The decision by two top chefs to withdraw from participating in the Eat Out Restaurant Awards has heralded the introduction of a new model which will be launched in 2020.
Chefs Chantel Dartnall and Luke Dale Roberts, of Restaurant Mosaic and The Test Kitchen respectively, indicated they wanted to make space for the next generation of younger chefs.
“We respect and agree with the sentiment behind the announcements by both chefs, and we appreciate that they value Eat Out sufficiently to take the action they have,” said managing director of New Media, Aileen Lamb. “We’re in contact with both chefs as their support of Eat Out over many years has been significant, and we wish to work together with them and other stakeholders to grow and develop the industry, and ensure the awards system is fair, inclusive and primed for growth.”
EatOut is both an annual magazine and event which, said Lamb, have evolved of the 21 years of their existance. The awards, she said, were “driven by continuous feedback from the top chefs and restaurants, media, the industry at large and international trends”. She said constant improvement was a given, and two years ago, the scope was broadened to include a Top 20, not just a Top 10, and a short list of 30 nominees, which allowed judges to honour many more chefs than before. In 2013 a Rising Stars award that celebrates the next generation of chefs was introduced..
“We remain ready to collaborate and to listen to the industry. Over the last six months we have researched local awards models and been in conference with several international awards bodies to ensure we make decisions that are primed for the growth of the whole industry. We’ve evaluated their successes – and failings – to arrive at a suitable local and inclusive model that gives chefs and restaurants the honour they deserve,” said Lamb. “The goal is a model that embraces more of the industry, celebrates and encourages innovation, and acknowledges excellence without ranking it in numbers.”
This, she added, would form the basis of EatOut’s new awards model. “We have almost completed our criteria and mechanism modelling, which will go out to the industry in the coming months for broader input,” she said. “The announcements from chefs Chantel Dartnall and Luke Dale Roberts have fast-tracked this process and we will be launching feedback sessions and an inclusive process with the industry over the next two months.”
To this end, a survey has been sent to all restaurants in South Africa. “Our aim is to announce the new model early in 2020 as we begin judging for the new year,” Lamb said. “A critical element of the Awards, which will be retained in the new model, is that they are not based on restaurants entering, being nominated, or paying to be included. The Awards echo international systems that use anonymous judges, who visit unannounced and pay for themselves in full.”
Lamb said the aim was to be as inclusive and supportive of excellence as possible. “We will continue on this journey with the industry we are so passionate about, and we invite and encourage direct feedback and collaboration to ensure Eat Out continues to shine a light on the very best talent South Africa has to offer. A structured industry outreach is planned for early 2020 but comments can be sent now to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.”
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