A slight move away from my usual blog fodder, but one with good reason, and in the same spirit as my normal posts: celebrating food.
6 months ago, I turned 30. I’d recently left a job that I thought when entering it would be a lifelong career; it was a decision that was originally born in trauma, but made over a long period of time. By the time September and my big birthday rolled around, I’d left my job as a barrister, retrained in patisserie, and tentatively dipped my toe in the often very cold water of freelance journalism. It’s a scary thing: lurching between exquisite self-doubt, and manic optimism. I had been shortlisted for the Young British Foodies’ Fresh Voice in Food Writing award for a piece I’d written about Delia’s minestrone soup. The day after my birthday, I attended the awards ceremony, and to no one’s surprise more than mine, I won.
I am immensely proud and honoured to have been awarded the 2017 Food Writing award, even more so for it to be for a piece of writing about my mother, about discovering recipes, about the inheritance – or lack thereof – of recipes, and the role they play in our lives and relationships. The food writing award is unusual in that it asks for a submission of 700 words, rather than one or several articles; there is no need for it to be published, or a paid commission, no date range. There’s something levelling about this, that I really like. You don’t need to be known or prolific to win, you just have to be good.
Setting to one side the small possibility of my partisan view of them as the ultimate arbiters of taste and talent, the YBFs is a fantastic initiative, shining the light on emerging talent. More than just a one-off awards ceremony, the YBFs support those who win, nurturing talent, providing ongoing mentorship and – for the producers – the chance to pitch to Harrods.
Nominations are now open for the 2018 Young British Foodie awards, seeking to recognise and celebrate the rising stars of the food and drink industry, and their reach is broad: now in its seventh year, the YBFs seek out the best and brightest of British talent in the food industry – chefs, sommeliers, front of house, producers, bakers, and food sharers and writers. This year sees Danny McCubbin judging the brand new category ‘Giving back’, which recognises those who have enriched the community through food and drink.
Nowhere was this celebration of rising talent more in evidence that at the launch of this year’s competition last week: the whole shebang was put together by YBF winners, finalists and partners. From the gin-based cocktail reception presented by Kieran Moneiro, winner of the Front of House category, to the excellent savoury offerings from Luke Van Cockerill (including a particularly beautiful faux olive suspended in vermouth). Wines were introduced by Ruth Spivey, the 2017 alcohol winner, and exquisite sorbets and ice creams offered up by Kitty Tavers (of
La Grotta Ices) and Terri Mercieca (of Happy Endings), the winners of last year’s Street Food and Baking categories respectively. Even the butter for the bread (perhaps the most anticipated feature by those in the know?) was provided by a YBF alumnus: Grant Harrington, won last year’s honorary category for his Ampersand butter, an artisan cultured butter made in Oxfordshire.
The skill and joy of those contributing glowed through every moment of the night, a testament to the breadth of technique and passion that each of those winners and finalists held. It was an edible reminder of just how much grassroots talent there is in the food and drink industry, and what a fantastic job the YBFs do of finding and showcasing it.