So, last night was the big night – the naming of the winners in the Urban Food Awards at a ceremony at Borough Market. The judging of the food products had taken place some weeks previously by acclaimed chefs and food writers Oliver Rowe, Tom Hunt, Olia Hercules and Rowley Leigh. The winners had been picked and the finalists could but wait nervously for news.
The Urban Food Awards are a “celebration of the best enterprises, products and people in the capital’s good food and drink scene” run by the Mayor of London, London Food Link and Borough Market. They are open to London businesses with a workforce of 50 or fewer which operate in a demonstrably ethical or sustainable way and bring social benefit to their communities.
The event was opened by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, newly returned from his trip to the US, who delighted the (unsurprisingly) highly partisan audience by telling us that London had the most innovative food scene on the planet. When the cheering had died down he went on to tell us of his support for initiatives tackling food waste in the capital, singling out a charity newly-established by the London Evening Standard to supply surplus food to other charities feeding the hungry, and to announce a new award for Best Surplus Food Initiative. At this stage I was still taking in the atmosphere, knowing that the winner in my category was some way from being announced, and so was completely taken aback to hear him list Fruit Magpie as one of the nominees. What?? My friend was nudging me whispering “that’s you, that’s you!” while I tried not to choke on my complimentary G&T. Wow, what an honour.
I did not win the mayor’s award (and quite rightly so) but I am thrilled to say that I DID win my category of “proper preserves”. The judges had found my quince cheese to be “aromatic in flavour with great acidity, clear apricot colour and a good shine”. Absolutely delighted, I stepped up to receive my award from Oliver Rowe.
For someone relatively new to the food industry, to business and most certainly to award ceremonies, I found myself a little stunned to be there. One of the unexpected joys of the evening was experiencing the camaraderie between fellow businesses, seemingly genuinely pleased that I had done well. I feel the same about their enterprises though: we largely share objectives and passions which can only be improved by supporting one another.
And the icing on the cake? Meeting Jenny Dawson of Rubies in the Rubble – one of my food heroes!