Updated 20.06.2019: with comment from Lisa Markwell, food editor at The Sunday Times and AA Gill Award for Emerging Food Critics judge.
The inaugural winner of the AA Gill Award for Emerging Food Critics, billed as an award for “unpublished food writers,” is Kitty Drake, a food writer published 275 times by Time Out.
The Evening Standard reported that the writer’s prize — which in addition to a £5,000 cash payment, includes a published review in the Sunday Times’ Dish magazine — was announced at a dinner at the River Cafe in Hammersmith on Sunday night. The event, attended by Nigella Lawson and Amber Rudd, was hosted by Gill’s daughter, Flora, who, in her role as judge, had been moved to “laugh, cry, salivate and heave”.
Sunday Times food editor and judge, Lisa Markwell later told Eater in an email that “the AA Gill Sunday Times award is for emerging food critics — that is how the competition was billed, and that is how it was judged.”
The award — in honour of the late, celebrated restaurant critic — according to the Society of Editors, with whom the Sunday Times partnered on this initiative, specified that it was “open for entries from any unpublished writer for an article between 1,000 and 1,200 words.”
Thank you to everyone who entered the Sunday Times AA Gill Award for Emerging Food Critics. We had a HUGE number of amazing entries. The finalists have all now been informed. If you were unsuccessful theres always next year Reading them has made me laugh, cry, salivate and heave!— Flora E Gill (@FloraEGill) June 16, 2019
Drake, who has also written about friendship, sex, and relationships for Vice, is the co-editor of feminist publication, Ladybeard magazine, and an editor with Stack Magazine, an independent magazine subscription service.
Markwell confirmed that the two runners-up
are yet to be announced were Aicha Marhfour and Chris Newens. All three, she said, “write; the pieces they submitted were, as stated in the terms and conditions, previously unpublished. None of them are employed as food writers. These three were excellent pieces, worthy of publication in The Sunday Times.”
She added: “Of the nearly 800 who entered, a fair number were already writing in some form, somewhere — it’s to be expected that people who want to win a prize for writing are writers and that the best entries are from those who are good at it.”
The aim of the award, The Sunday Times wrote in March, was “to offer a launch pad to previously unknown writers based in the UK...Amateur critics who have published their own unpaid work on websites are welcome, but not employed food writers.” Drake, in her work for Time Out is listed both as “staff” and also a “freelance writer.”
“Unpublished” is a word used in the terms and conditions for those entering the award; both “unpublished” and “emerging” were selected for publicity purposes and, the latter, in the name of the award itself.
In association with the Society of Editors, it called for “bold, insightful and witty” entries which must be food related, whether restaurants, travel or television, but “should be more than just a critique of the contents of a plate”.
In addition to Flora Gill and Markwell, the other members of the judging panel were TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, restaurateur Jeremy King, Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin, and Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors.
No date has been given for the publication of Drake’s review.
Markwell confirmed that he winner’s piece will be published in the Sunday Times Magazine on 30 June.