Yes, the on-line judging is all done so last week we were able to publish the shortlist for the 2017 FreeFrom Eating Out Awards – you can check out all those shortlisted entrants right here.
Indeed, most of the ‘in-person’ judging is now done as well – when our judges go out, incognito, to try out eateries that look as though they might win a gold silver or bronze medal. So I have the enjoyable job lined up of reading through everyone’s reports. Not that that it is easy to choose winners. Last year we had so many excellent entries that we decided to change the ‘winners’ from Winner, Highly Commended and Commended to Gold, Silver and Bronze. The thinking was that while it was really not possible to have three or four winners in a category, if three or four outlets really did deserve a gold medal then there was no reason why we should not give three or four golds. In fact, last year we had so many excellent Fish and Chippers that we gave seven gold awards…
(Mind you, I received a press release the other day telling me that only five out of 10,500 Fish and chippers in the UK had received Coeliac UK’s gluten free accreditation. I am delighted to say that three of those were entrants/winners to the FFEOA either last year or this, but there is obviously still a LONG way to go.)
We had nine categories in this year’s awards – seven repeats from last year (Cafés and teashops, Fish and Chippers, Pub Restaurants, Independent restaurants, Restaurant chains, Hotels and B&Bs and Foods manufactured for food service) plus two new and very successful categories.
Focus on Gluten was designed for outlets that had received that gluten-free accredition from Coeliac UK and who were focusing on offering exciting gluten-free menus rather than wider freefrom, allergen aware menus. Because gluten remains the best known and most widely understood dietary restriction a number of outlets have chosen to concentrate just on gluten free. While they obviously have to be aware of the other allergens, they do not attempt to offer milk, egg, nut, soya etc free dishes. Last year, they felt that they had been unfairly marked down by judges for not offering good alternatives for all allergens when they had never actually set out to do so – so we felt that we should therefore give them a category of their own.
And our new Crème de la Crème category was designed for those entrants who had won in previous years of the awards. Some of these were SO good (like our first year overall winners and second third year pub restaurants winners, the Alford Arms – below – and the Royal Oak….) that it looked as though they would win every year, never allowing newcomers a chance! So we decided to ban anyone who had won a category twice from entering that category again – and created the Crème de la Crème category in which they could shine and battle it out with their peers in other categories! Lucky jduges who went to test them out in person!!
We also had an amazing entry this year for ‘Cressida’s category’ – Foods Manufactured for Food Service. Cressida’s because it includes many of her entrants into the FreeFrom Food Awards (now open for 2018 entry, by the way) who are trying break into food service. Although I am delighted to say that this year we had a number of dedicated food service manufactures such as Bidfoods, Made without by Classic Cuisine and Middleton Foods (who were also sponsors this year). Over 40 entries included porridges, batter mixes, party packs, breads, doughnuts, cakes, pastry, flans, a number of ready meals, desserts, cereal bars and chocolates.
So check out who made it onto the shortlist now – and then you only have six weeks to wait to find out who has made it to gold. The winners will be announced at the presentation on November 21st in the Conference pod at Food Matters Live at Excel – this year followed by a short reception in the VIP lounge.
And another exciting development that will be launched at the presentation….
Thanks to FFFA and FFEOA’s judge Benjamin Richardson, we are going to have an interactive map gracing the home page of the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards site. It will show all the gold, silver and bronze winners plus the shortlisted entrants for the last three years! Not only will you be able to see the judges’ comments for each of the listed entrants but to link directly to the outlet. And…. There will be an interactive facility to allow you to add information about any new freefrom eateries that you have come across that we do not know about – making the Eating out Awards site into a veritable freefrom TripAdvisor! Watch this space….