Skip to main content

Guild of Food Writers Awards

Last night, The Guild of Food Writers had their annual awards at Opera Holland Park (for the second time). It is always nice to spend time at an event in our theatre that isn't about opera.

The awards are actually quite a feverish event, and not just because of all the lovely wines, bubbles and food (the Scotch beef cooked in a Big Green Egg was one of those mind-altering things you occasionally eat) but because of the intensity of the enthusiasm of the attendees. I don't know if the old adage that writers, who spend so much of their time alone, go at social gatherings with greater alacrity applies here, but it could be a factor.

Food in the UK has become so democratic - anybody can have a fine, authentic meal for a moderate price - and good food writing is easy to find too. In fact, one of the most interesting things about food writing, perhaps more than any other subject, is the way that blogs can very quickly become hugely popular, and the Guild's awards recognise this. In publishing, food books become big sellers and there is a proliferation of books that are beautiful things in themselves, especially the hybrid travel/food books.

So with over three hundred writers, chefs and publishers gathered together to celebrate all of that, you would be forgiven for expecting to hear lots of pretentious twaddle - but not a bit of it, certainly not in the many conversations I had. Maybe that's a British thing; it might be the case that a gathering of Swiss chefs would be as haughty as it comes. At OHP last night, the overwhelming impression was of genuine passion for all things food, with people excitedly telling each other about restaurants, or other blogs, or recipes their aunt had. There were some great stories too, like that of Elly McCausland and her blog Nutmegs Seven, which won Blog of the Year. She is an Oxford graduate who started writing about food to get Chaucer out of her head, and who, despite her success, is still upping sticks to go to Denmark to do two years academic research into children's literature (I don't know why, but I found that very cool indeed).
Or the more starry Russell Norman, founder of the hugely successful Polpo, who won for a book about food in New York, and still wants to hear great restaurant recommendations and talk animatedly about Cacio e pepe.

Everybody eats food of course, and it shouldn't really seem out of the ordinary that a gathering of people who make their living out of grub would be enthusiastic about it, yet there was something unusual, to my mind at least, about the all-consuming thrill they seemed to feel. I like to cook, but writing about it is not something I could ever do because I think there is a very particular skill in elevating, by description, what is our most basic human need (reviews on TripAdvisor don't count). I can scarcely write a list of ingredients for the things I make, so I have a high regard for those who successfully turn food into art on a page.

Congratulations to all the winners.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Panic! Culture and the working class

A new report on the working class relationship with culture has been doing the rounds recently.
Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries (which you can find here (http://createlondon.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Panic-Social-Class-Taste-and-Inequalities-in-the-Creative-Industries1.pdf) comes at the issue from the point of view of the working class and their opportunities to find careers in the cultural sector. I usually concern myself most with the audience aspects of this debate but this report does touch on matters that relate to that, too. The general issue was also recently making waves with respect to entrants into Oxbridge and with Owen Jones's huge Twitter spat about the class of those in the media. 
The Panic! report takes data from various sources and draws conclusions from it. Some of the conclusions are based on what appear to me to be oddly skewed impressions and some of the report sounds like an argument looking for a validation, rather t…

Emma Dent Coad - putting the record straight

Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad has again used OHP as a tool in her battles against RBKC. This piece https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/cleaners-strike-living-wage_uk_5b6867a8e4b0de86f4a3b509 once again quotes figures that are manifestly untrue.

The first time she quoted these figures was in her 'After Grenfell' paper on poverty. A great deal of misinformation has been circulated regarding OHP's costs over the years and the amount of money the council spent. Inflating, misreporting and dramatising the cost of supporting public arts only adds to the sense of outrage, increasing the climate of fear around local authority support for culture. When these arguments appear, little reference is made to expenditure on other services the council provides. We are an easy target.

Emma Dent-Coad's "After Grenfell" paper tied OHP to the disaster and quoted a FOI report from RBKC that purportedly revealed the council had spent "£30 million over 15 years" on the…

Audiences will decide the future of opera

I have news: the audience will decide the future of opera.
When our season at Opera Holland Park comes to an end, I pore over spreadsheets trying to find reasons why our audience have behaved in the way that they have, and the most concentrated analysis tends to come after seasons during which our house has been full. The theory is this; if we have underperformed, we are programmed to find solutions, but if we have performed well, we are less likely to look for the gremlins that might lose us that ever-capricious audience in a trice – you are never more vulnerable than when you are successful.  Sometimes, though, one can miss the obvious, or perhaps ignore it.
In nearly three decades in opera, I have experienced one "boom" in the art form but an almost perpetual "crisis" of confidence, an alarmed perma-reflection on whether we remain relevant as an art form. This introspective brew is spiced by the occasional real crisis, like that recently at ENO, but we never reall…