01 | Jan | 17

Hugh Thomas

Top Of The Crops

Who’s producing Britain’s best food? Each year, with the Food and Farming Awards, that’s precisely the question BBC Radio wants answered. This time, the difference is it’s not just for the Radio 4 audience. Food’s a democratic thing, the Beeb have realised, and the competition has been accommodated across all channels this year – radio, telly, and online.

So why’s it such a big deal? The winners in the 2015 Best Street Food or Takeaway category, Hang Fire, told 6 Music ‘All the interest peaked from there’ after their win. ‘We were able to write our own cookbook,’ they said. ‘We’d urge anybody who has a little street food business [to nominate themselves]. Just give it a go – it was such a life changing thing for us.’ Other previous winners include The Brighton Smokehouse, Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company (who BSF fans know as Cafe Mor, British Street Food Awards winners of Best of the Best in 2012) and last year’s champs Gourmet Goat.

If you’re still wondering why anyone should be bothered, industry legend Yotam Ottolenghi – the outgoing head judge – hit the nail on the head when talking to BBC radio. And it’s something that might sound a little familiar.

‘All of a sudden there is a democratisation of the world of food all over the country. Where the really exciting stuff doesn’t happen at the top end restaurants – often it happens in food trucks, food markets, simple restaurants. And I think that’s the most wonderful thing happening at the moment.’

This year Giorgio Locatelli – who judged the finals of the British Street Food Awards in 2015 – takes over Ottolenghi’s mantle as head judge. Paula McIntyre, who judged at the very first BSFA Northern Ireland heat last year, and Romy Gill, who’s made huge waves in food of late, will assess entrants for Best Street Food or Takeaway (a role our founder had in 2014). So take note, traders – these are the people you’ll want to butter up.

That part about changing lives? No one’s saying that lightly. Dan Saladino – BBC Food Programme reporter and producer of the awards – ‘genuinely believes’ the awards not only change businesses, but everything else about our everyday welfare too. ‘It takes a lot of work to feed a school full of kids well, or to make a great cheese or turn up in the rain to sell fresh and delicious food at a market,’ he writes. ‘Our lives would be a lot poorer, the world a duller place and our economy less diverse without these producers or food figures.’

Are you one of those producers or food figures? Then you’re going to want to nominate yourself. And you’re going to want to do it soon – entries close on the 29th Jan. Best of luck.