Published: 10:54, 02 July 2020
| Updated: 10:56, 02 July 2020
Many of us dream of giving up the nine-to-five to pursue our true vocation, if only we knew what that was.
In Tony de Sousa’s case, the answer came through his two first loves – food and his partner, Makalla McPherson, writes Jo Roberts.
“I’d always loved barbecuing and smoking food, ever since I bought my first coal barbecue grill 20 years ago,” says Tony, 39. “Then I moved on to a small smoker and I’d be cooking American barbecue every weekend – ribs and cornbread, served with mac n’ cheese and barbecue beans. I even barbecued our Christmas dinner. But it was Makalla who eventually persuaded me to leave my office job to launch our own food business last year by buying me a Fornetto Smoker. Street Kings Smoke Shack was born!’
The couple had already followed their dream once before, moving from West London to Whitstable in 2017 to provide a slower pace of life by the seaside for their daughters, Sophia, 11, and Savannah, seven. It wasn’t an easy decision and there were aspects of city living they soon missed.
“We both loved the street food scene in London and have always been big into cooking from our own cultural backgrounds, as Tony’s family is from Madeira and my family heritage is Jamaican,” says Makalla, 35. “When we first moved down to Kent we had no plans to launch a food business – I have my own career as a TV director and Tony was commuting back to London in a management role for BMW.
“But Tony’s love affair with American barbecue food was growing, and friends and family were all seeing the potential for him to make a career out of this passion. There was a gap in the market down here and so I just gave him the extra encouragement he needed to step out.”
Street Kings Smoke Shack successfully debuted at food festivals and events in Kent and across the country last summer and had a winter pitch at London nightclub Printworks.
But from this Saturday, July 4, it is Coachworks Ashford - the food and arts venue close to Ashford International Station - that will become Street Kings Smoke Shack’s permanent home. Their menu includes brisket, pulled pork, turkey and ribs and as well as sides of mac n’ cheese, slaw and potato salad. It will all be lovingly prepared on the Coachworks Ashford site in a former shipping container, which has been fully equipped with its own American smoker.
Tony says: “We use a combination of hickory, oak and apple wood in our smoker. All the meat and produce is from Kent. We use our own unique dry rub and cook our meats ‘low and slow’ to create tender, succulent cuts that melt in your mouth.”
Coachworks Ashford in Dover Place was designed by Carl Turner Architects. The previously derelict site was renovated throughout 2019 at a cost of £850,000. It first opened at the end of the year with offerings including The Yard Bar, but then had to close in March due to the lockdown just as momentum was getting going.
However, when Coachworks re-opens this Saturday, July 4 it will be with the exciting new additions of Street Kings Smoke Shack and The Coffee Shed, as well as the return of The Yard Bar and traders including Bare Bazaar and Boutilliers. Il Pakkero Italian Street Food is soon to join too.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming people this weekend and there’s a real buzz among the traders,” said Tony. “It’s the ideal location for a family outing for food, for people needing a quality homecooked bite after shopping at the nearby retail outlet, and for a meal and drinks in the evening. There will be background music in the food court to create a chilled ambience so it will be a great place to hang out and ease yourself out of lockdown. Come see us and put some south in your mouth.”
Street Kings Smoke Shack will be open on Saturday, July 4 from noon until midnight and on Sunday, July 5 from noon until 5pm. On Monday to Wednesday it will run a lunch service only and then on Thursday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. For updated times visit facebook.com or call 07976 589152.
Coachworks Ashford will be open daily throughout the summer from noon. Closing times will vary but for updated times click here.