Bring on the judges... for our 11th annual Oliver Awards

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As the YEP’s Oliver Awards enter their 11th year, there are some big changes in store, including our new expert judging panel... so let’s meet them

The YEP’s Oliver Awards celebrates and recognises excellence in the local dining scene. Over the years, we have helped shine a light on some of the best restaurants and emerging stars in the restaurant industry. We take pride in giving local independent businesses their due and together with our brand new judging panel, we aim to continue that trend.

This year, in response to feedback from those in the industry and you, the diners and readers, we have introduced some new categories, one of which is Best Brewery, to pay homage to the thriving and still growing sector which has seen micro-breweries bloom across Yorkshire. There’s also a new ‘People’s Oliver’, decided entirely by you.

There’s a long way to go before the awards in March. In the meantime, we invite restaurants and members of the public to begin nominating by logging onto our dedicated website: www.oliverawards.co.uk, where you will find a full list of categories and how to enter. Look out for further updates and our Nominations supplement in November. Today, we are proud to introduce you to our panel of expert judges...

STEPHANIE MOON

Consultant chef Stephanie Moon has worked within the Yorkshire food scene for over 20 years. She is a regular at food shows throughout the county and runs her own successful business.

Following a career working for some of the finest hotels around the world, Stephanie appeared on BBC 2’s Great British Menu for three consecutive years and is a regular on Stray FM’s Food and Drink Show. She is also the winner of last year’s Outstanding Achievement Oliver Award.

A Yorkshire farmer’s daughter, Stephanie trained at Craven College, Skipton, gained experience at The Dorchester in London and was then taken on by world famous chef Anton Mosimann. During this time she cooked for the Queen at a state banquet.

She says: “I am thrilled to be asked to Judge this year’s Oliver Awards. Winning an award myself last year was a career highlight and I know firsthand how important this is to those who are nominated, or in my case totally surprised as I thought I was just presenting an award.

“These awards are a real talking point throughout our industry and seen as an impressive celebration of Yorkshire food scene.

“We are a spectacular food destination in Leeds and surrounding area. I am not surprised chefs and hoteliers alike want to be at the Olivers. There know they are the hottest tickets in town as well as being a cracking night out.”

SIMON JENKINS

Alongside her is author and journalist and our resident beer writer Simon Jenkins.

Simon first joined the Yorkshire Evening Post in 1991 and soon after began writing the pub column Taverner, which is still a weekly feature of the newspaper. He also contributes regular articles for our Oliver column - published every Thursday in the YEP’s The Guide supplement - and for the past ten years has written for the Yorkshire Food and Drink Guide. Simon is a former British Beer Writer of the Year and his third book, the Yorkshire Beer Bible, was published in August 2017.

He says: “I’m so looking forward to helping judge the Oliver Awards. Yorkshire has an abundance of fabulous restaurants, serving a host of different cuisines and it will be an absolute pleasure to help choose the very best to receive these prestigious prizes.”

Simon is well placed to take a lead on our newly forged ‘Best Brewery’ category, which aims to celebrate Yorkshire’s small brewers, of which there are hundreds, with dozens in Leeds alone. This new category represents a significant departure for the Oliver Awards, which have traditionally concentrated only on food but the change is an important one, as it recognises the changing dynamic within the food and drink industry.

AMANDA WRAGG

Complementing them both is esteemed food writer Amanda Wragg, who knows the Yorkshire dining scene inside out and has worked in the industry all her life.

Born in Sheffield, she was brought up in busy country pub in Derbyshire in the Peak District. Her parents were landlords all their lives. “I was pulling pints by the time I was 10,” she fondly recalls. She went to school in Bakewell and ended up working in the hospitality trade. When she came to Leeds to study at Carnegie College, she worked in pubs across Headingley and later joined Yorkshire Television, where she worked from 1971-1991, doing everything from working on Emmerdale scripts to producing.

Her knowledge of the food industry led to her contributing to the renowned Sawday’s ‘Special Places’ destination website and over the years she has worked for other notable food guides. She still writes for The Sunday Times and for many years had a column alongside Jeremy Clarkson, plus she and fellow food writer Jill Turton run the hotel/restaurant website Squidbeak.co.uk. Now based in Staithes on the east coast, she too said she was proud to be involved with the awards.

She says: “I think the Leeds dining scene has improved massively. When I was in Leeds 20 years ago it was a culinary desert. There was Salvo’s and a few other places but that was it. Now it’s improved, there’s so much choice. I think the awards are important; chefs, like authors, love them. It’s a boost to business, so why wouldn’t you?

“I think there’s some new interesting young chefs appearing on the scene, there’s a lot of people coming through and it’s a much better eating scene than it was even five years.”

Commenting on her judging style, of which The Yorkshire Post readers will be well aware, she adds: “My main purpose is to be completely honest. It’s how it is on the night. I’m of the school of thought that there’s no such thing as a chef’s night off. My hairdresser doesn’t have a bad day, so the chef shouldn’t either. We work hard to earn the money, people deserve to go out and eat well and be treated well. For me, it’s about guiding people to places where they can have a good night. You have to be honest with the public.”