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Max Lawrie - Owner of The Van Mallorca

Bringing street food from all around the world to Mallorca

Featured in: | Ana Hernández, Mallorca Editor | Published
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After having lived in Scotland, New York, London and Ibiza, Max came to Mallorca four years ago with a mission to bring his own take on the international street food trend to the island.

He turned a vintage Citroen HY into a beautiful food truck, with which he hosts some of the best private events on the island, cooking Asian, Middle Eastern, Pacific and American food to groups of hungry revellers. From birthdays and weddings to catering for film productions, his mobile services are required all around Mallorca. He even has specialists scouting that unique location for a romantic dinner or a party with sea views.

We asked them about his catering and events business, The Van, as well as about his life before Mallorca and what makes this island so special.

A world traveller settled in Mallorca

Max, tell us a little about The Van
The Van, Mallorca came about after a chat in a bar in Madrid with a friend I've known for over 10 years. We were talking about different ideas, as both of us wanted to move further on in life, and were at the point in our lives and careers to try something for ourselves – that's when the idea of a food truck came up. I had worked in East London for six months in 2012 and was aware of the increasing popularity of street food, as well as of the benefits of working in pop-ups and other temporary structures before branching out into full-time premises.

Later on, in January 2017, I went to a festival called MADREAT in Madrid to look at the different types of trucks and almost immediately fell in love with the old Citroen HY model due to its look and the sheer versatility, comfort and practicality it offers inside. I saw then the possibility of catering for private events in villas in Mallorca, as well as in Ibiza, offering different styles of international food. I emailed a few companies who were already doing that to see what kind of response I got back, and it all seemed fairly positive. It kind of all just spiralled on from there. There was really good energy around everything in my life at that moment in time, especially with people I had met, and I felt like it was the right time to take the leap into self-employment.

So, when was your first time in Mallorca?
I moved to Mallorca four years ago, after having lived in Ibiza. I was pleasantly surprised by how big and cosmopolitan Palma is. However, I didn’t expect the two islands to be quite so different even regarding more general things like opening times and attitudes to life – over the years, I’ve realised how much I like this contrast. I suppose I learned a lot more about the cultural importance and history of the Balearics, as well as Spain, since I started living in Mallorca.

What were you doing before?
Before coming to Mallorca I lived in Ibiza for two years on the advice of a friend, after spending some time in London in various management positions at bars and restaurants. I was kind of undecided as to where I wanted to go next and was torn between moving to Paris or coming to Spain. I ended up booking a flight to Ibiza and have been in the country ever since – I have to say I’m very happy to have finally discovered summer! Before London, I was part of a project in Tuscany (Italy) called Borgo Santo Pietro where I worked for three seasons. Before that, I lived and worked in New York, which was an amazing experience. I always say, to myself anyway, that I learned about work ethics in Scotland, customer service in New York, the importance of style and quality product in Italy, financial acumen in London and the ability to think creatively in Ibiza. Each place has presented me with different scenarios to navigate and has also come with its distinct personalities and characters, shaping my own character to this day.

Catering for events on the island

What sets The Van apart from everything else?
The Van is unique in its style of service, as well as the fact that we are an events company focused on street food. Our style of service emphasises personality over formality, so it’s the uniqueness of all the people who work at each event that creates a lasting impression on our guests.

What makes Mallorca a special place to be for someone in the events and catering business?
Mallorca is a great place for events and catering because of its weather and amazing scenery. With so many people coming to the island for their holidays, as well as lots of photography and film shoots throughout the year, it's fully geared towards catering for tourists. The infrastructure also is great, so long-lasting work relationships can be built up over time due to the longevity of the residents on the island.

Tell us a little bit about your food truck service. What sort of events do you usually cover and how does it work?
The Van is based around our food truck – it becomes the theme and so parties are created around it. Our main targets are private events, from large villa parties to birthdays and weddings, but we also cater for the many film companies that come to the island, offering a different menu every day over the course of a production.

You also offer private chef services. How does that work?
Our private chef service works in two different ways. The first one is by bringing a  private chef into your own home or villa, where we serve a family- or formal-style menu with food and décor of your choosing for groups of between eight and 15 people (or more if requested). We can also bring The Van to your home or villa and provide the same service outdoors. We work with production scouts as well to find the perfect location for a special occasion or a romantic evening.

Any new exciting things you are working on right now with the business?
Yeah, we have a few ideas but they are just abstract concepts right now. The private chef service in special places scouted by location managers on the island, finding the ideal setting for each occasion, is something I think people would really enjoy – like having their own private 'chiringuito' on the beach or in the mountains of Mallorca.

Bringing the street food trend to Mallorca

Your menus are very international, including Asian, American, Pacific and Middle Eastern-themed events. Why is that? What do you find is most popular amongst your clients?
I suppose that, as a chef, I never liked the idea of just focusing on one particular style of food or dish as I knew I would end up hating it after cooking it so often. I studied Anthropology and I love travelling – I'd really like to go to the countries and areas of the world we focus our themed events on. Working with so many different styles of food means that I'm constantly researching and learning about these places, so it gives me a good reason to, eventually, get around to visit them. It’s not just the food that is interesting about these places but also the history behind a lot of the dishes, as well as the customs of each country. Cuisines bring people together as well, which is the main reason I love cooking.

Right now, the Pacific and South American theme seems to be the most popular for larger parties. This style of food is perfect for groups as it offers great drinks, as well as amazing food like ceviche and tacos. The Middle Eastern style is also growing in popularity as people are seeing the types of food available, especially the variety of cuisines that can be incorporated into this area: Middle Eastern, African and even our own Mediterranean heritage can be represented in this style of food. It also works great for family barbecues.

For more formal private dinners, the Asian style works very well. Our American-style menus don't seem to spark as much interest for now, but I'm hoping it will change in the future as the USA also has a very interesting food history, especially in places like New York or New Orleans.

Does Mallorcan produce influence the food that you prepare?
The fact that there is just so much great produce in Mallorca definitely inspires me to try new things and make the most of what the island has to offer. Changing temperatures throughout the seasons also give our bodies a natural desire for certain foods at certain times. The market sellers are all very passionate about their produce, with many having been set up as a family business for generations, so they have a great depth of understanding of the local seasonal produce. Mediterranean food is what got me interested in cooking back when I was living and working in Tuscany – the culture of sitting down to eat with friends or family is a ritual I feel influences my desire to try new things more than anything.

Do you have any favourite dishes from the range of recipes you prepare?
Not really. I enjoy working with each guest to cater the menus specifically for their event – it keeps things fresh and interesting and also encourages us to keep pushing and learning more recipes and cooking techniques.

Top tips for our readers

What is your favourite Mallorcan dish?
I do like Frit Mallorqui, which is a mixture of kidney, liver, spring onion, fennel, green pepper and potatoes. I also really enjoy Pica Pica (a traditional stew made with cuttlefish and tomato) – in Bar Flexas, where I work full time, we do a Thai twist on Pica Pica with red curry and coconut milk. I also really like the local delicatessen, sobrassada.

Can you recommend a place for good tapas in Mallorca?
Bar Flexas is a great place to spend time casually eating interesting tapas or other dishes depending on the season. The menu changes every week, so there's always something new to try out.

How about a bar for a drink?
I don’t really go out to many bars these days but I do like grabbing a beer by the beach on a summer night. I like Café Antiquari too, I would recommend it to most people visiting the island.

Where would you go for the freshest local produce?
I'm at the market every day, in the early hours of the morning. I usually go to Mercat de l'Olivar although I sometimes head over to Pere Garau as well, because they offer some interesting local produce – the Mallorcan 'garbanzos' (chickpeas) are particularly delicious.

If someone was coming here for the first time, what would you suggest they absolutely must do or see in Mallorca?
I would suggest they get a bike to ride around Palma and cycle up towards S'Arenal. It’s a great route offering really nice views of the city. Walking around Palma never gets boring for me, I love the city as it's so picturesque and has a real style and character to it. Or try camping in your car overnight to see the sun rise in Cala Fornells. I used to do that when I lived in my van briefly last year – great memories!

Any tips to escape the crowds?
There is no escape!!! Just move here and then you can, at least, enjoy the island all year round.

More inspiration...

Whether you're searching for a unique way to cater for an event in your home or villa, you want to celebrate a special occasion in the perfect spot on the island, you need to feed a team or you just want some of the best street food in Mallorca to be served at your party, The Van are there for you.

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