The Sussex Food and Drink Awards was postponed from 2020, and winners and guests came together at the Sussex Food & Drink Business Revival on Wednesday, September 22 with support from Visit Britain.
Guest speaker and awards sponsor, Ben Milford, director of R.P. Meats and Blakes Foods based in Brighton, described how the pandemic hit his own businesses so hard, there were moments when they weren’t sure they could survive.
“I can say with confidence that had we not pivoted the business so quickly, creating a new fleet and switching from delivering to hospitality businesses to door to door delivery direct to homes, we wouldn’t still be in existence today, despite having been around since the late 70’s and having survived several recessions; this was definitely worse.
“Of course, we’re not the only ones to have done this. We’ve seen so many Sussex food and drink companies coming up with incredibly creative new activities to keep the wolf from the door and stay in business over the last two years.”
Allison Ferns, from BBC Sussex, compered the event and led the cheers for the winners of the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2021, who have been unable to enjoy their accolade at an awards banquet for the first time in the prestigious awards’ 15-year history.
Before reading out the names of the winners, who posed for photographs with their trophies, she said, “It’s British Food Fortnight, so it is fitting that today is all about kickstarting our amazing local food and drink industry after such a grim couple of years. And seriously, after Brexit and Covid, people in Britain need you more than ever; to keep on creating delicious local food and drink, and to bring us a little cheer in what can be grim times.”
William Goodwin, chairman of the judges, said:“Congratulations to all our fantastic winners. Over the last decade, Sussex has really earned its place as one of the leading counties in the UK for producing superb food and drink and this year’s winners line up offers an impressive range of first class, diverse businesses from across the county,”
The awards, carried over from 2020, received 17,000 public votes from members of the public and there were 30 Grand Finalists, 18 from West Sussex, 11 from East Sussex and one from Brighton & Hove, with categories covering everything from farm to plate.
Anyone who wants to join in the celebrations for British Food Fortnight this year should make a trip to their local farm shop to sample some of the brilliant produce offered in Sussex and you can visit Sussexfoodanddrink.org to see what’s on offer in your area.
Sussex Food Producer of the Year, sponsored by Southern Co-op
WINNER: Jengers Craft Bakery, Billingshurst, West Sussex
GRAND FINALISTS: Bangers Galore, Horsham, West Sussex; and The Sussex Biltong Co, Balcombe, West Sussex
Sussex Drink Producer of the Year, sponsored by Natural PR
WINNER: Long Man Brewery, Litlington, East Sussex
GRAND FINALISTS: Bolney Wine Estate, Bolney, West Sussex; and Ridgeview Wine Estate, Ditchling Common, East Sussex
Sussex Butcher of the Year, sponsored by RP Meats Wholesale Ltd
WINNER: Tablehurst Farm, Forest Row, East Sussex
Cottenhams of Lindfield – Craft Butchers, Lindfield, West Sussex; and Nick The Butcher, Hartfield, East Sussex
Sussex Farmers Market of the Year, sponsored by Harvey’s Brewery
WINNER: Lewes Farmers Market, East Sussex
GRAND FINALISTS: Horsham Market (Saturday), West Sussex; and Shoreham Farmers Market, West Sussex
Sussex Eating Experience of the Year, sponsored by Lloyds Bank Cardnet
WINNER: The Fig Tree, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex
GRAND FINALISTS: Into The Blue, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex; and The Cat Inn, West Hoathly, West Sussex
Sussex Food Shop of the Year, sponsored by Sussex Food and Drink Network
WINNER: Rushfields Farm Shop, Poynings, West Sussex
GRAND FINALISTS: Jeremy’s Two, Cowfold, West Sussex; and Veasey & Sons Fishmongers, Forest Row, East Sussex
Sussex Newcomer of the Year, sponsored by SRC-Time
WINNER: Heritage by Matt Gillan, Slaugham, West Sussex
GRAND FINALISTS: Heritage Wheat, Keymer, West Sussex; and Skylark Cafe Restaurant, Eastbourne, East Sussex
Sussex Street Food of the Year, sponsored by Horsham District Foodies supported by Food Rocks
WINNER: Mann & Moore, Horsham, West Sussex
GRAND FINALISTS: Pizza Leonati, Hooe, East Sussex; and The BBQ Project, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex
Sussex Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Blakes Foods
WINNER: Dan Ibbotson from etch. in Brighton & Hove
GRAND FINALISTS: Freddie Innes, who was working at Ockenden Manor Hotel, Cuckfield, West Sussex; and Thomas Thwaites from Rathfinny Tasting Room, Alfriston, East Sussex
Young Sussex Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Natural Partnerships CIC in association with Farmers Weekly magazine
WINNER: Dan Hird, Lambert Farm, Plumpton, East Sussex
GRAND FINALISTS: Conor Haydon, who was working at Goodwood Estate, Chichester, West Sussex; and Dan Wells, who was working at Holmbush Farm, Balcombe, West Sussex