The Vintners Company – Vintners Hall

2009 - Dilly Boase

The winner  was a 26 year-old baker, Dilly Boase. She is absolutely crazy about bread and used her prize of £3,000 to travel round Italy learning all there is to know about baking in Italy.  She was working at the artisanal Born and Bread bakery in south London but planned to spend a month in Italy visiting bakeries to record bread-making processes and the life surrounding the loaf.  An artist by training, she fell in love with baking and began a course in Bread Technology at the National Bakery School but, disaffected by the technologies and additives involved, she abandoned it in favour of practical experience. She found Born and Bread by literally following her nose as she cycled past an industrial estate. ‘They couldn’t turn down someone so enthusiastic’, she says.

This was her dispatch from Puglia in late November 2009:

I arrived in Lecce on November 24th, and have been from there to Bari and Altamura, and now I have crossed Italy to Campania to go to Pompeii and Ischia. I hope that by the time I get to Rome (in a fortnight) I will be able to publish everything that I have seen and done so far: It has been truly wonderful to meet such dedicated bakers and I feel greatly inspired. My plan is now to cover Puglia, historic ovens in Campania, and the Tuscan coast before Christmas, and Valle D’Aosta and Sardinia after Christmas. I am in Naples tonight, where the doughy foods are producing rather doughy teenagers (vegetables have to be wrapped in dough before they are edible, or they must be deep fried, or wrapped in dough, then deep fried. Everything else comes in, on, or under dough, or one can just have dough, deep fried). There is lightning, thunder and torrential rain, and still there are scooters everywhere.

You can follow more of her travels, and admire her draughtsmanship, on With her increased knowledge she would like eventually to set up her own bakery with her brother, ‘a bakery linked to a cafe for students in Sheffield (start with the young..). For me, on the bakery side, this will be the chance to put into practice what I’ve observed. I intend to build a practical argument against the teachings of the National Bakery School, not because of a personal vendetta, but because we should have much better bread than is generally commercially available…. The bakery ’scene’ is very exciting at the moment, but I want it to be more than a fad. I’d like to spread awareness of the delights (and good sense) of good bread.’

The runner up Alison Thomson was to receive £1,000, enough to fund her air fare, to travel to Mauritania in West Africa. When she passed through the country on her motorbike ride from London to Timbuktu the previous year, she was struck by the poverty of this forgotten nation and wanted to return to research the potential of the country’s fishing industry for creating more wealth. She explained to judges of the Award, ‘Mauritania seems to have been forgotten by the world. The first democratically elected president in the country’s history was imprisoned after a coup last year. The capital, Nouakchott, is made up largely of shanties, street upon street of wooden huts, as thousands of people pour into the city away from the desert in the hope of creating some sort of life. I saw dozens of people praying on the street outside their huts – they had no mosque. On our visit to the Plage des Pecheurs (pictured), I was overwhelmed by a teeming mass of humanity, all desperate to eke a life from the sea. I would like to win this award for them – to raise awareness about their plight.’  The judges hoped that, as chief sub editor of one of the London Sunday Times’ magazine sections, Alison would be well placed to achieve this worthwhile objective. However, during 2009 the situation in Mauritania deteriorated to such an extent that foreigners were advised not to travel there so Alison had reluctantly to abandon the idea and  return her travel bursary to the Trustees.