The Golden Chopsticks Awards 2021 - I WON AN AWARD!

Back before when "coronavirus" was a household word I was delighted to learn I had been nominated for a brand new category in The Golden Chopsticks Awards founded by Gok Wan, TV presenter, fashion stylist and author. Lucy Mitchell, Managing Director of Oriental Food Specialist SeeWoo UK and Sarah Lewis, leading food and drink PR and communications specialist.  Fast forward to 2021 and the postponed awards ceremony finally went ahead and not only was I shortlisted for the new Rising Star award (sponsored by Just Eat) I only went and won it!

Afra Willmore, The Golden Chopsticks Awards Rising Star Winner

The Golden Chopsticks honours the stars of the East and West Asian food industry across the UK and if you are ever looking for somewhere fabulous to eat you could do worse than check out The Golden Chopsticks Award's winners page.

I had gone along prepared to enjoy a good night out at the very swish London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square hosted by the very lovely Gok Wan, with great food curated by legendary Ken Hom. My eldest son joined me - one of our last son/mum outings before he becomes a daddy in the next few weeks.

madmumof7 Afra Willmore and son Jacob at The Golden Chopsticks Awards

The judges for my category were a veritable Who's Who of venerable names- Ken Hom OBE, Jeremy Pang, Simon Rimmer, Sonny Yeong CBE, Tom Parker Bowles, Fushia Dunlop, Karen Barnes, Katy Tse Blair MBE, Eric Yu and Ping Coombes.

They apparently decided that my writing about the food and experience at Jin Li in London's Chinatown demonstrated passion, flair and humour and I was worthy of being named Rising Star.

I was shocked to win - I had not prepared a winner's speech only my gracious loser face. I certainly had not practiced an elegant winner's smile - in pretty much all of the photographs I am grinning like an absolute lunatic. The guys who presented my award, Masterchef winner Steven Wallis and Matt Bushby of Just Eat, must have been a bit startled when this tearful middle aged woman headed for the stage.

The Golden Chopsticks Awards 2021 madmumof7 on stage with Gok Wan, Steven Wallis & Matt Bushby

All my training on how to look OK in photographs went out of my mind and consequently I am immortalised on the GCAs website with a wide gap-toothy grin and many chins. 

Afra Willmore (madmumof7) with Steven Wallis and Matt Bushby

My dress was nice though thanks to Lisa-Marie of The Clothing Lounge, Cyprus where I managed to find an evening dress, embroidered throw and sequinned bag I loved at short notice at a bargain price. My necklace (if you can see it) is a cute little silver acorn created by Caroline Hendry-Smith from Notion Jewellery. (gifted)

I didn't really get the chance to properly thank people on stage so here goes:

Thanks to my friends and family who have been so supportive, especially my husband who has always maintained I am destined for great things. Thanks to all of my readers without whom this website would be completely pointless and quite lonely. And thanks to May from Eat Cook Explore who has taught me so much about Asian food and culture.

The Golden Chopsticks Rising Star award

My slightly garbled speech on stage tried to get over the fact that even a fussy eater like me can enjoy authentic Asian food. You just have to trust your chef and restaurant staff, tell them what you absolutely can't eat, how much spice you like and an idea of what you like and let them suggest dishes to try.

There is so much more to Asian food than Pho and sweet and sour battered balls - open your mind and give your tastebuds a treat.