29 October 2019

Monday evenings event at Middlesbrough Town Hall saw the Yarm Road restaurant take the title back across the River Tees

Stockton continues to be the home of the World's Best Parmo, as Italian restaurant Borge was once again declared simply the bech!

Fighting off competition from three other rival's, Borge was to receive the collective acclaim of an esteemed panel of judges during Monday night's 'Parmo-off' at Middlesbrough Town Hall.

Marking the end of a month long campaign to find "The World's Best Parmo" the 2019 edition represented the first running of the Tees based competition since 2015's Stockton Summer Show.

Yet this years edition was no different from the previous competition, with Borge winning once again and securing a hatrick of consecutive victories in the process, this time beating Middlesbrough eaterie, Manjaros, Hartlepool's, Open Jar and fellow Stockonite venue, The George Pub & Grill, to the crown.


A fitting tribute to the sadly departed 'Parmo King'

Speaking after collecting the award from Middlesbrough's elected Mayor, Andy Preston, owner of Borge, Fash Khalili was overcome with delight and emotion that his team had once again triumphed.

"I feel over the moon.

"I thank everybody for helping, for voting, all my our customers over all these years for supporting me."

But this years win would also take on extra significance, as the Borge family celebrated the memory of a sadly departed, dear friend and colleague through the evening's win.

"That's his recipe that we used tonight for the Parmesan" Fash would reveal, as he paid special tribute to former head-chef Craig Wilson, who has been the repeated inspiration behind Borge's runaway Parmo success.

Having joined the restaurant in 1989, in 'heartbreaking' circumstances, Craig passed away in August this year after experiencing complications following Heart-surgery, not long after celebrating thirty-years service with the restaurant.

But it is clear Craig's status as the undisputed 'Parmo King' of these parts, and indeed the world will live on, with 2019's victory adding to the restaurants successes in 2014 and 2015.

A range of local press were on hand at the event, including BBC Tees who were represented on the judging panel by Scott Makin
A range of local press were on hand at the event, including BBC Tees
who were represented on the judging panel by Scott Makin

How the night unfolded

Opening proceedings on the night within Middlesbrough Town Hall's old fire station, Mayor Preston expressed his delight in bringing the competition "back on the radar, back to the town" going on to declare "tonight we're going to find out, officially, who makes the best Parmo's in the world."

The event would see the four competing restaurants, who had been whittled down from thirty entrants via a month-long public poll that attracted over 10,000 votes, prepare their Parmo's one by one for in a blind taste test for a panel of eight judges, who were described as both "incredibly enthusiastic" and "greedy".

And as the first Parmo was brought out, much deliberation could be seen between the culinary authorities for the night, which included the likes on BBC Tees, Scott Makin, 2019 Masterchef Semi-Finalist, Annabel Broome and Parmo connoisseur Craig Dawson of Parmo Bites.

One judge that could be seen particularly enjoying his task was Olympic sprinter and Teesside Tornado, Richard Kilty, as he offered between considerable mouthfuls of the nights first offering,"I personally couldn't pick nowt wrong with it. The taste was incredible."

Continuing the local sporting giant theme on the panel was three-times BDO World Darts Champion, Glen Durrant, who expressed his "absolute honour" to part of the evening, with the Teessider adding, "playing darts and Parmo's absolutely go hand in hand, its part of my DNA."


Dart's Champ Glen Durrant gets stuck into a Parmo
Dart's Champ Glen Durrant gets stuck into a Parmo

Something missing?

As the Parmo's came and went to the judges table, making this journalist incredible jealous in the process, there was one notable exception from each of the offerings from the competing four.

And this was something that hadn't passed the attention of one of the arbitrators for the night, Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen.

Describing his exacting Parmo requirements of "two thirds chicken, third b├ęchamel, third cheese" in his judgement, Ben felt each of the establishments had missed a trick in not providing a key component of the Parmo experience.

"It has to come with garlic, good quality garlic makes the Parmo and ideally chips, but interestingly tonight we haven't got any!" he explained, adding "I think it comes as a collective. You've got to have salad on the plate, but you don't eat the salad. This is all part of the Parmo tradition."

The Mayor would also reveal that efforts to obtain EU 'protected status' for the Parmo, a promise he had made during his 2017 election campaign, has been stepped up with the formal application now officially going in - coinciding with the news that the EU has formally agreed the UK's request for an extension to the previous 31st October 2019 negotiating deadline

"Finally, after quite a lot of haggling and because of a lot of other things going on with Brexit, we have now submitted our application" stated Ben, before stressing his opinion that the effort to obtain protected status was worthwhile, regardless of what happens in the future.

"Irrespective of what happens with Brexit, even if we were to leave, we would setup in effect a mirror organisation and we would accept their protected items and they would protect ours as well."

One of the night's four Parmo's, notably missing the customary side of chips!
One of the night's four Parmo's for the judges to try, notably missing the customary side of chips!

Final word to the champs

As the night drew to a close and plates were cleared, there was just enough time to have one final word with Borge owner Fash.

Keen to give him an opportunity to make a pitch to anyone who's yet to enjoy the award winning dinning experience at his Stockton establishment, Fash's simple invitation was in keeping with his warm, gentlemanly nature.

"We'd welcome them with my open arms, and any time they want to try a Parmesan, it'd be my pleasure to see them and serve them."

So there you have it - if you haven't tried it yet, make sure you get along to Borge to taste what Fash can rightly call "the best Parmo in the World."

The Southernist would like to take this opportunity thank all those involved with this years competition, including the restaurants, Love Middlesbrough and the judges, all of who were very generous with their time.

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