Returning for their second year, the olive Chef Awards are all about celebrating your local food heroes. Back in the summer, you voted in your droves for those chefs having a positive impact on the food you eat, the communities you live in, and even (in the case of the sustainable star) the planet as a whole.
We whittled those down to a sterling shortlist of 30, all of who deserve a massive pat on the back. Support them with your business (they’re worth it, trust us) and enjoy plenty of their recipes, restaurant reviews, podcasts, interviews and more.
Our esteemed judges – Samyukta Nair, Zoe Adjonyoh, Mark Taylor and editor Laura Rowe – have spent the past couple of months travelling the country, meeting these great chefs, tasting their food and learning their stories. These are the winners they selected…
The 2019 winners
This category was the most popular with you last year, and received the most nominations. 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 or use recycled materials in the design of their restaurant and they’ll probably grow some of their own produce.
Winner: Tommy Banks, York
Best street-food chef
The street food scene has exploded in the past decade, and now we expect restaurant quality whether we’re in the middle of a muddy field at a festival, or in a car park during our lunch hour. We’re looking for a chef that is producing the finest on-the-hoof food in the smallest of spaces. Sweet or savoury, original or authentic, this is the chance to shout about your favourite.
Winner: Robert Radoni, The Gorilla Kitchen, Brighton, Worthing & Steyning
Vegan, veggie, plant-based, raw – however you want to call it, vegetables are quite rightly having a moment and we want to know the chefs celebrating this. Meat and fish can be on the menu, but veg have got to be the stars.
Joint winner: Henrietta Inman, Stoney Street, London SE1
Joint winner: Bindu Patel, Sanctua, Leicester
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 from everyone else. This will be the chef who has changed the way you think about food.
Joint winner: Nina Matsunaga, The Black Bull, Cumbria
Joint winner: Gareth Ward, Ynyshir, Wales
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 person who cooks, owns and runs the whole restaurant. They’ll be washing the kitchen laundry on their days off, tending to the allotment before service, and paying the wages – as well as serving up great plates of food.
Winner: Rajiv KC, Rajiv’s Kitchen, London
There are plenty of chefs 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 the local homeless shelter? Does your favourite chef have special initiatives to work with vulnerable people? Does your local cookery school provide classes for those in need of it most? Let us know!
Winner: Rachel Stonehouse, Luminary Bakery, London N16
Best pastry chef
Not every chef can master the science of the sweet stuff – this award is about celebrating those that have. We want to find the restaurant chefs finishing the meal with the same pace, innovation and quality as the savoury courses. We want to discover those crafting the perfect pastry, decorating the most intricate desserts, producing the most delicate, flavourful cakes, and moreish petits fours.
Winner: Mark Perkins, Rosewood, London WC1
If you think the hours of a chef are tough, meet the bakers. Those that exist on only a few hours of sleep a night – those that knead, roll, bake, repeat, while we’re still in bed. We want to meet those artisans who obsess over lamination, who’ve nurtured a sourdough starter like it was a member of their family, and who get you returning to their bakery every weekend.
Winner: Aidan Monks, Lovingly Artisan, Kendal, Cumbria
Our 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 well placed to find the best unsung chefs in the country. “The way we eat, talk and write about food is dramatically changing, as the world changes around us, and so now more than ever it’s so important to celebrate those that are making a positive impact on the food we eat, the communities we live in, and the planet.”
Bristol-based journalist and restaurant inspector Mark has written for a number of newspapers and magazines for the past 20 years. He started out writing about pop but when food became the new rock ’n’ roll, he swapped interviewing bands and watching gigs for reviewing restaurants and interrogating chefs.
Samyukta is the co-founder, with her father, of gourmet Indian restaurant Jamavar, which has five restaurants across India, and opened its first London outpost in 2016. Sam divides her time between London and Mumbai, where she has grown up in the family business, the luxury hotel group, Leela Palace Hotels. She launched the Jamavar Women’s Club three years ago, where she invites leading ladies to come and give inspiring talks, and created a hugely successful networking platform for women.
After taking the leap from home cook to professional chef in 2011, Londoner Zoe quickly gained attention for her pop-up restaurant, supper club and catering company Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. She’s since published her own cookbook, been honoured at the Iconoclast Dinner Experience at the James Beard House in New York and, earlier this year, presented a TEDx talk on food as a cultural stepping stone.