On Monday we attended the awards ceremony for the prestigious André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards at the beautiful Goring Hotel, just around the corner from Buckingham Palace, enjoying wonderful wine, delicious canapés and excellent company.
Chair of the Trustees of the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards, Nicholas Lander, welcomed in the name of the three other trustees Sarah Jane Evans MW, David Gleave MW and Xanthe Clay, authors, publishers and other guests who had gathered to hear which of the six shortlisted books in each category had come out top.
From a diverse field of food books that ranged from traditional cookery books and culinary travelogues to popular nutritional writing, it was Stephen Harris’ book The Sportsman (Phaidon Press) which took the top prize in that category.
Stephen Harris, has lead an interesting life, to say the least. From musician in a punk band to history teacher to financial advisor to self-taught chef and owner of a Michelin-starred restaurant. His book is also more than just a book of recipes (of which there are many) – he eloquently writes about the culinary history and landscape of Kent, and also tells the story how he turned a ‘grotty run-down pub by the sea’ into the destination for all food lovers it is today.
British journalist, writer, columnist and assessor for the food category, Rachel Cooke, says, ‘the kind of book you want to win a prize like this must capture a moment, say something about where we are, as well as being inspirational, well-written, useful and expert. The Sportsman does that.’
The drink books category was equally diverse with books on champagne, beer, whisky and wine, from practical guides and boozy travel literature to glossy fountains of all knowledge on their subjects and it was one of the latter that was crowned the winner – Peter Liem’s Champagne: The Essential Guide to Wines, Producers and Terroirs of the Iconic Region. Beautifully produced by publisher Mitchell Beazley, it has a drawer of seven Louis Larmat vinicultural maps. This book is not just about the ‘big boys’ in the Champagne industry, but it also tells the story of hundreds of smaller producers and terroirs, makers of some of the best champagnes consumers are not even aware of.
Joe Fattorini, wine trader, writer, TV presenter and this year’s assessor of the drink books category said: ‘This is a book that we will return to for many years, not only as an authoritative catalogue or even a book that also explores perhaps the world’s most celebrated wine region, but as a book that asks questions about the nature of terroir and place. Peter Liem tackles uncomfortable truths hidden beneath decades of exquisite branding and positioning and tells personal stories among clearly-argued technical debates.’
Both winners in the food and drinks categories received a cheque over £2000.
There were two more awards presented on the night and both awards went to authors in the drink books category, who were presented with a cheque for £1500 each.
First up was Dave Broom for The Way of Whisky (also published by Mitchell Beazley), which won the John Avery Award, named after a founding trustee of the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards, for its in-depth research of Japanese whisky and culture, marrying the story of his personal journey visiting Japan’s whisky distilleries with profiles of the people he met: craftspeople, chefs, bartenders and others.
The fourth author to walk away with an award was British wine journalist Victoria Moore who received a Special Commendation for her The Wine Dine Dictionary (Granta Books), an innovative handbook that matches wines with food and food with wines.
Congratulations to all the winners and runners-up. May your books sell for years to come and enjoy many reprints.