THIS year’s spectacular Sussex Food and Drink Awards ceremony saw eight of Sussex’s top producers hailed as local heroes and presented with their trophies at the American Express Community Stadium, Falmer.
A record-breaking 11,000 people voted for more than 350 Sussex food and drink businesses and individuals in the sixth Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2011/12.
Chairman of the Judges, Clive Beddall, noted that Sussex is now seen as one of Britain’s true centres of excellence for food and drink by national food buyers.
He said: “Research shows that, despite economic downturn, demand for locally sourced food has actually accelerated during the past 12 months and more than half the country’s shoppers now say they are prepared to pay extra for local food.
“The Sussex Food and Drink Awards celebrate the exceptional standards of quality and innovation that have taken the county’s producers into the top half of the UK’s Premier League for locally produced food and drink.”
More than 350 leaders in the food, drink and farming industries gathered for what is now dubbed ‘the Sussex foodie event of the year’, with all tickets sold out for the gathering at the stunning home of Brighton and Hove Albion.
Guests were treated to a wonderful ‘Sussex bubbly and ale reception’, sponsored by Harveys Brewery and Carr Taylor, followed by a stunning seven-course banquet.
The menu featured an array of Sussex goodies including: Sussex duck; locally caught lemon sole; roast cutlet and braised breast of Sussex lamb; treacle tart with Willetts Farm ice cream; a selection of local cheeses and Sussex ground coffee with Sussex bubbly truffles.
Winners were announced in a BAFTA-style presentation, hosted by Danny Pike of BBC Sussex.
The consistency of standards in Sussex was highlighted with second time wins for Shoreham for Best Sussex Farmers’ Market, sponsored by Harveys Brewery, and The Sussex Produce Company in Steyning for Best Sussex Food/Farm Shop, sponsored by the South Downs National Park Authority and Collabor8.
Phil and Steve Hook, of Longleys Farm in Hailsham, were also second time winners in the Sussex Farmer of the Year category sponsored by Knill James Accountants.
The Foragers in Hove won the Best Sussex Eating Experience, sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter; and Bramptons Butchers in Brighton’s Kemp Town was awarded Sussex Butcher of the Year, sponsored by Natural Farms.
Sussex Food Producer of the Year, sponsored by the Southern Co-operative, was awarded to High Weald Dairy in Horsted Keynes; Wobblegate pure apple juice in Bolney came out on top in the Drink Producer of the Year, sponsored by the Sussex Food and Drink Network; and the much-coveted title of Sussex Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Natural PR, went to 24-year-old Paul Peach who works at The Horse Guards Inn in Tillington, near Petworth.
Paula Seager, MD of Natural PR which runs the awards, said: “Tonight has been a wonderful celebration and we are so proud that these awards have played a part in building the reputation of Sussex as one of the best food destinations in the country and home to some of the most creative and exciting producers of exquisite food and drink.
“As ever, the awards would not be possible without the support from all our wonderful sponsors and the many great organisations and individuals involved and we hope that we can continue to make these awards a success for many years to come.”