The Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards 2009

How did the food awards start, back in 2000?
The Food Programme has always taken the wide view of food. We knew there were a lot of people who were propping up the food culture but who were being completely ignored, so we wanted to celebrate them. Derek Cooper [the founder of The Food Programme] and I were at Highgrove with the Prince of Wales one day and we asked the prince if he'd support the awards. He agreed, which gave them oomph right from the start. The first awards ceremony was held at St James’s Palace in 2000. The awards went into areas that were completely uncelebrated, like old peoples homes, hospitals and so on. We introduced the dinner lady Jeanette Orrey, for example, to Jamie Oliver at the awards, which helped inspire his school dinners campaign.

How have things changed since you started the awards?
At first it was hard and we just got a few nominations. Now it’s almost overwhelming. Last year we got over 2,000 nominations, which was a record, and we expect more this year. Since we started the awards ten years ago the whole culture of food has changed. Then, we were fighting against the idea that food was of no consequence and had no political ramifications. Now there’s a greater acceptance that food matters.

Have the categories for the awards changed?
Yes. We now include takeaways, as there are enough good ones. Many are buying locally, and making a difference. They have an influence beyond the immediate site. We also have a food markets category and while we used to just focus on farmers markets we've now opened it up to all food markets – last year the award went to Bury market.

Have you lost any categories?
Yes, we used to have a Mouldy Pork Pie award which we gave for two glorious years. This was given to people who had done the most to ruin the British food culture. The first year it went to the vending machine industry and all credit to them, they were smart enough to come and collect the award, a cake made to look like a mouldy pork pie. The second year the award went to McDonald’s. After those two years, though, we decided to focus on the positive.

What difference does getting an award make for those that win?
It can have a profound effect on the economics of a business. It’s good for marketing, turnover and profile. The Real Food Café in Tyndrum, for example, was seriously boosted by its Best Take-Away award. This was a rebooted Little Chef long before Heston’s effort. Another business which was given a big boost was John Mettrick of J W Mettrick which won Best Local Food Retailer in 2005. I think Peter and Henrietta Greig of Pipers Farm in Devon, who won best Food Producer in 2007 have a similar story.

There are lots of food awards these days but Jamie Oliver has called the Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards the Oscars of the food world. Why do you think they are so important?
Because it's not just thinking about food as something pleasurable, but an integrated part of our lives and the health of our cities and countryside. We hope that people will realise that it matters where we shop and what we eat. The awards shine light on people who don’t normally get noticed, and are not glamorous.

Will the recession have a negative effect on the awards, do you think?
No, I don’t think so. In fact, we’re expecting even more nominations this year. In the middle of the downturn, we want to look at food production as an engine of the economy. Our award winners are some of the most entrepreneurial people I’ve ever met.

The BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards are organised by the Food Programme and Farming Today. Click here to make a nomination for the 2009 awards.


Comments: 1

Your food heroes

Mon, 06/07/2009 - 08:55
Cavan Scott

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Cavan Scott


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