He’s worked as a director/producer, a TV presenter and comedian, now Ben Chancellor and his gastronomic friend Gareth Phillips are taking the sandwich world by storm.
The duo set up Sub Cult in 2014, serving gourmet US deli style sub-rolls from a shipping container in Whitecross Place and from their beloved van The Soul Roller at Brockley and Maltby Street markets.
Now they have queues out the door most days, a string of accolades under their belts and big plans to expand.
They met at a rave in a Welsh quarry in the 1990s and have been friends ever since. Gareth (‘Gaz’) went on to train as a chef and worked at Michelin-starred restaurants. Ben, who filmed pop-promos and presented the Endemol music show Beat, ditched his media career for more stable work in investment and PR.
He told The Local Buyers Club: “I became very ill with Crohn’s Disease and was off work for a year. It was awful but I’ve learnt to manage it with natural supplements, yoga, exercise and meditation. It forced me to revaluate; PR wasn’t making me happy.
“I love history, travel and music and was a diehard Mod at the time -we used to take our Lambrettas and go dancing, we were in the Olympic Games Closing Ceremony and my wife and I were photographed in Marie Claire for a feature about Mod couples.
“Sub-cultures have always fascinated me. My dad was a Beatnik and when he and Mum had me they were hippies; I went to Glastonbury when I was two.
“I’m a big foodie and knew I wanted to start a food business – street food or shipping containers are a big part of the tapestry of London. I was seeing all these amazing products but no-one was doing the American sub well.
“I’d eaten my first sub sandwich in America when I was 19 and it was amazing. The average American eats four to six sandwiches a week, while we’ve been short-changed with soggy triangles in cardboard."
“I was in the bath contemplating what I felt was missing from the street food scene and thinking how imagery from sub cultures would work well with an American sub business when eureka! The idea for Sub Cult was born.”
Sub Cult started out from a gazebo in Berwick Street and went on to operate as a pop-up from various East London venues.
This year, after collaborations with Michelin star chefs Tom Sellers and Tom Aitkens, Adam Hyman (a restaurant consultant known in the industry as ‘the Rain Man’) promised to help Sub Cult establish a series of grab-and-go delis.
All food served by Sub Cult is freshly made to order and served in locally-made sub rolls which are two thirds brioche and a third bagel.
Fillings include rare roast beef, salt beef, pulled pork shoulder, scallops, smoked back bacon, oak smoked salmon and grilled woodland mushroom and there are some inspired flavour combinations, with pickles, cheese, parsley, truffle mayo, beetroot and kimchi among the popular ingredients.
Sub Cult won the Best Sandwich Award in the Best British Street Food competition in 2015 and 2017 and are dubbed ‘The Sandwich Kings’ by Time Out.
They’re one of a host of businesses offering discounts to members of the Local Buyers Club, a membership club which helps you find and support the best local and independent businesses, while saving you money.
*Photos courtesy of Tom Bowles