would you say are your biggest competition?
As yet, I’ve not identified anyone else who is trying to achieve what I am with jacket potatoes. My main competition will likely be existing eateries, both mobile and fixed, which cater to the lunchtime crowd. If there is one thing my journey so far has taught me, it’s that people are very set in their ways and take only measured risks when it comes to their stomachs. So my focus is less on competition, and more on convincing the lunch-time crowd that they want a spud rather than a sarnie. To me it’s a no brainer!
We are very intrigued by your website! ‘There’s just one more person I still need to convince….so I better get started…’ so who is that person?!
That person is my boyfriend’s dad who thinks I should be a newsreader… Don’t ask me why! I’m sure I’ll convince him eventually that potatoes are the way forward! Though most people have ‘got’ what I’m trying to do with You Say Potato, I don’t mind it when someone is a little more reticent. Surely it’s more of an achievement if you can convert the non-believers?
Love that you can be hired for events! What is the best event you have been to?
You Say Potato hasn’t officially started trading yet, but I took the van on its first outing to Norfolk at the end of August to cook spuds for some friends and family at a camping weekend. My friends threw on aprons and helped serve up beautifully cooked jackets which we ate in a sunny meadow – it was pretty idyllic!
Quick fire Questions!
Favourite food? (Apart from jacket potatoes!)
I love a huge variety of food, from steak frites to curry to fondue… and I have to say I love potatoes in most forms.
That answer depends what time of day you ask me! If it’s before 6 I better say tea…
I studied film at university so it’s temping to say something French and obscure, but in reality it’s probably Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Breakfast Club.
Lolita, or a mad little book called Timolean Vieta Come Home are two of my ultimate favourites. I belonged to a book club in London and now that I’ve moved to the NW they’ve allowed me to remain a ‘country member,’ skyping in for sessions every once in a while. This month it’s The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I am loving.
Favourite beauty product?
I love L’Occitane and Origins – two key brands that feature in my rather basic beauty regime
Favourite fashion designer?
I don’t really follow high end fashion, but as for the high street my favourite shop is & Other Stories. I’m desperate for them to open one in Manchester!
Make sure you stayed tuned to Twitter @yspmanchester and @STYLE_etc to find out where you can find Cara and her van of potatoes and fulfil your lunchtime cravings!
By Emily Parker