Trend Snapshot: The Art of Food Pimping

3 November, 2016

Molly Bakes freakshakes, by Zoe Flammang

Side-stepping the seedy etymology of the original term, “pimping” in a current context means to ‘make (something) more showy or impressive’, as the Oxford English Dictionary helpfully informs us.

Enter our fast-moving, highly visual and continuously evolving food scene, mixed with rapidly dwindling consumer attention spans and a cultural shift for food as social currency, and we have a market that is ripe for just this sort of showiness.

A term adopted by street-food vendors to family-friendly Jamie Oliver, “pimping” has become shorthand for the action of elevating, drawing on external and sometimes unexpected influences to make greater, and certainly more visually commanding.

In London, the original food pimp must be Dan Doherty of Duck & Waffle – the 24-hour epicurean palace that teeters on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower on Liverpool Street.

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Pimped Bloody Marys complete with bacon swizzle sticks, by Fotolia

The restaurant’s famous eponymous dish is an elevated version of the Southern American classic fried chicken and waffles, pimped the D&W way with crispy-skinned confit duck and fluffy waffles, topped with a perfectly cooked fried duck egg and maple syrup studded with mustard seeds.

Doherty’s other creations (particularly when it comes to brunch) are similarly pimped and impressive – like his foie-gras crème brûlée with pork crackling brioche, or sweet-savoury-spicy ox-cheek doughnut sprinkled with paprika sugar.

Elsewhere, pastries, porridge, soups, fries and ice cream have been pimped to dizzying, highly Instagrammable new heights, with the most memorable and infectious recent creation being the freakshake – a monstrous mega milkshake hailing from Canberra, Australia that scorched through the rest of Australia, London and New York.

There is a real thread of nostalgia at play here – Dan Doherty loves to channel and manipulate classic global-British flavours and styles that remind us of home or childhood, like pork crackling, bacon-wrapped dates and egg soldiers. Freakshake-makers too champion heritage brands like Australian Tim Tams, childhood fairground favourite cotton candy, Oreos and Nutella, hoping to elicit an emotional connection through their food.

Pimped porridge with sriracha at 26 Grains

As canvases, nostalgic foods also seem to have an advantage when it comes to pimping – like mac ‘n’ cheese, cheese on toast and porridge, over the more emotionally vague sandwiches or sushi. As Alex Hely-Hutchinson, owner of posh porridge shop 26 Grains told The Guardian in September, ‘Once we opened the pop-up, I realised we were a nation of porridge eaters. Everyone had a story to tell about how they enjoyed porridge with their family or friends.’

As for the future of food pimping, we think it will become the norm as pimped cheese on toast replaces its predecessor. And though the appetite remains the taste will become more refined, just as this subtly pimped, toasted marshmallow-topped salted-caramel hot chocolate from Fatties Bakery replaces the fatigued freakshake.

In this spirit, we’ve hand-picked a few recent stories from our new trends platform Flavour Feed that we think have serious potential. Check out snippets of these below – and happy innovating.


The New Age of Pimped Pastries

Pimped doughnuts, Melbourne-style by Bistro Morgan

By Ashleigh Togher

Doughnuts are the most beloved example of a pimped pastry, where in Melbourne they come in mammoth forms with a whole manner of larger-than-life nostalgic toppings, often accompanied by a jam/custard-filled syringe for a DIY filling…but pastry creatives the world-over also seem to be returning to pastries in their classic form and pimping accordingly.

Croissants and danishes get the innovative star treatment at Rustica Sourdough in Fitzroy, Australia (we’re liking their bakery layout too), so do eclairs at Back Room in NY (see their crackerjack, strawberry shortcake, cherry coke and frozen snickers creations) and even in patisserie HQ Paris – where L’eclair De Genie serve theirs in salted caramel, green apple and yuzu lemon.


Pimped Fries – The Next Street-Food Star?

Nuka’s hurricane fries with furikake in Maui, Hawaii

By Ashleigh Togher

Fuku, a division of one of NY’s most innovative kitchens – David Chang’s Momofuku, recently shared on Instagram their new dish of spicy loaded fries with spicy Sichuan pork, cheese and spring onion – meanwhile, a recent visit to Bao Down in Vancouver brought fries with full-on Asian flavours and sauces, quality meat and fresh herbs – riffs, if you will, on the original pimped fries – Canadian poutine…

Fries are being elevated from a feeble but tasty side into a king of a dish – made more substantial by the presence of meat, cheese, herbs, spices and sauces and attention to texture, with Asian flavour pairings emerging as the most promising – the stuff of great street food.


Foie-Gras to Maple Bacon – Innovative Cotton Candy is on the Rise 

Cotton-candy wrapped ice-cream at Milk Train, by Milk Train

By Sophie Aghdami

Covent Garden’s recently opened café Milk Train has caused an excited meltdown amongst sugar-loving Instagrammers with its ice-cream cones wrapped in huge cotton-candy clouds.

Across the pond, New York’s Vivi Bubble Tea serves up Boba Floats, which consist of tea of your choice topped with ice cream and a giant ball of cotton candy sprinkled with pop rocks (with extra tea to pour over)…or if savoury is more your thing, then be sure to try the foie-gras cotton candy at LA restaurant The Bazaar created by Jose Andres, who was trained by the one and only Ferran Adria of El Bulli.