Union StUnion St

By Matt

As the nights draw in, the wind picks up and the rain decides to have a party on all of us, there’s no better time to celebrate the humble pie. Saviour of tummies everywhere, pies have perhaps been underrepresented in the street food cuisine that has sprung up in recent years: but the hardworking folks at Pie-Eyed are set to change that.

‘At first we over-complicated it with the marketing,’ says Jack Norman, who set up the company in May this year. ‘Then we realised just the word PIE was enough, in big letters. And an arrow.’

Amen to the power of pastry. With a new pop-up cafe every Thursday at Union St, Pie-Eyed looks set to become a staple of the street food scene in Sheffield. It’s a testament to the city’s community vibe that this was the place Jack chose to set up shop. A graduate of Leeds University, he found the food market there more saturated and less open to newcomers. The other Sheffield traders, however, were willing to help out and give advice when he was starting up – a role he is now happy to reprise for the next wave of foodies coming up through the ranks.

‘I feel like we’re stronger together,’ he says, ‘if there’s an event with ten of us, we’re drawing bigger crowds, we’re doing something different every day.’

In many ways it’s a retaliation against the faceless cult of high street chains and burger vans. It was working at one such high street outlet during university that made Jack very clear about how he did not want to do things.

‘I thought, if I’m going to work this hard for no appreciation, I’m going to work for myself.’

He was drawn to the idea of doing one thing but doing it well. As a self-proclaimed pie fan, the hearty British grub appealed not just because it is still something of a rarity in a wheeled world of wood-fired pizzas and Mexican cantinas, but also because there was a personal note to it. He lost his dad during university, and the memory of going to see the football matches and have a pie with him make the business that bit closer to home.

Pie-Eyed seeks to put a spin on the tried and tested staples: a simple menu, but one with a twist. Steak and ale is fused with chorizo jam, and a dash of pistachio mixed in with traditional chicken and bacon. Instead of a traditional van, they zip round in a converted horse box.

‘That was a fun day, I can tell you,’ he adds ruminatively, ‘horse box cleaning. But once you’re in it, you’re in it.’

As the nights draw in, the wind picks up. The perk of being mobile, of course, is that you can set up shop – well, all over the shop, without the pressure of a long term lease. The pop-up cafe at Union St not only gives the good folk of Sheffield a designated spot to get their pie fix once a week, but also allows Jack and the team a chance to try out the eat-in model for size.

Again it comes back to the collaborative spirit of the city: when Pie-Eyed was first finding its wheels, Union St co-founder Felicity Hoy was one of those able to give the new enterprise a leg up. She first asked Jack to do the Renew launch at Moor Deli, and then, looking to start a new run of pop-up cafes at Union St, invited him to set up the Thursday sessions.

‘Sheffield just feels nicer,’ he says, reflecting on his decision to set up here. ‘There’s a lot more people like Felicity and Matt [Hill, another Union St founder] who are just – well, good eggs is what I call them.’

Less than a year into this new venture, the pastry future looks golden. On the horizon are winter weddings (‘very brave to have a wedding in December, but they’ll have pie and mash’) and more festivals. For Jack it all goes back to wanting to carve out his own way and have a crack at something unique. Losing his father crystallised the idea of not putting aside plans for a rainy day.

‘He worked for a company all his life, he always wanted to do something – then, boom. Something happens. So you think, well sod it. Why not now? Just give it a go.’

For full details of the menu, and how to book the pie box for your event, head to http://www.pieeyed.co.uk/category/sheffield The Pie-Eyed pop-up cafe is at Union St every Thursday, serving proper pies, peas and gravy from 12 – 4pm.

About Matt
Matt co-ordinates Union St and Champions Enterprise Nation in Sheffield. For feedback, questions or suggestions please email matt@union-st.org
Coffee Break with Jack Norman of Pie Eyed