The vision was to bring together the city’s finest independent food producers to showcase their wares to the foodies dominating Birmingham’s social media scene.
One hour into the three-hour event hungry people had crowded into the room, jostling to grab the last of the samples.
Note to self: when free food and booze is on the menu arrive early.
Despite being a victim of its own popularity, it’s hard to fault the aims of last week’s Future Foodies event.
Birmingham’s artisan food scene isn’t given the credit it deserves.
While London, Manchester and Edinburgh all tout themselves as foodie tourist destinations, Birmingham’s reputation – as ever – lags behind.
But the city’s gourmands know the reputation doesn’t match the reality in a metropolis boasting more Michelin stars than any other English city outside London, hosting popular weekly food and farmers’ markets, cultivating new underground movements such as the Secret Dining Society, Birmingham Whisky Club, Digbeth Dining Club and Kings Heath’s new Brum Yum Yum Streetfood Market, and cherishing a city-wide peppering of grassroots independents, from Stirchley’s Loaf Bakery to Digbeth-based caterers ChangeKitchen.
It’s a rich and diverse menu of projects driven by people with expertise and a genuine passion for food.
And over the last five years these projects have been propelled forward by social media, as producers have taken to the internet to tout their treats via Twitpics and blog posts and attract new audiences with Facebook pages.
Two years ago University of Birmingham graduate and Moseley resident Ahmed Ahmed started a Dine Birmingham website, listing the city’s restaurants and bars and inviting contributors to write reviews.
With support from the Birmingham branch of international rating and review site Yelp, The Gastro Card which offers discounts at restaurants across the Midlands, and Midlands Food Bloggers, Ahmed organised the Future Foodies gig as a not-for-profit event to allow the producers and consumers to meet in “the real world”.
Originally from Nottingham, the 24-year-old came to Birmingham for university.
He says: “A lot of people don’t realise all the great stuff we have in Birmingham and it’s a shame the city centre is so full of chains because that’s the impression you get if you don’t venture beyond New Street and the Bullring.
“But I always talk to people on Twitter and find out where they’ve been and where they’re going, and it became obvious there were lots of people out there talking about good food with a lot of energy, and I thought there was a need to bring them together.”
Dine Birmingham has nearly 4,000 Twitter followers while Brum Yum Yum is promoting the city’s fledgling streetfood scene to more than 1,000 fans on Facebook.
More than 20 individuals under the Midlands Food Bloggers umbrella are touting their homegrown goods, recipes or reviews online.
“With social media you see ordinary people sharing their reviews and talking to each other about their experiences,” says Ahmed.
Future Foodies not only did the bulk of its promotion and publicity through Twitter, but also used the site to find most of its exhibitors.
But as a site allowing anyone and everyone to rant, rave and judge, is Twitter a reliable source for reviews or just a forum for chit-chat?
“Well, chit-chat is recommendations,” says Ahmed, “and recommendations turn into bums on seats.
“People can get opinions without going to a traditional source, like an expert.”
On the menu
The event was set out as a menu of producers.
* Starters: Lewis’s of Moseley, Ubuntu Handmade Bread, Kitchen Cookery School.
* Mains: Le Truc Cafe, Digbeth Dining Club, Heart of England Fine Foods, Punjabi Rasoi, Wrapchic, University College Birmingham.
* Desserts: Aalto Restaurant, Brigadeiros by Miss Apple Sweets, Devenish Girl, Cupkakery, Miss Macaroon.
* Drinks: Aston Manor Cider, Beer Geek Brewery, BYWine, The Birmingham Whisky Club.