Yesterday wasn’t a good night to eat out in London. Many of the city’s top chefs, mixologists and restaurateurs had taken the evening off to gather on Bermondsey Street — along with street food traders, farmers, growers, drinks makers, food bloggers and writers — to hear the results of the second annual Young British Foodies awards.
Founded by an industry triumvirate consisting of food PR Amy Thorne, Metro’s food editor Chloe Scott-Moncrieff and oft controversial master baker Lily Vanilli, the awards aim to seek out and put the spotlight on individuals who are pushing boundaries to make us re-evaluate the way we see food, or to simply make it the best that it can be.
Aside from being exceptional at what they do, entrants are required only to be young at heart and British in location. Winners were picked from nine categories, each judged by experts in their fields, and the diversity of those in the running — most of whom were from the capital — is in no small way a reflection of London’s dynamic, exciting and world-leading food scene.
In the hotly contested Street Food category, Netil Market’s Bao scooped the top spot for their insanely addictive Taiwanese steamed pork buns, with wrap-making legends Rola Wala not far behind. In the Baking category, Maltby Street vendors Poppy & Sebastian took the prize for their elaborate, French-inspired tarts and pastries.
Chris Young won an honorary award for his grassroots work with the supermarket sliced-white-eschewing Real Bread Campaign, while at the other end of the technological spectrum, sciencey clever clogs Gastrophonic picked up a Foodie Oscar for their mind-bending work that pairs together food, drink, sound and light.
There were two winners in the Food Writing category, and it was all about south of the river with Peckham obsessive Helen Graves, writer of the blog Food Stories, sharing the prize with Brixton blogger Miss South. Moving from pen to pan, it was Giles Clark who cleaned up in the Chefs category, recognised for his work in the kitchens of Koya and St John Bread and Wine. We’d bet a tidy sum that we’ll all be a lot more familiar with his name by the time the awards come round again next year.
While chefs have always been London’s domain, it’s hard to imagine a few years ago that London would have any standing in a room full of world-class food producers and crafters. But such is the food revolution that’s underway in our city, that the shortlist was heaving with London-centric foodies of all definitions, from London-made mead to inner-city sausage producers, not to mention the likes of Brockley Market, which is easily among the country's best. Bath, Bristol and Wales may have got a little look-in last night, but there’s no denying that these awards really were a capital affair.