Dan Beaumont, co-owner and creator (Voodoo Ray's and Dalston Superstore)
Firstly, congrats on your Voodoo Ray's mobile van - you were doing a roaring trade at Field Day festival. What gave you the idea to take your pizzas on the road?
It just seemed like an obvious thing to do. It’s the opposite to what a lot of other pizza operators in recent times have done. A lot of people started on the streets and markets, then moved into bricks and mortar, like Pizza Pilgrims and Homeslice. For us, it seemed to be the perfect festival food. It’s filling, it’s breakfast, lunch and dinner and we though it would work really well outside.
How did it all go on your first day on site?
Field Day was our inaugural event so didn’t even have time to test the ovens beforehand, they were so new. Our trailer was made especially. It’s a trailer that’s pulled by a truck with two ovens and a make-table. It’s less mobile than some other people’s stuff, it’s not just a truck, it’s the whole thing. We know the demand is there now. We were really happy with the response. I have to confess I was probably there for a sum total of 10 minutes, but the team were amazing, so resourceful and positive with great attention to detail. Festival food has been pretty terrible for so long and I think Field Day really cracked it by surrounding it with shit-hot food. We were next to HotBox who are amazing, but there were loads of really inspiring, dedicated operators there.
Where else are you taking it this summer?
To take it back to how it all started, you were DJing, so what made you make the move into food?
The whole idea of Dalston Superstore was to be everything to everyone. We were lucky when we opened Superstore as we had Elaine Chalmers [A Little of What You Fancy restaurant], so she was our chef for the first year and we were really lucky, she really gave us the kiss of life in terms of food. So food was always the central part of what we did.
You guys were really the first people who kicked off The Strip as we now know it in Dalston. How did it all come about? Why Dalston?
Well, if we’d had opened Dalston Superstore anywhere else, we would have had to change the name.
But really, for us, it was because all our friends lived here. We all lived around here and were throwing parties in various guises around here and it was just natural to us that this is where we should start.
Who was the original team?
The Superstore owners are me, Matt Tucker (who DJs as Mikki Most) and Dan Pope (AKA Secret Dan). At the time I was running Disco Bloodbath and everything just made sense. It was the easiest decision I ever made. As soon as we found that site, we knew. That site had been lying empty for two years. It had been a taxi office and a supermarket. The landlord couldn’t believe that we wanted to take it, he was desperately trying to get rid of it. So that was a serendipitous decision because so much of what’s happened has rolled off the back of it.
With Elaine doing the food, did you have an strong idea for what you wanted the menu to be like?
Food at Superstore has and always will be about simple, good, healthy (wherever possible) and seasonal (wherever possible) cafe food. A decent burger made with the right ingredients, or a really good breakfast on a Sunday morning.
And I’m guessing there has to be a good pun there too.
Puns are everything. We’re currently riding the wave of puns at the moment.
What’s good at the moment?
Currently we’ve got a Slap! residency, which is just about to come to an end. They’ve developed a couple of really interesting sandwiches like the GuacaMiley Cyrus, which involved deep fried halloumi.
Yeah, I realised I mentioned healthy, and now I’m talking about deep fried cheese? Anyway, they also have the Beet Midler beetroot and jazz thing. They specialise in a Panko-fried chicken burger called Cock Blocker which is a bit of a local staple. Again, not really that healthy, but it does come with a bit of greenage too.
What made you make the move from Superstore down to Voodoo Ray’s?
Secret Dan was talking for a long time about how we should open a pizza place and I happened to be going to New York a little bit, as did Dan, and he kept on at me and Matt, really persisting about this idea. Eventually we succumbed to it. We found out that this place was available and had a long discussion about how we would do a pizza place long into the night. In the very early hours we booked three flights to New York and we decided to do some proper research at the home of pizza by the slice.
Where did you hit up when you were there?
We went to a lot of places and we hooked up with a very knowledgeable pizza enthusiast called Scott Weiner who is an absolute geek about pizza. He showed us some places and we met some amazing operators, Pizza Suprema which is just behind Madison Square Garden, regarded by many as the best slice in the city. Bleecker Street Pizza, which is one of my personal favourites, also South Brooklyn Pizza. Plus modern places like Motorino Pizza and Roberta's - it’s kind of a mix of more rustic Italian style pizzas and the slices.
What’s the best seller here?
It alternates between the Hot Mix 5 and The Meat Is On. They’re definitely our big hitters.
And The Full Moon slice that’s only available after midnight - who’s idea was that?
Matt had this great idea that we should only have a pizza that was available after midnight, just as something fun. If that’s your one for the road, bacon is a necessity, so we thought we’d have really crispy bacon and mix that with marinated tomatoes that are really fleshy and sweet, so you have a kind of balance. In this instance they’re all tied together with Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, which is probably the best mayonnaise you can buy. I think - this might just be a rumour - but I believe it’s made with kelp of some kind. I also believe there’s some kind of naturally reoccurring MSG within that too, which is why you have that umami thing lingering. I’ve personally walked across a large chunk of Hackney late at night just to get one of those.
What if someone comes in and kicks up a fuss about getting one at quarter to midnight?
They’ve got to wait. Everyone knows the deal with The Full Moon slice. If you want it, you have to wait. The whole pizzas go quite quickly sometimes, sometimes it's sold out after the first bake. The chefs make about three or four every night on a Saturday, but when they’re gone, they’re gone.
The Dance Tunnel under Voodoo Ray’s opened pretty soon after - was that always the idea to have a club underneath it?
It just sort of developed really. Because of our backgrounds we kind of have a predisposition to opening nightclubs. It was an inevitability and we tend to want to do things properly. Dance Tunnel isn’t an after thought, it’s a fully formed destination on it’s own. I love Dance Tunnel.
It’s open until 3am on the weekends, so do you get lots of people popping up for pizza half way through a rave session?
Well, we’ve got cardio downstairs and carbs upstairs, so a lot of people will have a bit of a pizza break. It does wonders for you the next morning, to get some sustenance. I’m not gonna say our pizza cures hangovers!
I will - it definitely helps. What about the amazing urban myth that was going around that there was a secret tunnel between Superstore and Voodoo Ray's?
Haha yeah, you can’t buy that shit! It was quite a powerful rumour because there is actually a little stock cupboard in Voodoo Ray's and quite often we’d find people trying to get in to the stock cupboard to see if they could access the secret tunnel that links to Superstore. I’m amazed that people thought we had anywhere near the competence to manage a feat of engineering of that scale. We’re talking about digging tunnels in the road under the Rio Cinema! They share a postcode and that’s about it. Sadly that disco rumour is not true.
Is that why you named it the Dance Tunnel?
No, we got a letter that was addressed to The Trocadero Underground Breakdance Tunnel and it was some kind of confusion about it. Then we thought, why not call the club The Trocadero Underground Breakdance Tunnel? But it didn’t reduce to a good acronym. It was just some kids in the midwest of the US who’d got the wrong address.
What’s your favourite dishes on the menu?
At Superstore, it’d be the Cock Blocker - it’s all conquering and amazing. At Voodoo Ray's, I’m a big fan of the regular slice as you must always wait one minute before you eat it. Because it’s fucking hot! So get the regular slice, wait a minute, add a a bit of salt and it’s a thing of beauty. Got Beef? and Green + White are great too. I kind of love them all really, they’re like my children. Felix the chef is extremely innovative with new pies and his specials are always really well thought out. We always have at least one vegan pizza on and they’ve proven hugely popular.
Where do you like to eat when you’re not working here?
Obviously I love Elaine’s A Little Of What You Fancy. I live near Tonkotsu East so I’ve been going there quite a lot. I like Hoi Polloi for the ambience and everything. Mangal is another classic and Shanghai is underrated sometimes. Oh, Mayfields! I think it’s a stunning restaurant. It’s a brilliant neighbourhood restaurant.
Last meal on earth?
A Full Moon slice. Wait, is it my last day or night? If I could persuade the chefs to break protocol for me, I’d want the Full Moon slice. It is my last day on earth, after all.