Where has the last week gone to?…. The shortlist for this year’s FreeFrom Eating Out Awards came out over a week ago and I have only just got round to telling you who was on it! How remiss of me….
Well, if you just need know which eatery to head for tonight – this is where you need to go. But if you would like a little bit of background…
This is year 3 of the awards and we have had our new recruit, Kathy (the ‘A’ in our rather ineffectual FFA at the Allergy Show in the summer…) working on them since last January.Kathy was tasked with getting some of the major chains involved. This is a seriously hard job not only because it is notoriously difficult to get through the many, many layers of management and personnel in these large groups to find the right person to talk to, but because food service is also known to be at least 5 years behind retail food – and because large groups are nearly always more conservative in their approach than the smaller start-ups.
None the less, she did manage to talk to a goodish number and although many of them are still mulling and considering (‘maybe next year….’) she did succeed with some seriously big names:
- JD Wetherspoons – over 960 pubs right across the country. Now if they do have a genuinely viable freefrom offer how great would that be?
- Center Parcs – Brilliant for all of those families with allergic or food sensitive kids who so often end up by going self catering as no one can care for them safely.
- The Clink Restaurants – the exciting chain of four restaurants run by prisoners.
- Strada (35 Italian restaurants around the country) and
- Pho (19 Vietnamese restaurants around the country)
- Loungers – over 70 cafés right across the country
- Filmore & Union – 8 restaurants across Yorkshire
- Churchill’s – 8 fish and chippers in Essex, Hampshire and London
Meanwhile, we had a great entry in the café category – from Kinross in Scotland to Perranport in Cornwall and from a travelling van to long established café restaurants. Cafés were probably the first eateries to take ‘freefrom’ on board with the ubiquitous gluten-free chocolate brownie and they are certainly still in the forefront as far as delicious gluten, dairy, egg and sometimes nut free cakes are concerned.
Also a great entry in the restaurant category and once again very well spread both geographically and in terms of their offer. And although we were glad to see some returning entrants (and winners) from last year (2 Oxford Place in Leeds, La Polentaria and Niche in London, the Rainbow Veggie Café in Cambridge) it was great to have a whole range of new entrants from the Yorkshire based Filmore and Union restaurants to the Rainforest Café in London’s West end.
Gastro pubs were very much in evidence too with two former winners (The Alford Arms and The Royal Oak) and we had a very satisfactory showing of fish and chips shops – once again stretching from Skipton in the North to Brixham in South Devon.
We also had small but good entries into the B&Bs & Guest houses and into the Schools and Colleges. We were especially pleased to welcome Manchester Metropolitan University into that category after they had picked up so splendidly on the talk I had done for TUCO in the summer on how dangerous a time going to university was for allergic teenagers.
And last, but absolutely not least, we had some very interesting entrants to the Foods Manufactured for Food Service category that we had judged back in August. We always feel rather bad for them as they have to wait so long after the judging for the presentation.
So, what next? Well, as I write our FFEOA judges are spreading out across the country and, in deepest disguise, visiting any of those shortlisted eateries that our on-line judges thought were seriously up for a win or a highly commended. The judges will be checking whether the entrants’ allergen awareness and controls are actually as good as they looked on paper and, just as important, what their food is like! No matter how good the allergen controls, if the food offer is not good, then no one is going to want to go!!
Meanwhile, all of those shortlisted entrants will already have been entered up into our sponsors, Can I Eat There? database so that not only followers of the FFEOA awards, but the wider food sensitive public will be able to find them.
And then? Well, the the presentation. It will be happening courtesy of Food Matters Live once again at 3.30 on Tuesday 22nd November.
We will be presenting our very first Pathfinder Award to Chef Dominic Teague
from Indigo (if you do not remember the Indigo story – check in here ) and then we will be asking Dominic to present the awards to the category winners – and of course, the silver salver to our overall winner.
We would be delighted to see any blog readers at Excel on the big day – or on Thursday 24th when Dominic and last year’s winner, Mark Kennett of Oscar and Bentley’s, will be demonstrating for us in the Catering for Health theatre. They will also be joined by celebrity chef Paul Gayler, courtesy of one of our sponsors, Riso Gallo.
Since there is an ENORMOUS amount to see and do at Food Matters Live (including three full days of seminars on Freefrom and a presentation on Wednesday afternoon from me all about ‘may contain’ precautionary allergen labelling) you could very easily and satisfyingly fill not just one but two days. So I have no hesitation encouraging you to come to both the FFEOA presentation and the demos as I know that you will still be rushing around having failed to see all that you wanted to see!!
If you do want to come, please let me know as Food Matters Live have very kindly offered VIP entrance to any friend of the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards.