Coffee is at the forefront of a new awards scheme, which sets out to tell the public about the remarkable food and drink that is now available from street vendors.
The British Street Food Awards are the idea of food writer and broadcaster Richard Johnson, with the support of such foodies as Marco Pierre White and Antony Worrall Thompson. There are apparently 10,000 street vendors in the UK, and Johnson’s project is to tell the public that ‘there are real food heroes working out there’.
Hot drinks, in particular coffee, are a major part of his interest. Johnson himself and his chef colleagues launched the contest with a photography session at Whitecross Street market, one of the ‘cool’ foodie locations in London.
When we enquired whether he knew of the coffee interest there, he immediately came back with the name of local hero Gwilym Davies as 2009 barista champion (although, curiously, he did not know of Gwilym’s later elevation to world champion status).
“Hot beverages lead the way in street food!” he told us. “I’m a coffee enthusiast rather than an expert. But ever since doing a TV series in Ethiopia, which led me to real coffee experts, I’ve understood that the difference between good coffee and bad coffee can be huge.
“I believe that a lot of these coffee people out there with Piaggio vans and carts have already got the right idea, and are showing the way – they’re presenting a great product right to the market, and doing so as individuals, not as part of some capitalist monopoly.
“Mobile traders are a great advert for good food, and Whitecross Street is typical of what street food should be about – something above the ordinary. Street food around the world is exciting, but you would never have said that of Britain… until now.
“Let’s reward these people, and by doing so, shame the rest, by showing how good all out-of-home food really can be!”
The awards are now open for public nomination at the project’s website.
Apart from coffee and hot drinks, the categories include Best Pie, Best Dessert, Best Cold Drink, Best Main Dish, Best Sandwich and Best Looking Mobiler. There will also be a People’s Choice award, and an overall winner.
The winners will be recognized at next year’s Ludlow Food Festival.
“It won’t be a ‘white tie’ occasion,” says Richard Johnson, “it will be ‘white apron’. And it will start a revolution in the way we eat.”
By Ian Boughton