Michelle Berridale-Johnson talking to Dominic Teague, Executive Chef of award winning Indigo restaurant
Now December is here it’s hard to miss all the Christmas menus and festive foods that are being advertised – but if you have food allergies, it can be a bit depressing. Or at least it used to be. There’s no denying that the freefrom shelves of the supermarkets are groaning with more festive foods than ever before – but are we seeing better provision in restaurants?
I am seeing a daily stream of freefrom Christmas cake pictures on our Twitter feed but haven’t seen many freefrom Christmas menus advertised. Is this because it has now reached the point where it is so mainstream that restaurateurs don’t feel the need to sing too loudly about it?
The very successful Food Matters Live conference took place 21-23rd November and there’s no denying there was a lot of noise around the current freefrom market and it’s future.
In addition to seminars, speeches and exhibitors bringing the latest products to market – we also got to witness the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards presentation.
We’re the very proud sponsors of the café’s, coffee shops and tea rooms category and were thrilled to see 22 eateries on the shortlist. It was also great to see entrants from locations all across the country. The overall winner came from this category too – Labyrinth Holistic Café of Stockton On Tees – a not for profit business that caters for all diets, serving food of amazing quality and value.
The prizes were presented by Dominic Teague, Executive Chef of Indigo restaurant. Dominic was also a winner on the day, as his restaurant was officially presented with the newly created Pathfinder Award. This award was created when the Indigo story first broke earlier in the year.
Indigo restaurant is located in One Aldwych, a top Covent Garden hotel. Dominic made the bold step of making his menu entirely gluten and dairy free – and didn’t tell anyone or advertise for the first three months. None of the regular customers noticed. The food was of such a high quality that over time the bookings increased and once the story broke they saw an even bigger spike in numbers.
And it is the success stories of these two very different establishments that should give us all hope. If a fine dining restaurant in Central London can and will do it and if a community café in a small town can do it, why can’t anyone else?
If you look at the category list and the large numbers of places that made it on to the shortlist, it is clear that freefrom dining is not just a trendy fad for London foodie types – people up and down the country are looking for and happily now finding pubs and cafes, hotels and chip shops where they can eat good quality freefrom food in an environment where they will feel welcome and safe.
So congratulations to everyone who made it to the shortlist, everyone who won and everyone involved in organising the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards. It is such an important event because it has done so much to raise the profiles of the restaurants and chefs working hard in this area and it is making everyone realise just how much influence an allergic diner has and how much good can come from catering well and safely for them.
We were very proud to play our part by sponsoring a category and assisting in the judging. It was a privilege to be involved and we will continue to play our part in making eating out with allergies easier and safer for all.