On 12 April 1984, a group of the great and good in the British food world gathered for lunch at London’s Intercontinental Hotel to enjoy a rather superb lunch devised by the hotel’s celebrated chef Peter Kromberg.
Among others, Lady Arabella Boxer, Miss Elizabeth David, Mr. Christopher Driver, Mrs. Jane Grigson, Miss Claudia Roden, Mr. Michael Smith and Mrs. Katie Stewart enjoyed a Petit Nage de Sole et Homard aux Asperges, followed by Magret de Canard au Foie Gras en Cage, with a Soufflé au Fromage preceding an Assiette de nos Desserts. The purpose of this grand and memorable event was to discuss the formation of an ‘association of food writers’. In the way of such things, a debate arose about whether or not it would be an élite Académie in the French style or something along the lines of the already existing Circle of Wine Writers. The latter won the day, but in so doing lost the group the support of the person who had been seen as its first president, Elizabeth David.
On 17 January 1985, the first actual meeting of the Guild of Food Writers took place in the equally august surroundings of Claridges, under the chairmanship of Derek Cooper.
In the years that have followed, the Guild has grown to a membership of around 425 professional writers, editors, journalists and broadcasters in the field of food, nowadays equally at home in Thai gastropubs and farmers’ market food tents as in the marbled halls of grand hotels.
The Guild has become a significant force in its field, being among the first organizations to lobby government about the potential risks of genetically modified food; to emphasize the importance of local produce and food producers; to encourage seasonal eating; to attempt to raise the standard of food in our national institutions, from schools and hospitals to prisons and even motorway cafés; and to encourage children to cook.
The Guild’s annual awards for food books, journalism and broadcasting are now regarded as premier in the field, and its annual CookIt and WriteIt competitions aim to identify and foster the great cooks and food writers of the future.