Family-run York business wins ‘the country’s highest food accolade’

Rafi's Spicebox has expanded from its York HQ, including to a new Leeds store. Photographs: Jim Poyner Photography
15 Oct 2017 @ 9.20 pm
| Food & Drink

It’s been one of York’s favourite food stores for years – and now its delights have earned national recognition.

Rafi’s Spicebox has been named the Best Independent Retailer in the 2017 Observer Food Monthly Awards.

Now in their 14th year, the awards honour the finest in British food and drink. This year’s awards ceremony was held at the Freemason’s Hall in London and hosted by food writer Jay Rayner and TV cook Nigella Lawson.

Absolute honour

Jay Rayner and Nigella Lawson present the Best Retailer award to Lee and Kevin Fernandez of Rafi’s Spicebox. Photograph: Alicia Canter

The Best Independent Retailer Category relied on a public vote.

“We’ve always had a huge respect for the Observer Food Monthly, and we’re absolutely honored to have won what, in our eyes, is the country’s highest accolade in the food industry,” said Kevin Fernandez, who runs Rafi’s Spicebox with brother Lee.

“We wouldn’t be in this position now without our fantastic customers, who were kind enough to vote for us.

“We need to send a massive thanks to our brilliant team and family, we employ an amazing group with incredible passion and knowledge.

“Finally we owe a great thanks to our mum, Rafi, who like many Indian mothers is probably looking down on us now with a proud yet slightly critical grin, we owe all this to her unrivalled talent and inspiration.”

York turning point

The brothers with their well-deserved award
Rafi’s Spicebox hand blends family recipes and spice mixes for people to cook traditional Indian food at home.

It was launched in 1989 when cookbook author Rafi Fernandez opened an Asian delicatessen in Sudbury, Suffolk.

But, as the article in the Observer points out, a turning point came in 2004:

Having studied and worked in Yorkshire, Kevin felt York would be a good place for a second shop.

Opening in York “pretty much transformed the business overnight”, he says. “We were exposed to a different and more discerning audience. That challenged us a bit more and we evolved.”

From then on the family quickly made Yorkshire their home, and have since added shops in Harrogate, Newcastle, and Leeds, which opened last month.

The ethos of Rafi’s Spicebox is to give customers the confidence to go home and cook delicious food for their families and friends.

Their team creates a tailored experience, providing customers with the information, cooking advice and inspiration they need for cooking Indian food.