The brainchild of 29-year-old chef, Tom Warden, Colonel Tom’s Gumbo serves up delicious recipes, inspired by the swamplands of the Deep South in America. Known as ‘Soul Food’, Tom has a passion for Creole and Cajun cuisine, and aims to spread his love of food around the UK, where he sees it as underrepresented. We love Tom’s passion for bringing something new to the UK food vendor market, so let’s see where his love of Gumbo comes from.

Q: When did you first try traditional Gumbo?

A: I first tried Gumbo at age 15, whilst exploring recipes from a cookbook my mother had, it tasted great, but was nowhere near as good as it is now!

Q: What led you to start cooking this unique food, and end up becoming a food vendor?

A: I’ve always been interested in cooking and exploring different types of cuisines, and when I came across Cajun, I was hooked. It’s so packed full of flavour and interesting ingredients, and there’s always something new to find out about it. I decided to become a food vendor one day on the journey home from an office job that I hated, and chanced across an article detailing how street food was exploding in the UK. I looked around and nobody was doing this kind of thing, something I already loved.

‘This cuisine is made with style and love, designed to be shared with friends and family…’

Q: Why do you think American food is so popular in the UK?

A: I think the USA has such a large well to draw from, with each state having its own specialty. The vast differences in states between culture, weather, produce, and social makeup mean that there’s an incredible amount of different foods to explore, many of which are relatively unknown in the UK.

Q: You’re bringing something new to the ‘street food’ scene, especially in London, what is it about Gumbo and soul food in general that you think people will love?

A: The clue is in the name, ‘soul food’. This cuisine is made with style and love, designed to be shared with friends and family, providing sustenance and a backdrop to happy memories. It has the same qualities as the music which makes the spiritual home of soul food, New Orleans, famous.  I hope that I can offer even just a little of this to the British market.

Q: Are your recipes authentic from the swamplands, or have you brought in any of your own tastes and expertise to improve them?

A: My recipes are mostly authentic, and I try to stay as true as possible to the recipes which have made the cuisine famous, whilst using the freshest produce available seasonally. I did once try a jerk chicken gumbo, but the flavours were a little too unusual!

Q: When did you first decide to open an American food stand in the UK?

A: I decided to take the plunge when I saw the wealth of street food stalls which were thriving in the UK and realised there was a gap in the market for me to jump into! Since then, I’ve really enjoyed spreading the word and broadening the horizons of those who only see American food as burgers and hot dogs.

‘…the USA has such a large well to draw from, with each state having its own specialty.’

Q: What do you think makes your food stand out?

A: The fact that not a lot of people know what it is! People are always intrigued and asking questions about it, which leads to a lot of interesting conversations and mostly great reactions when they taste it.

Q: Do you have a favourite recipe that you turn to when you need a comforting meal?

A: I love to make a shrimp etouffee, or a chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo, made with my own home-smoked Andouille!

Interested in trying gumbo for the first time, or perhaps you’ve tasted this niche dish before? You can hire Colonel Tom’s Gumbo for your own event, and their Facebook page is great for checking out past events. Follow them on Twitter to keep updated on where they’re serving.

Now, head over to our interactive State of Food hub to discover the signature foods of all 50 US states and plan the tastiest road trip ever!