olive chef awards dark horse
olive chef awards

For the past 15 years olive has championed the chefs that are making a difference to the way we eat in the UK. Instead of focussing on ‘celebrity chefs’ and ‘TV cooks’, we’ve sought out the professionals behind the pass who are breaking a sweat, innovating and pioneering. And this year, for the first time, we’re celebrating them officially – with the launch of the olive magazine Chef Awards, in association with Dark Horse Wine.

These awards salute those unheralded chefs – age, experience and location are no barriers – who have been quietly excelling in the background. We’ve carefully selected categories to find the best in their fields – whether it be a chef cooking up a storm in a converted VW camper in a car park somewhere, or a pastry chef pushing the boundaries of patisserie. Anyone can nominate – those in the kitchen, or you, the customer who’s been enjoying the fruits of their labour. 

Click here for the full list of the olive chef awards 2018 winners...

The categories

Sustainable star

This chef will be able to prove that they care just as much about the environment as the food they’re serving. They’ll be a pioneer of low-waste cooking, they may have invested in low-energy kitchen equipment and they’ll probably grow their own produce.

WINNER: Brad Carter, Carters of Moseley – Moseley, Birmingham

WINNER: Douglas McMaster, Silo and Cub – Brighton and London


Merlin Labron-Johnson, Portland – London

Sat Bains, Restaurant Sat Bains – Nottingham

Ellis Barrie, Marram Grass – Anglesey, Wales


Best street-food chef

We’ve all gone mad for street food over the past decade and those cooking in the small spaces of street-food shacks/vehicles have really upped their game. Earlier this year we even saw a Michelin-starred street-food pop-up in London. We’re looking for a chef that is producing the finest on-the-hoof food.

WINNER: Terri Mercieca, Happy Endings – London


Meriel Armitage, Club Mexicana – London

Pete Hewitt, Homeboys – Nottingham

Nick Archer, The Shellfish Pig – Cornwall and Devon

Find more of our top street food vendors in the UK here...

Veggie pioneer

Plant-based eating no longer means ‘clean’ salads or another mushroom risotto. This chef will be doing seriously cool things with veg. Meat and fish can be on the menu, but veggies have got to be the stars.

WINNER: Richard Buckley, Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen – Bath


Rob Howell, Root – Bristol

Kirk Haworth, Plates – London

Chantelle Nicholson, Tredwells – London

Click here for more of our favourite vegetarian restaurants in the UK...


Best pastry chef or baker

Not every chef can master the science of the sweet stuff – and this award is about celebrating those that have. We want to find the chef that’s baking the best bread, decorating the most intricate desserts, and producing the most delicate, flavourful cakes.

WINNER: Sarah Lemanski, Noisette Bakehouse – Leeds

WINNER: Calum Franklin, Holborn Dining Room – London


Florin Grama, Pophams – London

Ben Glazer, Coombeshead Farm – Cornwall

Check out more of our favourite bakeries in the UK here...

Small but mighty

Chefs are some of the hardest working people we know – and this award is about those that do more than just cook. They’ll be the one-man/one-woman bands who not only cook but run the whole restaurant. They’ll be washing the kitchen laundry on their days off, tending to the produce in the allotment before service, and paying the wages – as well as serving up great plates of food. 

WINNER: James Cross, Lake Road Kitchen – Lake District


Romy Gill, Romy's Kitchen – Thornbury, Gloucestershire

Bruce Rennie, The Shore – Penzance, Cornwall

Ben Harmer, Penrose Kitchen – Truro, Cornwall

Mandy Yin, Sambal Shiok – London

Community champion

There are plenty of chefs out there doing great things to give back to their community – and we want to hear about them. Do you have a dinner lady at your local school going above and beyond? Do you know about a baker donating unsold loaves to a local homeless shelter? Does your favourite restaurant have special initiatives to work with vulnerable people? Let us know!

WINNER: Tony Evans, Can Cook – Liverpool and Merseyside


Ellis Barrie, Marram Grass – Anglesey, Wales

Asma Khan, Darjeeling Express – London

Tom Brown, Cornerstone – London

Ben Quinn, Canteen – Cornwall


Dark Horse Wine award

Ever been to a restaurant and been surprised in the best way at what was served? We’re looking for a chef who’s seriously innovating and doing something truly different to everyone else.

WINNER: Luke French, Jöro – Sheffield


Jeremy Chan, Ikoyi – London

Sam Buckley, Where the Light Gets In – Stockport

Michael Carr, Restaurant 92 – Harrogate

Read about Dark Horse wines here...


Laura Rowe

olive’s editor has been writing about food for more than a decade. Having reviewed restaurants across the UK, interviewed dozens of chefs and authored the internationally acclaimed Taste: The Infographic Book of Food, she’s spent two years developing these awards. “We’re facing one of the biggest chef shortages we have seen in recent years so now it’s more important than ever to celebrate those making a positive impact on our food, the communities we live in, and the planet.”

Mark Taylor

Bristol-based journalist and restaurant inspector Mark Taylor has written for a number of newspapers and magazines for the past 20 years. He started out writing about pop music but when food became the new rock ’n’ roll, he swapped interviewing bands and watching gigs for reviewing restaurants and interrogating chefs.

Felicity Cloake

Felicity Cloake writes the Guardian’s award-winning How to Cook the Perfect... column, and is the author
of four books, the most recent of which, The A-Z of Eating, was shortlisted for the André Simon Food and Drink Book Awards. She lives in London with her dog, and always orders pudding.

Clerkenwell Boy olive chef awards 2018 judge

Clerkenwell Boy

Our favourite Instagrammer, Clerkenwell Boy has 175,000 followers (and counting), all watching where his latest meal is coming from. We love Clerkenwell Boy for his consistently great recommendations, gorgeous photography and incredible work on the Cook for Syria movement, of which he is a co-founder.

More about our sponsor…

Dark Horse Wine has a passion for crafting bold wines that deliver the unexpected. Its winemaker, Beth Liston, is constantly experimenting with new wine-making techniques, championing originality and, above all, taste. She brings a balance of classic technique and game-changing innovation to every single bottle. The result is a collection of bold, exceptional wines that defy expectation. Available at all great retailers nationwide. darkhorsewine.co.uk @darkhorsewineuk

Dark Horse Wine