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S6 E5 –Are food awards important?

A michelin star is pretty much the pinnacle in the world of food. But what other awards are out there and do you actually need one to be deemed a successful chef? Today’s debate brings in Sorted’s resident chefs Ben and James and they talk about their goals and careers relative to when they were just starting out.

Best soundbite: “So James, when did you give up all your hopes and dreams and aspirations to come and work for Sorted?” – Jamie Spafford

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  1. raptorwrecks

    with it seems the majority here, as food awards don’t determine where I eat. I assume most of them are maerketing-based really, as anyone can slap an award on their stuff.

    on the other hand, I really enjoy local awards. like the ones at county fairs or local newspapers. something that is more social and you can actually be involved in personally.

  2. badinflspeaks

    Like most of the others posting, I don’t pay much attention to awards or Yelp/Google reviews. Too often I’ve seen with our local paper’s food awards that they go to national chains and not local businesses. That being said, I have Celiac so I have a couple of apps and a few bloggers I trust to give me the low down on whether or not I’m going to get glutened when trying somewhere new. Occasionally I find a new place from an article like “20 female-owned Orlando restaurants you should have tried by now” or something similar. It’s how we found an amazing meatball place (with half the selection being gf) and a new cheese shop.

  3. theanita1

    Maybe not awards per se, but I take instagrammers or blogs that I follow or sorted club recommendations – I mean, Emilia’s was amazing and I ate their because I’m a club member otherwise it wouldn’t have been in a location I woud have normally gone out in London.

    But I think that industry awards are important because they create momentum and urge people to strive for better – a little healthy competition.

  4. kryan002

    I really liked James’ comment about not paying attention to Google reviews of restaurants. It felt obvious after it was said, but it’s so true. Most reviews are either a rave yes or a rave no without a middle ground. I instinctively go right to the written comments and sift through to find those I feel are written by someone I would dine with. If that makes sense.

    On a side note, could we get Ben out of the broom closet? When listening to just the audio, Ben sounds like he is across the room. (Might be related to microphone placement) Thank you for all the hard wonderful work gentlemen!

  5. Annie1962

    Totally unrelated but here’s a suggestion to make SORTED more interactive

    How about setting up a PO box so people can send you (CUSTOMS SAFE) items of food, spices etc from their country of origin .. your job is to create something from these gifts.

    Here in Australia we have some wonderful spices (bush spices) which I’m sure Ben would have BALL experimenting with, Make sure no one sends the rotten fish Baz loves so much. 😉

    • Bebbrell

      PO BOX is always tricky for that exact reason… but intrigued to hear about the bush spices. What are they? We may be able to source them anyway. 😀

      • theanita1

        Aussie treats include Lemon Myrtle, Finger limes, kutjera (bush tomatoes), quandongs, Warrigal greens, lilly pillies, pepperberry, saltbush…

        There was actually an Australian version of River Cottage (wasn’t as good as Hugh) and in a few episodes they use native produce.

      • Annie1962

        Re PO Box – I think illegal stuff would be confiscated anyway so it wouldn’t reach you 0- but still it’d be fun to do a little more investigating the possibility

        Re bush tucker – what theanital said.. I think you’d be intrigued by finger limes and lily pillies (which would probably be available dried. Here’s a link.


        I think this is where UK peeps can order stuff as customs (with large glass jars) can get tricky so peruse this site .Hopefully you can get something – cross fingers

        Still you and the team could come and visit down under – you wold loooove the food , the warmth, the people and Melbourne is pretty much the best place for restaurants (Sydney peeps might argue that) I would say Margaret River region in Western Australia is awesome too. You also will love Tasmania,

        Upside down hug from down here in W.A 🙂

  6. Annie1962

    Food awards? Ok they do carry some weight but it’s good to also see reviews from everyday diners like ourselves. I think it’s a bit cynical of James to say that online reviews are not to be trusted.

    I always refer to online reviews and ignore the extremes like 5 star reviews which basically are very general, don’t even specify the dishes eaten and only make statements like ZOMG!! THIS PLACE IS AWESOME!!!!!! Sometimes, these wholly awesome reviews are by people with vested interests in the restaurants being reviewed.
    Why is it awesome? What did you eat? Why did you like the meals? If these things aren’t discussed.. I ignore them.

    The same goes for any very bad reviews without any specific reasons as to why.
    I tend to look at the middle of the road reviews, checking how many reviews the person has created etc… so it’s basically do your own investigations through the reviews
    I find that the vast majority are honest and will read through a few before I make up my mind.

    • Bebbrell

      Good point! Vetting reviews is important… much like identifying the validity of any ‘research papers’ when exploring a subject on nutrition or similar.

  7. alm477

    I have to concur with most of the others here–awards don’t generally mean much for my decision making in choosing a place to eat. Awards like “Voted best _______ restaurant by the community” can be a nice indicator too, assuming you live in that community. A Chinese restaurant voted best Asian restaurant by my local community might not match up with what people from China would actually find good.

    Also, awards a place has won might not be for something I actually want to consume. A bunch of breweries have sprung up where I live but I couldn’t care less if any of them have won awards for beer since I don’t drink. What matters to me is if they have good food (which some of them really do) which they may definitely have even if there are no awards saying so. I don’t seek out fine dining (and there is little of it where I live), but a Michelin star or five is not going to be enough to get me to go into a restaurant–I’d have to see the menu first. Frankly the place you mentioned is a bit of a relief almost, because that does sound nice and is way less intimidating.

  8. Tyler_Mca0717

    Hmmm…well food awards I think are more for making people feel good about themselves and their skills. You can be an absolutely amazing chef and never win a true “award”. I do however agree that your consumer and their feed back on your food is the truest award for any chef. Happy faces in my opinion, as a very amateur family cook, is the best award any chef can earn.

  9. Dimi

    Like everyone seems to be saying, when it comes to dining out an award or star is not likely to sway my decision anywhere near as much as recommendations and reviews. As far as I know Michelin STILL doesn’t publish Australian restaurants so that’s not an option. We do have 2 of the top 100 in the world in Melbourne, but both are way out of my price range to generally be considered outside of very special occasions.

    As for food awards on labels etc, I think if I’m tossing up between a couple of items, like say cheese, I’ll admit to being more likely to try one that’s won awards. But I do that with an underlying sense of realism that it probably doesn’t mean much, especially if it’s some award I’ve never heard of.

    • Bebbrell

      So true – the marketing value of an award on a label does sway decision… but with a healthy dose of reality too!

  10. Lmrocha726

    Living in SF, the sheer amount of restaurants clustered together in such a close proximity can make it really difficult to choose where to go for a special night out…so for those sorts of occasions I do my research ahead of time. I usually look at the Michelin Guide, not necessarily stars, and Google reviews. I feel that Yelp takes much more effort to rate, so it does draw ratings from the two extremes, but since Google is integrated into every single thing on my phone (maybe just because I’m an Android user), a notification pops up whenever I visit a restaurant to rate my experience and it’s literally as easy as the push of a button. So because it’s so effortless, I tend to trust Google because a larger number of people can rate somewhat passively without having a personal strong feeling to motivate the feedback.

    Aaanyway, in short, no, awards don’t matter to me more than recommendations and ratings do. And even if a friend recommends a place, I’m going to do my research on it ahead of time. An award might sway me in one direction if I’m on the fence, but I don’t actively seek out award-winning places.

    I’m going to London this winter and already have a list of place to eat (more places than I can probably visit in the time I’ll be there) and the list is entirely made up of places I’ve seen you all try/visit on Best of London and Mystery Night Out (which I think you should do another round of, btw) – so it’s going to be a trip completely full of your guys’ recommendations! Thank you in advance!

  11. suebarnes

    Personally, when dining out, no they’re not important to me because I don’t live in London. You google 10 best restaurants near me and you get, as James said, keyboard warriors, who either give five stars or one and it is meaningless. I looked at a couple on sites like trip advisor, google ratings and open table and to be honest i wouldn’t take my dog to most of them, so I tend to listen to personal recommendations instead. On the other hand, if I ever go to Cleveleys, I always go to one shop that makes ‘award winning’ pies, I buy one to munch as I browse and a few to take home. Does it matter to me that they have won gold medals? I don’t know cos they are really lush pies but I did originally go to the shop cos they had won an award.

    • Bebbrell

      It’s just a fact, you’re right, we tend to trust peer-to-peer reviews and words of recommendation from close friends or family than anywhere else! It’s why we always trust the suggestions from you guys when we do ‘Lost and Hungry’ or ‘Game Changers.’ We’ll all essentially friends!

  12. Foolofatook919

    So, I pretty much agree with all of your takes on this matter. I don’t pay a lot of attention to food/restaurant awards because they may or may not actually be indicative of the quality of the food. Some awards are based completely on popularity (public/committee votes) and some are given based on one person’s (or a small group of people’s) personal taste and preferences which may not align with my own. Not that awards shouldn’t be given or valued, but I think there are a lot of amazing chefs out there who will never get an infamous award for their food yet make a great quality, creative product that deserved to be joyfully purchased and consumed regardless.

    And this is definitely an award winning club in my eyes 😂

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