Food Made Good Awards 2016: Leading the charge in a sustainable dining revolution

The initiative is an annual celebration of UK dining establishments that serve environmentally and socially ethical meals

Eating out is one of life’s greatest luxuries, but it can be hard to enjoy the experience without feeling guilty about how some element of your meal made it to your plate. Was the bacon from a happy pig? Does cod fished from the Irish Sea get a green tick or a red cross, or should it have come from the eastern Baltic? Did a wonky carrot get binned in favour of the pretty one? 

But being lectured by a restaurant menu while you’re trying to order isn’t much fun: it’s hard to get excited about choosing something just because it’s sustainable. 

Thank goodness, then, for the Food Made Good Awards, the new name for the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s annual celebration of dining establishments across the UK that serve environmentally and socially ethical meals. The initiative, which saw The Captain’s Galley, in Scrabster, Caithness, co-owned by chef Jim Cowie, share the top accolade of Sustainable Restaurant of 2015 with farm-to-café operator Daylesford, is in its fifth year, and the 2016 awards will be dished out on 22 March at a lunch at the Royal Horticultural Society in London. 

The SRA launched its Food Made Good campaign last autumn to make it easier for its 5,000-plus members to get their message across to customers. This followed research by Dundee’s Abertay University that found ethically produced food tasted better in a blind test. Raymond Blanc, one of the UK’s most respected chefs – and SRA president – wants diners to “put pressure on restaurants to produce and serve ethical food”. He added: “It is you, the consumer, who has the power. I want you to ask my waiters where the food comes from.”

As media partner for the Food Made Good Awards, The Independent on Sunday is delighted to invite our readers to open the nominations for one of last year’s most popular categories: the People’s Favourite Award (see box, right.) 

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One of the dishes on the menu at The Captain’s Galley

From 800 nominations last year, the Star Bistro in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, received more than 10,000 votes to be crowned the inaugural winner. The restaurant, which operates from two sites, is staffed by students from the National Star College, who all have disabilities.

Mark Linehan, the SRA’s managing director, added: “Recent years have witnessed a transformation in diners’ attitudes; a public recognition that there’s a host of ingredients that go together to make a genuinely good meal. The Food Made Good Awards recognise and reward those restaurants, cafés and caterers which are at the forefront of this revolution. 

“With the People’s Favourite Award we hope to unearth those restaurants that are not only serving fabulous food but are also the unsung heroes of hospitality and using the power of food to make a positive difference.”

The award for the business with the best strategy to tackle food waste is likely to be hotly contested too. Just last week it emerged that recent initiatives to reduce the amount of food thrown away have seen upmarket restaurants ditch à la carte dining in favour of limited set menus. 

One previous Best Food Waste Strategy award winner, The Belfry, in Yarcombe, Devon, goes one step further, requiring diners to order their food at least 24 hours in advance. Sarah-Jayne Martin, the co-owner, says the strategy means they don’t have to keep vast quantities of food in the fridge. “Customers can think it’s quirky, but they really enjoy their dinner, which tastes as fresh as it possibly can,” she said. Last night’s orders included roast quail with fig, shallot, thyme and honey, and a clementine tiramisu, she added.  

Most of the event’s 15 categories are judged over the previous 12 months by SRA inspectors, who visit members to assess how well they source food, treat  staff, engage with the community, and minimises environmental impact. Members, who receive a one, two, or three-star rating, range from huge groups such as PizzaExpress to the Michelin-starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire – and several contract caterers. 

The categories also include a Sustainability Hero, chosen by Raymond Blanc. Last year, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the campaigning chef who runs the River Cottage Cookery School in Dorset, took the title.

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A Star Bistro menu in Cheltenham

Nominate a ‘people’s favourite’ ... and win!

This is your chance to use your influence in the Food Made Good Awards 2016, in partnership with The Independent on Sunday.

Readers are invited to nominate for, and then judge, the People’s Favourite category. The Sustainable Restaurant Association and The IoS want you to tell us about the restaurant that leaves you with a full stomach, a happy heart and a great taste in your mouth. “This could be any UK restaurant that has demonstrated its sustainable credentials, be it via highlighting regional specialities, ...  concern for the environment or their community initiatives,” said an SRA spokesman. 

By nominating, you’ll have a chance to win dinner, bed and breakfast at one of eight fabulous boutique Red Carnation hotels, such as the Acorn Inn in Evershot, Dorset (right). The winner, chosen at random, can pick the hotel they prefer. Red Carnation won the Eco Hotel Group of the Year Award at the AA Hospitality Awards 2014; you can see its full list of hotels here: http://www.redcarnationhotels.com/.

The shortlist will be published on 21 February; T&Cs apply. For more details and to make a nomination, visit foodmadegood.org/awards/peoples-awards/.

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