GBBO winner David Atherton shares how to tell if your favourite foods are authentic

Food connoisseur David Atherton has provided crucial tips to discerning foodies on how they can identify authentic dishes and products down to the exact measurement of an original Italian pizza base. Many region-specific delicacies, including pastries, pies, sauces, and oils, adhere to rigorous standards guiding their preparation.

Atherton, a food writer and the 2019 winner of the Great British Bake Off, has offered insights into identifying bona fide items as opposed to cheap substitutes. He elaborated on the requisites of a traditional Neapolitan Margherita pizza, which is protected by EU law and must be prepared with Italian flour, tomatoes, and authentic mozzarella cheese, even mentioning that hand kneading the dough is mandatory, and diametrically it should not surpass 35 centimetres, alongside boasting a crust between 1cm and 2cm in height.

When foraying into tasting a Cornish pasty, he stressed on identifying the peculiar crimping down the sides, which traditionally would act as a handle for miners' hands. The right filling comprises mince, potato, swede, and onion with beef making up precisely 12.5 percent of the stuffing and vegetables constituting a quarter, topped only with salt and pepper.

Further, Atherton articulated that a New York bagel should invariably be boiled ahead of baking to attain the distinct soft texture while maintaining satisfactory chewiness and a golden crust. In concluding his guidance, he quipped: "If it's not from New York , it's just a roll with a hole."

Atherton revealed that croissants didn't make their way to France until the 19th century, having originated in Vienna and these days, the finest all-butter French pastries are actually straight, not curved, as per French law.

He also shared that a genuine pork pie should hail from Melton Mowbray, while authentic Italian pasta should only ever consist of durum wheat, water and salt with an egg thrown in on occasion.

Shoppers can also determine if olive oil is the real deal if the bottle specifies that the olives have been pressed just once, without any heat. The colour of the oil is another giveaway, with a golden hue indicating a mild flavour profile. Furthermore, vinegar should always be listed among the ingredients on a bona fide ketchup label.

Toasted New York Style Bagels with Cream Cheese.
Toasted New York Style Bagels with Cream Cheese. -Credit:Getty Images - Lauri Patterson

In addition to David's insights, a survey of 2,000 adults found that 62 per cent believe it's crucial that the food they consume is true to its country of origin. This is because it tastes best in its traditional form (59 per cent) and authenticity is typically associated with high quality (46 per cent). Over a third (35 per cent) have looked into the origins of food to ensure what they're eating is accurate.

The statistics also revealed that Brits sample cuisine from three different cultures each week on average. Exactly half confidently claim to be well-versed in authentic foods from around the globe. And more than a quarter (27 per cent) enjoy quizzing locals about their cuisine while on holiday to brush up on their knowledge.

According to a survey by OnePoll, 46 per cent of people believe that the variety of food options is the best part of going on holiday. Additionally, 46 per cent expressed a desire to travel to Italy for an authentic pizza experience, while over three in ten (31 per cent) are keen to visit New York for a taste of its famous bagels.

Alastair Unite, a spokesperson from New York Bakery Co. , which commissioned the research, stated: "We're on a mission to champion authenticity. That's why we've teamed up with David Atherton as the nation's 'Chief Authenticity Expert'. Our know-how, combined with his baking expertise, means together we can show people what to look for when buying favourite foods such as bagels pizza, pasties and pies. Amongst the factors to consider are history and heritage, iconic flavours and the baking method (think boiled and baked) to provide top-tier texture. This campaign proves how Brits want to eat authentic quality food. We've developed this handy guide to help remind shoppers what to look out for."

The guide includes tips on identifying authentic foods:

  • NEW YORK BAGEL – Chewy texture, boiled and baked, golden crust

  • ITALIAN PIZZA – diameter of 35 centimetres and no higher than two centimetres tall

  • CORNISH PASTY – thickly crimped sides

  • PORK PIE – from Melton Mowbray

  • FRENCH CROISSANT – straight not crescent shaped

  • ITALIAN PASTA – made from Durum wheat

  • OLIVE OIL – made using no heat

  • KETCHUP – with added vinegar