Awards 2020 Winners: Judges' Comments
08 July 2020
The winners of the Guild of Food Writers Awards 2020 were announced on Tuesday 16 June and you can view the online ceremony here.
To continue this celebration of the great work in the food writing and broadcasting world, we asked each of the winners to tell us a bit about their award-winning work and to give us an idea of how they hope the award will make a difference for them. Here are the first set of answers.
Cereal (Farmerama Radio; Presenters and producers: Katie Revell, Jo Barratt and Abby Rose) won two awards: the Food Podcast or Broadcast Award (sponsored by The FoodTalk Show) and the Investigative Food Work Award
‘Cereal starts with a question: how did something as apparently simple as bread become so very complicated? Over the course of six episodes, it goes on to unpick the history of our bread, and to tell the story of a burgeoning movement: a network of seed breeders, farmers, millers, bakers and activists who are working together to reimagine and rebuild localised grain economies. Ultimately, their vision is of a food system that is economically resilient, environmentally regenerative and socially just, and capable of providing everyone with truly nourishing – and delicious – food.
‘At the heart of Cereal is the idea that, although our food system is hugely complex – and its dysfunction often overwhelming – bread itself is something everyone can relate to. Across cultures, everyone eats bread, in one form or another. We’re all part of the bread system – and we all have the power to change it for the better.
‘Lead Producer Katie Revell wove together the many strands of the Cereal story, supported by Co-Producers Abby Rose and Jo Barratt and the rest of the Farmerama team. We celebrated the launch of the series with harvest parties in London and Nottingham, bringing together people from all parts of the bread system. The podcast series and these events were made possible by a generous grant from the Roddick Foundation.
‘We make Farmerama Radio because we believe that the only viable future is one in which small-scale, regenerative farmers are valued and empowered. The podcast is a platform for those farmers to tell their stories.
‘Winning two Guild of Food Writers Awards is a huge boost for Farmerama – we’re delighted to be recognised in this way. Five years after we released our first episode, we remain as committed as ever to our original aim: sharing the voices of regenerative farming. The Awards mean those voices will be heard more widely than ever before – and that’s very exciting.’
The Vinegar Cupboard by Angela Clutton (published by Bloomsbury Absolute) also won two awards: the First Book Award and the Specialist or Single Subject Cookbook Award
‘To win one Guild of Food Writers Award is a huge honour – to win two felt rather overwhelming at the time and as I reflect on it now makes me feel quite emotional. Which over-indulgence I hope can be forgiven in the context of the hard slog it was to get The Vinegar Cupboard commissioned at all. It was a subject considered too niche by so many publishers – my eternal gratitude goes to Jon Croft and his team at Bloomsbury Absolute for having faith in me and it. I set out to write something that would take seriously this everyday ingredient, show how it is extraordinary as well as ordinary, demonstrate what impact it has on so much cooking, and unlock some of the cultural identities behind its incarnations around the world. I hope it has done that.
Certainly these awards make me feel the hard work was justified. They will, I hope, help position The Vinegar Cupboard in the all-important sales market. And as I look ahead to a hoped-for Book Two, having these awards under my writing belt gives me extra confidence to stride to achieve more with my work in the future.’
‘I'm so thrilled to have won this year's food writing award. The Guild of Food Writers has been a source of friendship and support since I began my food writing career, so it means the world to be recognised by the judges and the Guild.
‘My work for the award was varied, spanning grief and risotto, comfort cooking, eating pastries in Paris, and my love of both Junior Bake Off and Jane Grigson. I have always written about the emotional connection of cooking and eating, so it's particularly heartening to know that that resonates with readers and writers. I'm looking forward to writing more about how food moves and connects us over the coming year (and, I hope, for many years after that).’
‘It’s a huge cliche I am sure but winning the Guild’s Recipe Writing Award was a total shock (I burst into tears when I heard my name – probably a good thing it wasn't a real ‘do’ this year to be honest!) and such an honour. I've been working in food publishing (writing, styling, development) for over 15 years now, but have only been working solo – not part of an organisation – for the last 2 years. So to be recognised and win an award for my work means a hell of a lot to me.
‘Before I went freelance I worked for magazines such as delicious and Sainsburys, then on to work for Jamie Oliver for 12 years working across his books, TV, PR, the lot. With my 2nd book (Taverna) coming out, I took the plunge and went solo. And within a few months Karen, the brilliant editor of delicious, asked me to write a monthly column for them. As any food writer will tell you, this is a dream come true. But for me it was bigger than that; delicious is where I started. Before I had even left university in 2005 I had written to them asking to do work experience. They were the first place I ever worked, where I discovered I wanted to write about and shoot food, and to go back there meant the world to me. And now, it is for this column that I won the award – full circle doesn’t even come close. For a year the brilliant team there enabled me to write my musings and recipes from my kitchen, and I will never be able to thank them enough for trusting me and agreeing to my ideas. So thank you to everyone at the Guild, the judges, Gold Top but also everyone at delicious for believing in me. Gwyneth speech over.’
Jimi Famurewa won the Restaurant Writing Award for work published in the Evening Standard's ES Magazine
‘To reflect on the reviews that won me this year's Guild of Food Writers Restaurant Writing Award – particularly as the hospitality industry gingerly emerges from months of lockdown – feels somewhat bittersweet. There was a love letter to the mega-portioned West African bustle at 805 on the Old Kent Road; a snapshot of an evening savouring face-slapping Sichuan flavours in the cramped confines of Hackney's all-vegan Mao Chow; and a composed, classy lunch at Flor in Borough that ended with the intense pleasure hit of oven-warm, fudgy brown butter cakes. They are dispatches from another time.
‘But these reviews, I hope, speak to the strange, eclectic vitality that London's dining scene can hopefully manage to recapture in the coming months and years. Since I first became ES Magazine's restaurant critic, it has always been my aim to entertainingly highlight this variety, explore culture and truly put people in the room. To be recognised for this by the Guild – especially when I consider the high-bar set by my fellow nominees and the talents of this award's previous winners – truly means so much. Also: as a British-Nigerian, and a relatively new voice operating in a field where they are rare, the recognition feels especially acute. It is already making a professional difference in terms of bringing more people to my work. And, more significantly, it is a spur. Not just to keep approaching restaurant criticism in the way I have been. But to push on, to challenge myself, and to try to broaden the spectrum of the stories that I'm telling.’
‘First, let me say how delighted I am that the Guild of Food Writers now has a Drinks Writer category: just as I don’t like to drink without food, I believe that a celebration of great food writing needs a liquid complement. Secondly, I’m thrilled to be the first winner of this category and feel grateful for the additional visibility and the opportunities that will come from association with this prestigious organisation.
‘What I love about wine is the breadth of its reach: you can talk about alcohol levels or soil types or barrel age, but you can also talk about personalities, places and politics. For the New Statesman columns that helped win me this award, I looked at the women who made Champagne great: widows, reared to be mothers and helpmeets, who burst those strictures with an effervescent determination that changed the way we drink. I learned which wines to match – or not match – with certain styles of Chinese food, and now instead of accompanying the Asian meals we cook with an alcohol-free beverage, we never have a night off booze at all. For my column in The Times’s luxury magazine, Luxx, I was lucky enough to take a private plane from Bordeaux to Burgundy, researching how altitude changes the way we taste. Which it does, far more than we realise: the wines that showed best thousands of feet above the ground they came from were a surprise to everyone on board.
‘As someone who lives part-time in Burgundy, I am always trying to find ways to make this intricate wine region comprehensible to people who are never going to spend four-figure sums on a bottle of Vosne-Romanée. So, for Decanter, I spoke to Les Aligoteurs: a group of winemakers in Burgundy’s legendary Côte d’Or who make the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay the region is renowned for… but are rather more interested in the potential of the despised Aligoté grape. And, because wine should always be a source of laughter, I had great fun scotching myths about rosé for The Guardian: pink is a colour I drink all year round, because anything that can brighten up the English winter is all right with me. Sharing our pleasures, in the glass, on the plate or on the page, is part of what makes us human; I feel privileged to share some of mine with the members of the GFW.’
‘Winning this prestigious award means so much to the Good Food team: it’s the icing on the cake of 30 years as Britain’s biggest selling food magazine. We have been number one since our launch in 1989, and have stayed there ever since, and so it was fitting for us to enter our commemorative issue of September 2019 for the GFW awards. What a birthday present it was to find out we’d won!
‘Great recipes and articles about the world of food are at the heart of what we do, so this acknowledgment will spur us on to not only maintain the standards we’ve set for ourselves, but to strive to be better, to give a voice to talented writers from all backgrounds. It’s going to be an even more exciting year for Good Food than last year, so thanks to the GFW for this recognition and encouragement.’
‘I began my newsletter, Tales From Topographic Kitchens back in October 2017 as a way of collating my favourite pieces of food writing and food media in general. There's such a fast turnover in the food world and I felt that some really excellent pieces of writing were being lost because of this. Also, as time and debate move on, someone's writing can become what I think of as “recontextualised” and I wanted to find a way of exploring this. I write “Tales From Topographic Kitchens” because I enjoy it and for no other reason. The fact that other people like to read it too is a joy. I never had a particular goal or ambition for my newsletter other than to highlight and celebrate great food media but after two years, I plucked up the courage to enter the GFW awards and was both delighted and stunned to be shortlisted. And then I went on to win my category, Best Online Food Writer 2020. My fellow finalists, Aaron Vallance and Ed Smith are excellent writers and I was flattered to be nominated alongside them both so I do encourage you to sign up to their newsletters and in the case of Ed, buy his cookery books too.
‘I'm not sure what lies in my future but I am working on several book proposals and have had conversations with agents. Recently I have written for Pit Magazine and I have my regular food column and features for Iliffe Media but I'd love to write for more publications. If you're looking for lively features about North American food in particular (and I include Mexico in this of course), please do get in touch because I'd love to write for you.’
‘Plan Zheroes aims to inspire businesses to donate their surplus food to local charities. Last year we helped redistribute 69,000 kg of food, the equivalent of 121,000 meals and a saving of 273 tonnes of equivalent CO2 emissions. Using our online platform, the businesses can post notifications about the food they have to donate and the charities can claim the food on a first-come-first-served basis. In addition, we hold twice weekly collections of food in London, at both Borough Market and at the Real Food Market at King's Cross. We are about resume these as current lockdown restrictions are eased.
The award will help to raise the profile of Plan Zheroes still further and we hope we can develop partnerships with the Guild and with Comté, the sponsors of the award, to inspire even more businesses to donate their surplus food at a time when so many people in the UK are suffering from food poverty.’
The Forager's Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvest by John Wright (published by Profile Books) won the Food Book Award (sponsored by Westmorland)
‘The seasonality of food is but a memory for most of us. But for the forager, busy collecting blackberries, wild mushrooms, sea beet, dulse and a hundred more wild foods, it is everything. There is a purity about this, a connection with the food eaten quite unobtainable by buying Brussles sprouts in July and raspberries in December. Having collected wild foods for most of my life, such seasons were well known to me, so it seemed that a book which lists, describes and, indeed, celebrates wild food month by month would be a great help to both those new to foraging and those for whom a little reminder might be needed about what to look for and, of course, when.
‘My wife and I were sat on the sofa awaiting the announcement, our glasses of consolation poised for action. We both gasped when my book won and that gasp is with me still. Not that the surprise I felt has stopped me referring to myself as an award-winning writer to anyone prepared to listen. This is such a prestigious award and a great honour. It will certainly help with book sales and now I must scurry around bookshops, surreptitiously plastering the award sticker on its pretty covers!’
‘I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to the Guild for awarding “Fire Islands” Best International or Regional Cookbook. Writing about Indonesian cuisine and food culture was something I had been thinking about quietly through many years of being a recipe writer. It is a long under-recognised cuisine and I am delighted that these bold, bright flavours are starting to get the attention they deserve.
‘For me, this award is wonderful recognition from peers in the sometimes isolated world of food writing. Next? Dreaming big, I’d love to write a recipe column one day.’
Midnight Chicken: & Other Recipes Worth Living For by Ella Risbridger (published by Bloomsbury Publishing) won the General Cookbook Award (sponsored by Thermapen®)
The Guild's partners for this year’s Awards are Cawston Press (Food Writing Award), Comté Cheese (Inspiration Award), The FoodTalk Show (Food Podcast or Broadcast Award), Gold Top (Recipe Writing Award), Lakeland (Food Magazine or Section Award), Maple from Canada (International or Regional Cookbook Award), Peter's Yard (Online Food Writing Award), Seven Crofts (Drinks Writing Award), Thermapen® (General Cookbook Award) and Westmorland: Tebay Services, Gloucester Services & Cairn Lodge Services (Food Book Award).
(Sponsor of the Food Writing Award)
“Cawston Press has always been made by people who have an understanding and passion for creating delicious tasting soft drinks that you can feel good about drinking. This journey of pressing fruit began 30 years ago with the humble apple and has grown from there ever since. Our drinks include pressed juices, sparkling drinks and a range of fruit waters for all the family to enjoy.
Our award-winning range uses the finest and trusted ingredients, which are picked and pressed at harvest time so they are brimming with flavour. From rhubarb to elderflower, we take our inspiration from the great British allotment and the tastes and smells of summers past.
We believe natural tastes best so we shun fake sugars, colours, preservatives and other artificial nasties. We stand out from the crowd in only using pressed fruit, never fruit concentrates. Imagine biting into an apple and you’re not far off.”
(Sponsor of the Inspiration Award)
“Comté is a French PDO cheese (Protected Designation of Origin), made in the Massif du Jura region of France, and has been for over 1,000 years. Its delicious flavour originates from the raw milk of Montbéliarde and French Simmental cows, with each one being fed natural feed and enjoying at least 2.5 acres of grazing pasture. Comté’s methods of production are still based on the original co-operative approach and artisan traditions. Over 2,700 family farms are dedicated to producing the highest quality of raw milk. Every day, Comté is crafted in around 153 small village cheese dairies, called fruitières, before each 40kg wheel is moved to one of the 16 maturing cellars. Because of its versatility and ability to melt easily, Comté can be added to all kinds of recipes, giving every single one of them a naturally unique flavour.
The Comté Cheese UK team is very proud to be involved with the prestigious Guild of Food Writers Awards this year to celebrate the best of British food writing. We are also delighted to sponsor the Inspiration Award, which champions the important and exceptional work carried out by an individual or group to improve our food education in the UK. Raising awareness of provenance, sustainability and the impact of our food choices is a subject that is immensely close to our hearts, even more so at a time when our consumption habits can have such damaging and far-reaching consequences on our lives and the environment.”
The FoodTalk Show
(Sponsor of the Food Podcast or Broadcast Award)
“The FoodTalk Radio Show was founded by Sue Nelson, founder of The Breakthrough Group and author of Foodtech UK. Food and drink experts from around the country are invited as guests to discuss the latest trends in everything from distribution and delivery, to taste profiles and tech innovation.
Sue has appeared on nearly every national radio programme in the UK from the Today programme and Jeremy Vine to Radio 4’s The Food Programme and Farming Today. She was formerly CEO of NW Fine Foods and has been a regular guest on television programmes as diverse as Trisha and The Culture Show. She is also author of the NW Fine Food Guide with Simon Rimmer of Channel 4's Sunday Brunch.
Her fellow presenters are Ollie Lloyd, co-founder of Great British Chefs, who has worked with chefs such as Marcus Wareing, Michael Caines, Tom Aikens and Nathan Outlaw, and Holly Shackleton, Editor of Speciality Food Magazine, the leading trade magazine for the fine food industry.
The podcasts are available on the FoodTalk and Speciality Food magazine websites and on iTunes, Spotify, PodBean, Stitcher, PlayerFM, TuneIn and the Podcast app, and sent to our syndicated radio stations on Thursday each week at 4pm.
For 2019 there were 65,000 listeners per week via syndicated radio stations across the UK, in California, Michigan and Malta. For enquiries about free syndication or featuring on the show, please contact email@example.com.”
For more information, visit foodtalk.co.uk.
(Sponsor of the Recipe Writing Award)
“Gold Top with Cream at the Top
Established in Buckinghamshire in 1954, QMP was set up in association with milk producers throughout the country to market and promote their new brand, Gold Top.
The Gold Top selection stands for premium quality and superior taste, it is this quality, alongside our high end service, which makes us stand out from our competitors.
The original Gold Top Milk is made the traditional Guernsey and Jersey way with the cream on the top, and tastes delicious, the luxurious Gold Top Smooth is a variation whereby the indulgent cream is blended evenly throughout the entire bottle. The Gold Top family includes, butter, cream, ice cream amongst others.
QMP are set to make an even greater impact through increased promotion, with a recent joint advertising campaign with Grahams Dairy, on ITV HUB, which has proved to be very successful for the Gold Top family of products.”
(Sponsor of the Food Magazine or Section Award)
“At Lakeland we're passionate about all things cooking, baking, cleaning and laundry. Our company was founded over 50 years ago in the heart of the Lake District and from humble beginnings our family-owned business is now multi-national as well as multi-channel.
Our buyers are constantly searching the world for ground-breaking innovations and ideas to add to their carefully curated range of can’t-live without products, always working closely with our customers to ensure they have everything they need to create delicious, healthy meals at home as well as inspiring them with handy time savers that make life just that little bit easier.
No matter how you shop, our friendly and knowledgeable staff are always on hand to offer expert advice and ideas. Plus of course all our products are backed by Lakeland’s unrivalled 3 year guarantee.”
Maple from Canada
(Partner for the International or Regional Cookbook Award)
One of the world’s great food stories begins with a few drops of maple tree sap.
Each year in Canada, deep in the forests of Québec, a remarkable natural event takes place as the sap, frozen during the long, cold winter, starts to thaw… and the maple tapping season begins.
Thousands of producers collect the sap from maple trees and boil the liquid to make pure maple syrup, a 100% natural sweetener with a high-quality taste and a versatile range of culinary uses.
Unrefined and unprocessed, pure Canadian maple syrup is an ideal ingredient for brunch dishes, baking and barbecues, imparting a rich depth of flavour, free from artificial additives.
Maple from Canada is the consumer brand of the Québec Maple Syrup Producers, an organisation representing 11,300 maple syrup producers. Québec supplies 72% of the world’s maple syrup.
David Colcombe, UK Chef Ambassador for Maple from Canada, said: “Since I started working with this 100% natural product several years ago, I have grown to love it – for its flavour, its culinary versatility and its heritage. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful product and it works wonders in a huge variety of dishes, for both sweet and savoury recipes.
“Through this exciting new partnership with the Guild of Food Writers, we are looking forward to bringing a taste of Canada to the annual awards ceremony. The International or Regional Cookbook category is a perfect match because pure Canadian maple syrup works so well with a multitude of cuisines and cooking styles.”
(Sponsor of the Online Food Writing Award)
“Peter's Yard make a range of sourdough crispbread at their craft bakery in London, following an authentic Swedish recipe. In Sweden, crispbread (or knäckebröd) has been a staple part of the diet since the 1500s. Large discs of dough were baked at harvest time and hung on a pole above the fire to keep them crisp and provide a wholesome source of food throughout the long, dark winters.
Inspired by this tradition, Peter's Yard use only a few simple, natural ingredients to make their crispbread including Shipton Mill organic flour, organic fresh milk, honey, sea salt and sourdough, which is fermented for 16 hours before each batch is made. This slow fermentation allows for more complex flavours to develop. The dough is then hand-baked in small batches until dimpled, wobbly and irresistibly crisp.
There are a range of recipes and sizes available to suit every occasion. Every recipe in the Peter's Yard range has received a Great Taste Award and their crispbread is a favourite of many chefs and food writers including Nigel Slater, Valentine Warner and Mark Hix.”
(Sponsor of the Drinks Writing Award)
“Founded by Helen Chalmers and Robert Hicks, The Highland Liquor Co. is based in Ullapool on Scotland’s West Highland coast. It’s currently the UK’s most northwesterly distillery. Their premium gin, Seven Crofts took over 18 months of development and 96 different recipes before the perfect balance of forest fruit, spicy hints of coriander and pink peppercorns was reached.
The gin is named after the original seven private dwellings that founded Ullapool in 1791. Those dwellers sought to generate growth by establishing unique crafts and exporting them. Following in their footsteps, Robert and Helen have been inspired to create exceptional handmade spirits.
Launched in 2019, Seven Crofts is a classic London dry gin that is already revered by bartenders across the world. You can find Seven Crofts at Atlas bar in Singapore, Ruby in Copenhagen, FAM bar in London, Nauticus in Edinburgh, stores like Harvey Nichols and many others besides. It’s also available online at highlandliquorcompany.com.”
You can find out more about Seven Crofts at highlandliquorcompany.com; on Twitter: @HLCUllapool; on Facebook: @highlandliquorcompany; on Instagram: @highlandliquorcompany. Suggested hashtags: #sevencroftsgin #highlandliquorcompany
(Sponsor of the General Cookbook Award)
“Cooking Perfection Every Time
A favourite kitchen essential of many celebrity chefs and professional cooks, the Thermapen® thermometer is made in Britain by ETI Ltd, the UK’s leader in the manufacture and design of electronic thermometers and temperature probes. In 2018 the business was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for innovation, their fourth Queen’s Award since winning its first in 2012.
The Thermapen gives an accurate temperature reading in just three seconds, achieving cooking perfection every time. Stylish, easy to use and available in a range of vibrant colours, the Thermapen is a must-have for every kitchen, whether you want to enjoy meat that is both succulent and cooked safely at home, produce a batch of jam, temper chocolate or cook up a feast on the BBQ.
Cooking times are often variable and imprecise, resulting in uncertainty and overcooking. Thermapen believes using temperature as a guide enables anyone to make delicious food with confidence. A quick temperature check eliminates stress and guesswork, and with a Thermapen you can be sure to get an unparalleled accurate result every time.”
Tebay Services, Gloucester Services & Cairn Lodge Services
(Sponsor of the Food Book Award)
“If we feel different, it’s because we are.
We are a family business, whose original motorway service area grew out of our farm in Cumbria when the M6 was built through our land. Everything we do reflects those beginnings. In our Kitchens we make our own food, honest and nourishing. In our Farmshops, we work tirelessly to find small, exceptional producers, always starting locally. Above all, we hope that when you pass through, you feel you have arrived somewhere not anywhere; that you catch a glimpse of the place we are so proud to be part of – our environment, our produce and all the people we are lucky enough to work with.
Connecting people with place – farming food people place.”
You can find out more about us at westmorlandfamily.com.