The FreeFromFood Awards 2010 – the party...
Alex Gazzola's whimsical report from this year's FreeFrom Food Awards party
The quirky choice of setting was a major talking point among guests, and the Museum’s cavernous ice well – employed in the 19th century to store ice cream maker Carlo Gatti’s imported Norwegian ice – proved second in popularity only to the groaning table of gluten-free beers and ales, around which several guests were virtual fixtures for the evening - joined when they could be FoodsMatter staff keen to make the most of a rare day free from being force-fed a selection of sixty soya cheeses by Chief Tasting Taskmistress, Michelle…
As a ‘free from’ networking event, the FreeFrom Awards party remains without peer: representatives from many of the nominated producers – including Mrs Crimble's, Genius, Estrella, Swedish Glacé, Pure and many more – befriended one another, exchanged ideas and cards, and warmly wished each other luck, while the judges, including Simon Wright of OF+ Consulting and President of the Guild of Food Writers Jane Suthering, wove between them and mingled, while (grudgingly) rejecting all bribes to disclose winners.
GF beers aside, attendees also sipped pink fizz and feasted on caterers Leafi’s moreish freefrom canapés, including quails’ eggs, roasted Mediterranean vegetables on potato, beetroot salmon on coeliac-friendly bread, and spicy prawns (whose tails, in the absence of any suitable receptacle, FM’s Cressida and judge Suzy gamely chomped down regardless).
But soon it was onto Business. FM’s Jonathan vigorously rang the Canal Museum's ship's bell to bring the increasingly expectant throng to order and attention, and his papa, papa, paparazzo James paused his vigorous snapping to allow our CTT to call all upstairs for the main event…
Before revealing the rollcall of winners, Michelle thanked key sponsors Tesco and Livwell and category sponsors new and old for their support, without whom these Awards would not be possible, judges for their waist-expanding commitment to sampling, and supporter extraordinaire Antony Worrall Thompson for his ongoing championing of the ‘free from’ cause.
As for the category winners, many were in attendance to receive warm applause and enjoy their moment of glory alongside AWT, while others, thwarted by births, ill health or volcanic forces of nature, were represented by the game, beautiful Cressida and her glorious hats of many colours (and styles).
And the overall champ? Michelle faithfully recalled the amiable but heated discussion that had ensued in March between the judges, torn between half a dozen potential worthy winners. But eventually she broke the mounting tension by revealing that the new roof over the head of Marble Mo (the FAIR trophy for the best FreeFrom Food 2010 to you) would belong to the team from Pure Flavour, for their delectable lemon and vanilla sponge cake.
AWT spoke briefly to remind us of the seriousness of the subject of food sensitivities, and of his ongoing work in creating awareness among up-and-coming chefs who may not appreciate the full health implications of even the most apparently trivial of contaminations in the kitchen. It was a fitting and timely reminder that it is health, even sometimes life and death, which underpins the business in which we are all involved.
But it was an event for celebration, and it was ‘feelgoodness’ which characterised the remainder of the evening, as bottles were clinked and the surviving coeliac-friendly ales downed, before attendees spilled out into the night, clutching winning certificates and goody bags, and chomped on Mrs Crimble’s cheese bites all the way home.
Do come around soon, April 2011…