Last month saw the presentation the inaugural Free From Eating Out Awards. As increasing numbers of restaurants, cafés and pubs actively try to cater for diners with allergies and intolerances, these awards are a timely celebration of those establishments which cater well for those of us with dietary restrictions.
With the new EU labeling laws coming into effect today, it is ever more important restaurants, cafés and pubs understand the new rules and comply with the requirements to provide information on allergens in the food they serve. This should be a major step forward when eating out. I can’t wait to try out restaurants and their knowledge of this – it’s going to be interesting! You can read a good summary by Carly on the new regulations here.
I was delighted to be a judge in the Free From Eating Out Awards. The initial stages of judging involved reviewing a very lengthy questionnaire each entrant had completed. This covered many areas including menu, cross contamination controls and staff training. The responses were fascinating. Some so comprehensive and reassuring I was desperate to try the establishment. Others had some work to do in areas such as cross contamination controls.
Once a short list was produced of the best scorers, judges were asked to visit the short listed restaurants (incognito, of course!) and try the food as well as verifying during the visit the restaurant lived up to the statements they made in the questionnaire. However, in advance of the visit, we all called the restaurants to check how they would cater for our allergies and intolerances and how they would manage to avoid cross contamination etc. This is something I do with all restaurants I visit so it was an interesting exercise. Finally, we got to visit and try the food!
The Awards’ presentation was held during the Food Matters Live conference at Excel in London’s Docklands.
Anthony Worrall Thompson was presenting the Awards. It was interesting to hear from a restaurant owner the difficulties he faces in verifying allergens within his supplier’s products. Awards’ organiser, Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, made good points about the need for restaurants and cafes to cater for more than just gluten free – these were, after all, the Free From Eating out Awards, and not solely focused on gluten free.
The presentation had a great atmosphere as everyone nervously awaited the results. Glasses of Green’s India Pale Ale were handed out to the audience as well as oatcakes from another of the Awards’ sponsors, Nairns. As this was the first year the awards were held, they were smaller than the sister Free From Food Awards and you could feel how much winning meant to the small independents. The Alford Arms, Frithsden in Hertfordshire won in both the pub category and was also declared the overall winner. They had managed to produce a fabulous meal for the judge who has multiple allergies. Imagine, a friendly pub who can do that. Their reaction upon winning was priceless. They were so surprised and excited. (You can see a photo of the boys looking chuffed with AWT here). Genuinely something great to see how much it meant to them.
I was particularly excited that the restaurant I judged won in the restaurant category. Please check back for my review of Oscar & Bentley’s!