And who might those winners have been?
Well, they were the delightful team from the Alford Arms in Frithsden in Hertfordshire – Brandon Kirby and Mark Ellis, along with sous chef John Abbott – but he didn’t manage to squeeze into the interview pic! Our ‘first round’ judges were so impressed with their entry form that we sent our most allergic and generally difficult-to-feed judge, Ruth Holroyd of What Allergy?, to check them out – incognito of course… And Ruth was VERY impressed.
‘I have NEVER been so well fed and cared for!’ she said. ‘ They prepared me a special menu (three choices of starter, mains and dessert!) and checked it with me three times, yet on the night I was treated like any other guest – absolutely NO embarrassing fuss! And what DElicious food….’
Even those judges who did not get to taste their food were pretty impressed:
‘Great allergen awareness, excellent training and procedures, wonderful attitude on behalf of both the staff and the management, excellent fresh, imaginative food and really not expensive.’
And here are Brandon and Mark receiving their salver from Antony.
However, they were not the only happy people on the night! This was the very first year of the awards so we had a relatively modest six categories (we are now up to 17 in the FFFood Awards…):
B&Bs and Guest houses (won by Ravenstone Manor in Cumbria); Cafés and Teashops (winner – Tea 42 in Manchester); Pub Restaurants (the Alford Arms); Restaurants (Oscar and Bentley’s in Canterbury) and Schools and Universities (jointly won by Helenswood Academy and Hampshire County Council for supplying all of their children with ‘freefrom’ food so that no one is stigmatised or misses out).
We also had categories for café and restaurant chains (won by Costa Coffee and Pizza Express respectively) and for food manufactured for food service (won by Big Oz Organics for their gluten-free cereal multi packs – a massively useful product for the catering market, according to our judges). For more details and judges comments on all of the winners check in to the FFEOA site and for pictures of all of the winners check in to Media Wisdoms’ One Drive site here. But to give you a feel for the event, here are the audience –
glued to my every word as I announce the winners – or if not to my words, then to Antony’s who gave them a great pep talk on how important allergen awareness and ‘freefrom’ food is going to be for the food service industry from now on. Although, to be honest, not only all of the winners, but all of those who got as far as shortlisting showed pretty amazing awareness of the problem and a really heart warming desire to provide good safe food for those on restricted diets, whatever the reason. As I said when announcing the winners, we really did not have one bad entrant and we seriously struggled to have to chose just one winner in each category. However, if you are looking for allergen-aware, and especially gluten aware (or indeed, dedicated gluten-free) places to eat or stay around the country, check in to the winners pages on the FFEating Out Awards site and check out not just the winners but the highly commended and commended entries.
The presentation took place at the Food Matters Live event which took place over three days last week at Excel – and that was a pretty amazing experience in itself. (More on that tomorrow…) We were really appreciative of Food Matters Live’s offer to host our first presentation – and really appreciative of Antony’s continued support for all things ‘freefrom’ – a partnership which stretches way back to 2008 when he hosted our very first FreeFrom Food Awards party in his Notting Grill restaurant.
We were also extremely appreciative of the efforts of our judges who, long before the selected few got to try out potentially winning establishments, had battled through our immensely long and complicated entry forms assessing the entries – and of the support of our sponsors and our partners (all listed on the FFEOA site).
Our sponsors, and especially our headline sponsor, Sodexo deserve a special vote of thanks, not just for financing the first year of the awards, but for taking a punt on an entirely new concept in a an entirely new area! A recent Grocer poll suggested that over 50% of independent restaurants did not even know that new allergen regulations were coming into force, let alone what they were – so ‘freefrom in food service’ is still a pretty off the wall idea – although the runes suggest that it may not stay that way for long. So thank you, Sodexo – and Green’s, Riso Gallo, Nairn’s, Genon Laboratories and Thomas Ridley, not to mention our ‘cloud sponsors’ – for putting your money on us!!
And then of course there is the in-house team! Here are Cressida and Alex consulting over the live Twitter feed while Simon Wright waits to feed Antony with ‘winners’ certificates’ – here are Cressida and Alex back on our stand – a job well done!!
Thanks are also due to our great media team, Media Wisdom, who had no time at all to set up, interview and photograph sponsors, judges and winners– but, as ever, managed to do a great job. Check into the FFEOA site for their short video of the proceedings.
OK, chaps – that it’s it for Eating Out for this year – and a great success it was too, if I may say so…. Next up – FreeFrom Food Awards 2015, rapidly followed by the FreeFrom Skincare Awards 2015…………