I met with Joel Henderson today, the owner of Daddy Donkey, a Mexican Grill that is taking the Holborn/Chancery Lane area of London by storm.
Joel is very likeable and down to earth, with a clear vision of what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. He wants to bring healthy Mexican Food to London and he wants to do it step by step - starting small, gauging customer feedback, improving, building a loyal fan base and eventually TAKING OVER THE WORLD! OK, the last bit are my words, not his, but Joel's passion for Mexican food knows no bounds and for someone still in his twenties, it is refreshing to hear a vision that makes sense, even in these tough market conditions.
Joel got into Mexican food in a big way when he was studying Spanish over there as part of his Spanish degree at Leeds University. I guess being a student meant that he was used to looking out for cheap eats and hours spent hanging around street corners in Mexico, chomping on great tasting burritos, tacos and nachos, ignited his enthusiasm for this cuisine.
Back in blighty, Joel decided that there was a gap in the market for healthy, tasty Mexican food, so quit his day job and set up a small stand in Leather Lane Market, just off High Holborn.
Four years on, and Joel has now upgraded to a fancy silver looking 'Burro-Van' capable of churning out hundreds of Burritos an hour to the office workers around High Holborn. All the ingredients are prepped fresh every day at a site opposite the market and the Columbian & Mexican chefs and servers work their hats off to keep the punters happy.
Of course, today was probably the hottest day in London this year, with temperatures approaching 35 degrees centigrade, so I was very surprised to turn up at the van at lunchtime and see a long queue of mainly suits waiting for their Mexican fix!
It's a simple concept: Choose a burrito, choose a filling (chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian), choose a salsa (mild, medium, hot or extra hot), pay (about £5.50) and enjoy.
My 'Big Ass' flour tortilla was stuffed full of coriander rice, chicken, lettuce, guacamole, peppers and onions. It was 10 out of 10 delicious and whilst enormous, did not feel fattening or unhealthy. I even had a side of black beans which were perfectly soft and mushy.
Joel's mission is to educate London, to make people understand that Mexican food need not be stodgy or unhealthy.
He strongly believes that London is under-served for Mexican restaurants, that there is a gap in the market for freshly prepared, good value Mexican food and he aims to fill it!
With hundreds of people already following Daddy Donkey on Twitter (you can follow him here), and with loads of community events planned, I reckon Joel has an excellent chance of success and I wish him every success.
Daddy Donkey can be found at pitches 100-101 Leather Lane market, EC1N 7TE