On Tuesday evening I had the great pleasure of seeing my student Anni Reid scoop up two prizes at the Free From Food Awards in London.
Anni Reid of Focaccia per Tutti won the award for the best bread (presented by Lucinda, founder of Genius Bread) and then went on to scoop the highly prestigious Fair Trophy for the best free-from food for 2014. This was an amazing moment and I felt so proud and honoured to see Anni at the podium twice in one evening. The Fair Trophy in particular, is a ringing endorsement of what a good free from product should be. It should taste great! And the judges certainly agreed.
I met Anni a few years ago when she came on one of my gluten free workshops at Leith’s. We had a conversation after the course and we kept in touch, with me giving a few bits of advice here and there and Anni working hard to get her business off the ground. I often say at the start of each course “The objective of today is for you to leave this course feeling inspired to go out there and make great tasting gluten free food that everyone wants to eat”. Well Anni took me to my word and went out and did just that!
Over the last few years I’ve taught many people and lots of chefs about how to go about making a good tasting gluten free loaf. In every course there are at least one or two students who dream of starting a gluten free bakery or café and want to make great tasting free from food. Many will continue to dream and some will actually make it a reality. Making it a reality, takes a huge leap of faith and a lot of courage. Anni stood out as one of those students who really wanted to make this happen, so it was even more rewarding seeing her dream come true.
I had some time after the ceremony to speak with her husband Ian. He said, “that course was the best investment we could have made”. Anni was in between jobs and her husband bought her the course to give her a lift and give her something to look forward to as she was feeling a bit down and not sure what direction to take. Little did he know this would mean he would become chief taster at Focaccia per Tutti and the proud husband of an award winning producer. And how proud he was too, to see his lady being given the top award by Anthony Worrall Thompson.
I spoke afterwards with Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, founder of Free From Matters who started these awards many moons ago and who has tirelessly worked on promoting free from foods. She is the mastermind and whirlwind behind the Free From Awards along with her amazing helper and organiser Cressida. Michelle and Cressida along with a team of judges and experts work their way through a huge array of products each year. They have been the champions of free from foods and helped many small and large producers get a better understanding of what consumers want. They have raised the profile of the sector so that it now sits proudly shoulder to shoulder with mainstream products. Free From Foods may still be seen as niche, but they can no longer be ignored. The market for free from products has exploded and year on year, growth in this sector continues at a rapid pace. For me one of the best things about the awards is that they reward innovation , expertise and quality and taste. They are looking for the best tasting foods in each of their categories and the best news is, every year the products get better and the quality improves. There are some wonderful free from products out there and Michelle and her team are bringing them to the notice of buyers, industry experts and most importantly consumers.
Every year I see many of my students going for gold. They are making great tasting products, putting my mad and crazy baking techniques to the test and wanting to make a difference. I encourage, help and mentor where I can. But mostly I feel incredibly privileged to be a small part of why and how they started along that path. If I ever needed reassurance that I chose the right path and that teaching makes a difference, then Anni Reid is certainly proof of that.
For more information about Focaccia per Tutti, please visit the website
For more information about the Free From Awards and to see the list of winners, please visit the website www.freefrommatters.com
For more information about my gluten free workshops please visit my website www.glutenfree4kids.com