Sun, Surf and Street Food in Croyde

Do it with passion or not at all.

That’s how the saying goes. And shouldn’t it apply to all of us, whatever it is that we do for a living? Sometimes though that passion can be difficult to maintain if you’re in a job that is nothing more than that. Just a job. A way to earn money. How many times have you wanted to just walk away, change your lifestyle, do the ‘thing’ you really want to do?

Well, say ‘Hello’ to George Biffen, proprietor of Biffen’s Kitchen, based, for this summer at least, on Ocean Pitch campsite in Croyde, Devon.

Inspired to cook by his grandmother at the tender age of five and holidaying in Devon with his family since the age of seven, little wonder that when he came to camp here in 2018, his head was turned by the on-site snack shack next to reception.

‘I’d been living and working in London as a marketing manager and was surrounded by pop-up food stalls. I loved to cook, and started sharing some of my dishes on Instagram. Then when we came here, and I saw the shack and of course, the  view, I was just hit with the idea of taking it on’ he says, while he’s busy chopping spring onions for tonights Duck Massaman Thai Curry.

‘I pitched the idea of surf inspired street food to Benny and Lou, the Ocean Pitch campsite owners, and was offered the job for the 2019 season.’

And what a season he’s having.

We visited the campsite for our first time earlier this year, but as it was such a short stop, we didn’t have a chance to try his food. He’s closed on a Sunday and Monday evening, so we only had a brief chance to say hello over coffee while he was opening up. We knew then that we had to come back and see what this infectious smiling guy was all about.

His daily changing chalkboard menu, filled with dishes such as Moroccan Goat stew and crispy chicken Katsu curry, not to mention the halloumi fries, sounded too good to miss. His main dish changes each night, and there is always a meat, and a vegetarian/vegan option to choose from.

‘It was about creating a lifestyle more than anything’ he says, stirring the beautiful smelling large pot of duck.

‘And, well, just look at that view’ he nods over my shoulder at the sun just breaking through some clouds, lighting the surfers heading out for the evening’s incoming tide.

I get it.

Having ditched my own office for a life on the road, he’s preaching to the converted, but the food, the ingredients, what’s the plan?

‘I love to travel and having been around the world, I just want to bring a little bit of those flavours here but using local ingredients.’

As if on cue, our chat is interrupted by a local who has a tip of a farmer with the  most amazing aubergines. Straight away, Biffen’s eyes light up and he locks up the shack, heading out to see what he can get and at what price. He returns a while later with some fresh produce and another passionate supplier to add to his list.

‘You should go see this place,’ he says, heading back into the kitchen to dice the plump, purple aubergines. ‘He’s got an old fighter jet in his driveway!’

He sounds awesome, but unfortunately with just the one night here again, it’s this guy, busily chopping and chucking the aubergine into both the duck and vegan curry pots, that we have come to see.

‘I love putting the menu together each day. Sharing the recipes online, and seeing what people think of my food.’

Well given the reviews he gets, they love it. And it never fails to make him happy when someone either re-visits his shack or shares their own attempt at one of his dishes.

That evening, there is a steady stream of people coming in, both from the campsite, surrounding campsites and of course, the beach. The curry itself is spot on with a good depth of flavour and the pinkled onions – red onions pickled in cider vinegar and lime – add that zing of freshness. And you just can’t beat a ‘crashing waves’ dinner soundtrack.

So, where’s next on the travel itinerary I ask while finishing up my meal?

‘Everywhere’ comes his smiling reply.

Good man.

Words and photos by Alex Lawrence

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