Kevin Pyke tells us why he set up his restaurant - in a battered old shipping container
Famous for its quirky setting and authentic street style food, Pyke '˜N' Pommes has been making serious waves among the food industry since Kevin Pyke started cooking up a storm on Londonderry's Foyle Marina back in 2015.
But Pyke ‘N’ Pommes is not your typical restaurant.
In fact, after discovering his true calling in life at the age of just 17, Kevin set off on a mission of food discovery, with nothing more than his passion and determination.
“I was living in Cornwall at the time and in between college I got a summer job as a kitchen porter and took a real liking to the industry, so I left college and pursued being a chef.
“The head chef had really taken an interest in me just from the few times when I was able to get into the kitchen. He said he saw a flair in me which was such an honour! I moved across to England as I wanted to get straight into working.
“I left home when I was 16 and that was that, I stayed on the island for three years in a hotel.
“I would work during the peak season and save enough money to go travelling every year. I moved myself up, running a hotel kitchen at the age of 22, 23. “But I had outgrown the island, and began travelling around. I moved to Greece, Australia and visited many countries for a few years.
“At the age of 33 I was back working in Londonderry with fantastic, like-minded people, and took on a head chef position with the idea that I was going to lease it from the owner, but about a week before it was all planned to happen I had a sudden change of heart.”
That change of heart led Kevin to make a particularly brave move, when he found the missing ingredient to what would eventually become his own restaurant - a battered steel shipping container.
Old and beat-up, the container looked useless to most, but mustering all his savings, Kevin revamped the container into Pyke ’N’ Pommes and the unique street food kitchen was born, which quickly began to make a name for itself.
Kevin said no to the ordinary and defied convention to shake up the restaurant scene, carving out a brand new food experience - no front door, no table service and not a predictable creation in sight – just a food revolution built on fiery fare and fervid fun.
“There’s definitely a romantic story behind Pyke ‘N’ Pommes,” Kevin explained. “It just felt so right at the time, and it’s going well so far!”
Unsurprisingly, Kevin’s travels across the globe are reflected in his worldly menu with strong, vibrant tastes.
“We have a few nice twists of Asian flavours with squid, plus amazing Thai flavours. In fact I learned how to make traditional red curry paste with old Thai women when I was travelling with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time.
“It was great, she would spend all of her time sunbathing and I would be learning new cooking techniques in the kitchen!
“I always did cookery courses on my travels, it’s such a great way of learning new things and trying different tastes from all around the world.
“Before we set up the shipping container on the Foyle Marina, we initially had a food truck for a few years which started in 2013. I definitely wanted to create a brand which people could immediately recognise, which didn’t exist until I put a sticker on the side of the van. So I knew it had to be something memorable and which meant something.
“I went with Pyke ‘N’ Pommes as it’s a play on my own name and also a twist on fish ‘n’ chips as we make a lot of local hake and cod with pickles and warm potatoes.
“At the beginning we started out concentrating a lot on fish and ‘Catch of the day’ Fish Tacos, whilst pulled meat was just beginning to take off and becoming really popular too. We made quirky names such as the Notorious PIG and the Codfather which people love.
“I think we’ve changed a few people’s opinions on street food. We still attract people even on the damper days as we’re nationally known and we have such a loyal returning customer base so we are very lucky.
“We are blessed to have such a beautiful spot, which on a sunny day sitting outside makes you feel like you are in a different country.
“We just do ‘good’ food, and have people coming to us from all over the country to try it.
“At Pyke ‘N’ Pommes we try to make everything from scratch with our own fair hands as I think that’s really important. It’s the chef in me!
“It is so important to support local, and we certainly do our best to ensure as much of our food is sourced from within a 20 to 30 mile radius of Londonderry as possible. For example, our ‘Legenderry Burgers’ are made from beef raised 10 minutes away. I beleive in keeping our money within our local economy, particularly when such incredible produce is grown here.
“It’s true what they say, support food that’s grown here - not flown here!”
Kevin has partnered up with Bushmills Irish Whiskey this weekend as part of its #AnswerTheCall series, which sees the renowned whiskey brand working with local creators, thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs and adventurers to celebrate their stories and inspire others to fulfil their true calling.
Kevin is bringing the undeniable atmosphere and intense aromas of Pyke ’N’ Pommes to Belfast this Sunday, May 28 when he hosts the first ever Black Bush Block Party at The Filthy Quarter.
The event is set to be an explosion of creative energy ‘saluting the fearless, the spirited and the defiant’ by offering urban revellers the opportunity to enjoy Black Bush inspired street food paired with specially-created Black Bush serves.
“I was so humbled when Bushmills got in contact with me, and I was extrememly keen to get on board as I thought it was very fitting. Bushmills started from very humble beginngs and I really relate to that.
“I have five different tacos on offer throughout the day, each of which have their own delicious whiskey twist.
“I knew Mexican flavours would go well with whiskey, as lime goes so well with both Mexican food and whiskey. But as soon as I began trying the new recipes it really opened my eyes to how well the tastes work together!
“It was very impressive. We’re really excited about continuing these new flavours, and we’ll definitely keep it going and pay homage to the Blackmills.”
And with business doing so well, Kevin has also began looking at the future of Pyke ‘N’ Pommes.
“I probably will open my own Pyke ‘N’ Pommes diner where we sell craft beer and street food as I think it’s getting to that stage! It would definitely work and we would definitely fill the space. It’s just a question of whether we go down that route and open a ‘restaurant’ which I have been reluctant to do just because of the ‘street style’ food,” Kevin explained.
“I think the idea of a Pyke ‘N’ Pommes food truck in a great location in every area is something we could look into replicating and recreating, which I’d be so excited about.
“I just have such a great team behind me with such loyal customers, it’s been great. For the last four years I feel like I haven’t worked a day and that’s what it’s all about.”
If you would like to try Kevin’s 5 Taco recipes with a Black Bush twist click here.