In a late-summer day in Brixton, Team Coco got to catch up with Steve and Jaimie, aka – The Raclette Brothers. You may have heard of these cheese wheel wielding sibling sensations on the street-food scene, but they’ve now opened a semi-permanent spot in Pop Brixton.
Over some truly great ‘space-cat’ wine, and of course, some mouth-watering Raclette – we chat with Steve and Jaimie about their love for food and Alpine cuisine brings to the table.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your background? Where would you say your passion for food came from?
I’ve grew up in the food industry, as our family business was traditional grocery stores and supplying produce to restaurants. This meant that we always had some amazing ingredients lying around the house, although the majority were items that couldn’t be sold due to shorter shelf lives. I think that’s where my passion for food came from. My mom was great at creating crazy dishes from anything and everything (sometimes with varying degrees of success)!. Saying that, I was actually a very fussy eater when I was younger, and survived on a diet of largely plain chicken and potatoes! That’s all changed now and there isn’t much I won’t at least try.
What’s the best/worst thing about working with your brother?
This might be a bit of a revelation to some, and is one of the most frequently asked questions to us, but we aren’t actual brothers! We are as good as brothers and Jamie even spent an extended period of time living with my parents when we first got the business up and running. The best thing is that it hasn’t had an impact on how we are outside of work, we still go wake-boarding together regularly and on the odd night off we usually end up in our local pub for half price G&Ts. The worst thing is probably the disappointment on people’s faces when we have to tell them we aren’t actually brothers!
What made you guys decide to start working together; and why did you choose to focus on Raclette?
We actually met through the snow-sports club at University. Towards the end of Uni we’d been talking about a lot of different ideas that meant we could avoid getting ‘real jobs’. We both had a big passion for food and loved the street food scene from a customer perspective. This, combined with various drunken raclette eating experiences in the Alps lead to ‘Raclette Brothers’. We felt that raclette as a street food offering brought something new and exciting, that it would be a great experience for customers as well as being delicious.
How would you describe Alpine cuisine? What makes it special?
The Alps is a really interesting place for food. Half of the year is spent under a thick layer of snow and ice, making any kind of outdoor farming near impossible. Due to this, a lot of classically Alpine food is pickled, preserved or cheese-based as they can be stored for long periods. It’s a very rich, ‘comfort food’ based cuisine, due to the high energy output from traditional activities such as skiing and the harsh climate. The beauty of Alpine cuisine is that it encompasses so many different influences: French, Swiss, German, Italian, Austrian , etc.
After running around the street food scene for two years, you’ve set up your first permanent restaurant, Alpes London, in Pop Brixton. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face making that transition?
It’s been a huge learning-curve, that’s for sure! We’ve gone from an operation where, if we wanted to take a couple of days off then we could easily just not book an event, to operating 7 days a week! Now, closing because you feel like it, just isn’t an option. The biggest challenge we’ve found is finding great staff. It’s the key to any hospitality business as they’re your face to customers, and really good chefs and FOH staff are hard to come by. When we first started, this meant we were clocking up over 100 hour weeks every week. We’ve fortunately now found an awesome team, which has meant we can take a few hours off every now and then, and focus more on next steps.
Alpes London is the first restaurant in London to serve Raclette on a traditional cheese wheel, what has the reception been like?
The reception has been awesome, we were fortunate enough to have tested the concept for a while on the street food scene, so knew to an extent that it would go down well. The worry was whether it would work in a fixed location but people seem to be loving it. Even in the really hot summer we’ve had, people have shown there’s no shortage of demand for hot, melted cheese! We’ve just launched a group raclette experience as well, where guests get the grills on their table and can scrape their own cheese. Hopefully this will go down really well as it makes the whole meal more of an experience and interactive.
What’s the dynamic like between you two at Alpes London?
We’ve worked together for a while now so both know what our roles are, without even having to talk about it. I run the financial/business side of everything and Jamie handles the day-to-day operations; it works really well. We still have a great time working together and a few post-shift beers are always on the cards. To this day, we still haven’t had an argument over the business, which I think is rare between any business partners.
What’s next for the Raclette brothers? Any new & exciting projects or collaborations in the pipeline?
There are always ideas being thrown around but we’re currently focussed on the winter season, where we’ll have 7 sites open all week around London. Some of these are with great organisers: Street Feast, Skylight, Southbank Centre , etc. After that we’ve got the ball rolling on plans for another permanent spot and a different street food concept. More details will be released through our instagrams once they’re confirmed: @raclettebrothers and @alpeslondon