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Weetabix Food Awards are underway

Anna Murby reveals two new categories in county food oscars

The team behind the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards is delighted to announce that, following a delay to its spring launch owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, the competition in now underway for its twelfth year!

The Awards, which are run by the sector for the sector, are aimed at celebrating all that is great about local produce and drink, recognising excellence within the county’s dining venues and rewarding those who work so hard within the culinary sector.

Thanks to ongoing support from its existing sponsors – new headline sponsor Weetabix, Booker, British Pepper & Spice, Daily Bread, Dawn Farms, Heygates Flour and Animal Feed, Howes Percival LLP, Moulton College, Northampton College and Whitworth Bros Ltd Flour Millers – and with continued support from SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) and Warner’s, the Awards will continue to offer public recognition to the county’s finest eateries and chefs, producers and entrepreneurs.

Also joining the list of supporters as Associate Sponsor is Peterborough-based engineering service providers Musk Process Services, whose clients include some of the major names in the food and drink sector across the UK.

In addition, the competition sees two new categories for this year, which run alongside ten others, mirroring the Awards’ twelve years; the ‘Weetabix Sustainability Award’, which reflects the breakfast giant’s ‘Change for Better’ commitment to sustainability, and ‘Food and Drink College Student of the Year’ (sponsored by Moulton College), which will celebrate college students from across Northamptonshire who have demonstrated exceptional skills development throughout their learning and who are proud young ambassadors for the sector. 

The official launch of the competition was due to take place at Weetabix’s headquarters in Burton Latimer during the first week in April, but was postponed due to COVID-19, allowing the team to focus their efforts on extra business support for the county’s food and drink sector. 

However, despite the absence of the usual launch celebrations, Awards’ Director, Rachel Mallows MBE DL, believes that now is the right time for the competition to get underway: “The Awards have played a very successful part in the prosperity of the sector for more than a decade, promoting the excellence we have here in the county, driving sales and customer spend as well as creating jobs and now, more than ever, our pubs and producers, chefs and entrepreneurs need to benefit from that support” explained Rachel.

“So, having assessed the latest situation very carefully with our sponsors, we are in agreement that, with the usual integrity of the competition at its core and of course keeping in mind the safety of all those involved – whether entrant, judge or mystery shopper – we’re finally able to step up to the plate, get the competition underway and now we just wait for the hundreds of entries and nominations that we expect to come flooding in!” she added. 

Francesca Theokli, Marketing Director of lead sponsor Weetabix commented: “We’re proud and motivated to bring our support to our neighbouring food and drink businesses through our sponsorship of the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards. We recognise these are challenging times for many businesses in the sector and so coming together to celebrate all that’s great about food and drink in the county feels pretty good.” 

Among those to benefit from success in the competition last year is Danny Tompkins from Harlestone, who was named ‘Chef of the Year’ (sponsored by Dawn Farms) after fending off the challenge of five other finalists at the cook-off at Northampton College last summer.

Having spent the first months of lockdown helping to create more than 11,000 meals for NHS staff, Danny has now returned to his role as a private chef, offering to cater for dinner parties in clients’ homes, as well as supplying weekend meat and cheese boxes to order,  and he says that having the prestigious accolade is really valuable.

“I must say that, when I received my trophy from Olly Smith on stage at the Awards dinner last November, the days when I washed pots and pans at my local pub while I was at school seemed like a distant memory and I can’t tell you how proud I was to win the title in my home county” explained Danny.

“It’s now proving to be a really valuable tool in promoting myself, not least in helping to gain further publicity and raise my social media profile and, so although I can’t take part this year as a reigning champion, I’d urge chefs and indeed all food and drink businesses to get involved in their respective category and take advantage of the boost to business and all the good that an Awards win can offer ” he added.

Those are sentiments echoed by Jessie King, co-owner of The Plough at Shutlanger, which was named co-winner of the ‘Booker Food Pub of the Year’ (sponsored by Booker) at the Awards dinner, repeating its victory of 2016/17.

“We already new the massive benefits that success in the competition could bring so we were really keen to enter last year and considered it a real honour and privilege to take the title again, given the wealth of fine venues we were up against” revealed Jessie. 

“The immediate impact after the results were announced was incredible and, prior to lockdown, we had our busiest start to the year on record with not only our regular customers wanting to share in our delight, but also new ones coming from far and wide to sample our award-winning offering.

“Thankfully, if everything goes to plan, we’re just days away from re-opening and frankly we can’t wait for that and for our returning diners to be reminded of the passion we put into everything we do, creating fabulous dishes which are executed exquisitely and served with style!” she enthused.

The free-to-enter categories in this year’s Awards (with their respective sponsors) are:

Artisan Local Drink of the Year

Artisan Local Product of the Year (Heygates Flour and Animal Feed)

Artisan Local Vegetarian / Vegan Product of the Year (Daily Bread)

Booker Eatery of the Year (Booker)

Booker Young Chef of the Year (Booker)

Chef of the Year (Dawn Farms)

F&B Achiever of the Year (Howes Percival LLP)

Food and Drink College Student of the Year (Moulton College)

Local Food Hero of the Year (Northampton College)

One To Watch (Whitworth Bros. Ltd Flour Millers)

Weetabix Sustainability Award (Weetabix)

World Cuisine Restaurant of the Year (British Pepper & Spice) 

The results of the competition, which will see finalists awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze for this adapted twelfth year only, will be announced at the Awards celebration in November. 

For more details on the dozen categories in the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2020/21, including downloading entry and nomination forms, please visit the Awards’ website – www.northamptonshirefoodanddrink.co.uk or call Rachel Mallows on 01933 664437 or email rachel@themallowscompany.com

You can also follow the Awards on Facebook at @foodawards or Twitter and Instagram at @foodawardsHQ or on LinkedIn at @weetabixnfadawards

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