The judging panels for previous BSFA finals are a Who’s Who entry of Michelin-star chefs, critics and triple-A cookbook writers of the food world: Tom Parker Bowles, Gizzi Erskine, Matt Tebbutt, Thomasina Miers, Mark Hix, Xanthe Clay, Simon Hulstone, Giorgio Locatelli, Rosemary Shrager, Neil Rankin et al. This year, at Grub in Manchester, we’ll be adding to that entry.
While the people will (of course) be having their own say at the Awards, voting for the People’s Choice, traders will also be looking to win one of the other awards by impressing Great British Menu judge and BBC R4 Kitchen Cabinet regular Andi Oliver, as well as Michelin-starred chef Brad Carter and food journalist, broadcaster, and BSF founder Richard Johnson.
The ‘Best of the Best’, decided by the judges, will win bragging rights and a ONE MONTH pitch at one of London Union’s mould-breaking markets (that include Dinerama, Hawker House and Model Market). And a prestigious spot in the British team for the inaugural European Street Food Award. So, this year more than any other, traders will be doing all they can to win.
You might think that Mayfield Depot – the Grub home in Manchester – is a change of pace for Andi Oliver. Certainly, judging on the BBC’s Great British Menu is a more formal affair. But her new Stoke Newington restaurant is all about relaxed everyday eating – whether it’s French toast or a Reuben sandwich. Andi knows full well that good scran can come from anywhere.
‘Being a judge on the Great British Menu means that I’m lucky enough to sample incredible food from chefs who are cooking at the top restaurants in the country,’ she says. ‘Just as important to me are the inspiring, innovative and incredible chefs at the helm of the street food explosion. It’s just brilliant that a new type of food hero has emerged.’
A good thing too – on Sunday the 17th, she’ll be in just the right place to cement these heroes’ status in the annals of street food history. ‘I love that the British Street Food Awards champions those geniuses’, says Andi. ‘I’m hugely excited about coming to Manchester to send a British champion to take on the best of Europe.’
Of course, you’ll recall Brad from last year. Part of the panel who crowned Baked in Brick as 2016’s Best of the Best at the final in Birmingham. It was a good moment for Brad, who’s restaurant Carters of Moseley shares Brum turf with Baked in Brick and last year’s People’s Choice Buddha Belly. Though we seem to remember he said he’d had enough of burgers – a potential issue when you’ve got 3 or 4 burger traders this time round.
‘Ha,’ says Brad. ‘Yeah it was because I was full after tasting 30 dishes! No, I think the burger remains as a street food heavyweight with some of the best street food burger venues progressing into their own restaurants, it’s a great thing to eat street food style in one hand, drink in the other.’
So what of street food in Manchester? ‘I’m not clued up on the scene,’ says Brad, ‘but looking through the finalists this year at the event there looks like a great mix of traders and cultures. I’m looking forward to trying Homeboys and Buffalo Truck, as I do love a bit of fried chicken. I really enjoyed the finals last year, as it was the best traders in one spot all cooking great stuff, so bring on this year.’