Last Thursday evening, there was a real buzz up on the terrace of the Oval in sunny Bethnal Green as more than 350 food journalists, broadcasters, cookery authors, educators and publishers gathered together to celebrate the power of sharing food stories.

Many speakers coming to Dartmouth Food Festival for this year’s Eat Your Words series of talks and discussions were at the awards and there was a surprisingly large Devon contingent – Food and Drink Devon sponsored the Restaurant Writing Award and the delicious food was made by Jane Baxter and her fabulous team at Kingsbridge’s Wild Artichokes. As counties go, Devon is up there with the best food tourism and wonderful produce to be proud of. 

The crowds were welcomed to the award ceremony by Guild President Xanthe Clay and the evening began with the first of two double wins – Rachel Roddy won both the Food Writing Award and Cookery Writing Award for her evocative work published in The Guardian Cook about the food she cooks in her Rome kitchen. Marina O’Loughlin won the restaurant writing award but in true undercover critic style, The Guardian’s Bob Granleese took to the stage to accept the award on her behalf from Food and Drink Devon’s Hayley Reynolds. Environmental journalist Louise Gray, author of The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat, also won two awards for best campaigning and investigative food work and best food book. 

In the food broadcast category, Dan Saladino, producer of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme was up against himself and his thought-provoking programme Food Stories from Syria 2 won the award. Humble as ever, Dan was delighted to accept his award and recalled one of the most touching moments from the recording of this programme: “As we were recording with a Syrian family in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, colourful plates of food started coming out of the kitchen with so much generosity. Food absolutely has the power to connect people and this programme was a really strong reminder of the importance of sitting together around a table to share food and experiences.” We look forward to welcoming him back to Dartmouth Food Festival this year once again as he hosts some of our Eat Your Words sessions on Saturday 21st October and also the Kitchen Confidential Q&A with top chefs on Sunday 22nd October.  

It was great to see Mark Diacono of Otter farm, near Honiton, and Catherine Phipps, author of Citrus, who together will be talking about the more exotic side of citrus at Eat Your Words, plus cookery author Oliver Rowe and Thornbury-based chef Romy Gill MBE who will also both be taking part in Eat Your Words. “I’m so excited about coming to Dartmouth for the festival again this year; I think this will be my ninth year and it’s one of my favourite events of the year,” said Romy who will be part of our Kitchen Confidential panel on the Sunday morning with a host of other top chefs. 

With so many inspiring food writers and change-makers all under one roof, it was an amazing night…and yet it was equally lovely returning home to Devon, a place that continues to produce so many vibrant food stories. 

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