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Toasting the county’s food and drink sector

While 2020 remains a challenging year for the county’s culinary sector, some of its finest businesses are enjoying a well-earned reason to celebrate after walking away with the top accolades in this year’s Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards.

The competition, now in its twelfth year, is run by the sector for the sector and is aimed at publicly applauding 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.

The Awards year usually culminates in a glittering celebration staged at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate but, owing to social distancing rules, the results of half of the categories were instead announced (Thursday 12th November) as part of a recorded, online ‘first course’ event, generously hosted by the theatre, with those of the categories in the hospitality sector to be revealed in the ‘second course’ at a later date, once lockdown 2 restrictions have been lifted.

The results, announced by representatives of the respective category sponsor, are (in presentation order and, in the case of more than one recipient of the Gold, Silver or Bronze, in alphabetical order):

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

Gita Rakundalia of Nakasero

GOLD: Giardiniera – Nakasero, Northampton

GOLD: Sweet Potato Pie with Spinach and Tomato – Sol Laug Havens CIC, Moulton

SILVER: Extra Apricot and Pineapple Jam – Green Kitchen Preserves, Northampton

SILVER: Fiorentina Beef Ribs – Squisito Butchers & Provisions, Yelvertoft

BRONZE: Apple and Fig Chutney – Friars Farm, Northampton

BRONZE: Basic B!t@h – Brooklyn Brownie Co, Northampton

BRONZE: Mango Caramel Popcorn – What’s Poppin’, Northampton

BRONZE: Nettle Ice Cream – Ganders Goat, Cottingham

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

GOLD: Giardiniera – Nakasero, Northampton

GOLD: Salted Vanilla Popcorn – What’s Poppin’, Northampton

SILVER: Habanero and Red Onion Relish – Bite Me Spices, Northampton

SILVER: Lime Pickle – Papa’s Dhaba, Northampton

SILVER: Savoury Vegetable Pie – Sol Laug Havens CIC, Moulton

BRONZE: Chocolate and Courgette Cake – Sol Laug Havens CIC, Moulton

BRONZE: Matcha Tea Brownies – Pure and Raw Goodies, Northampton 

BRONZE: Sara’s Parmigiana – Squisito Butchers & Provisions, Yelvertoft

Artisan Local Drink of the Year:

GOLD: Blue Aurora Ice – Lutton Farm, Lutton

GOLD: Stonyfield Rosé 2016 – Stonyfield Wine, Blisworth

SILVER: Hogtopus – Hollowild Cider, Hollowell

SILVER: Perfect Pear – Healy’s of Winwick, Winwick

BRONZE: Addington Garden Cider – Addington Garden Cider, Great Addington

BRONZE: Blue Aurora Dusk – Lutton Farm, Lutton

BRONZE: Blue Aurora Midnight – Lutton Farm, Lutton

BRONZE: Frogstar – Hollowild Cider, Hollowell

One To Watch (sponsored by Whitworth Bros. Ltd Flour Millers)

GOLD: What’s Poppin’, Northampton

GOLD: Whittlebury Bakery, Whittlebury 

SILVER: Brooklyn Brownie Co, Northampton

SILVER: Nakasero, Northampton

BRONZE: Butler’s Pie Company, Brackley

F&B Achiever of the Year (sponsored by Howes Percival):

GOLD: Richard Gordon of The Greedy Gordons, Twywell

SILVER: Laurence Conisbee of Wharf Distillery, Towcester

SILVER: Zoe Mee of Mee Farmers, Nassington

BRONZE: Rachael Bradshaw of Hamm Tun Fine Foods Deli, Long Buckby

BRONZE: Teresa McCarthy of The Swan & Helmet, Northampton

BRONZE: Dennis Willmott of The Bell Inn, Finedon 

Lifetime Achievement Award (sponsored by Howes Percival):

GOLD – Dennis Willmott of The Bell Inn, Finedon 

Weetabix Sustainability Award (sponsored by Weetabix):  

GOLD: Farrington Oils, Hargrave

SILVER: Blue Skies, Pitsford

SILVER: Waterloo Cottage Farm, Great Oxendon

BRONZE: Ganders Goat, Cottingham

BRONZE: The Good Loaf, Northampton

Additionally, in a move prompted by a desire to reward some of the many businesses within the sector who have shown incredible efforts during the pandemic, there was a further surprise announcement by the Lord-Lieutenant for Northamptonshire, James Saunders-Watson, of five Gold recipients of the COVID-19 Local Hero of the Year, recognising those who have played, and continue to play, such a vital role in supporting their local communities.

COVID-19 Local Hero of the Year: 

GOLD: John Brownhill of Food4Heroes

GOLD: Green Acres Rural Enterprises CIC, Staverton

GOLD: Teresa McCarthy of The Swan and Helmet, Northampton

GOLD: The Red Lion, Cranford

GOLD: Wharf Distillery, Towcester

Among those now celebrating is double-Gold and Silver winner Nakasero from Northampton, whose Giardiniera – a spicy Italian relish of pickled vegetables – bowled over the judges in both the Artisan Local Product and Artisan Local Vegetarian / Vegan Product of the Year categories.

Founder of the company, Gita Rakundalia, says she’s thrilled to pick up such prestigious accolades: “It’s been incredible, watching my vision for the pickle come to life, go into production and then to be sold on farm shop and supermarket shelves in such a short space of time and I’m absolutely elated to be recognised in this way among what are some incredible producers in the county” said Gita.

“Tonight I am going to toast all of them as well as those who have helped and supported me on my journey so far, while I also dedicate this success to my late grandmother, my beloved Baa, who taught me everything I know!” she enthused.

Meanwhile, Farrington Oils at Hargrave becomes the first recipient of a Gold in the newly-instigated Weetabix Sustainability Award, much to the delight of its co-owner Duncan Farrington: “We were incredibly proud that our cold-pressed rapeseed oil, Mellow Yellow, was the world’s first food product to be certified as both carbon and plastic neutral back in January, so what a way to bookend 2020 than by being honoured in this way in our home county” said Duncan.

“We’re a small village firm of only 15 people but, like breakfast giant Weetabix, we are leaders in our brand as well as in national and global sustainability and I truly believe that, by working together to change our habits, we can all make a difference” he added.

The online celebration began with a welcome from Awards Patron, William Sitwell, who spoke of the remarkable resilience shown by the sector over the last six months and, despite those challenges, of its impressive ability to continue to produce some of the finest food that the country has to offer.

Watch the awards stream here

Those were sentiments then echoed by Weetabix Marketing Director, Francesca Theokli, who congratulated all those finalists involved in the competition and revealed the breakfast giant’s pride in playing its part in offering deserved recognition to the extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit, care, endurance and passion which each has displayed during the toughest of years.

The broadcast concluded with closing remarks from Awards Director, Rachel Mallows MBE DL, who not only offered her further congratulations to the Awards recipients but also thanked those who enabled the competition to proceed at a time when their support was needed more than ever: “Given the further pressures that every business has faced over recent months, we are all the more grateful that our sponsors re-pledged their commitment, enabling us to yet again celebrate our fabulous food and drink sector, albeit in a slightly different way this year’ said Rachel.

‘We know how vital the impact of success in these annual accolades is, and so to be able to publicly promote those who excel and then encourage the county’s food lovers to go out and support them has been imperative for 2020.

“I now cannot wait for our second course of Awards, when we’ll be revealing the results in our remaining categories, after which I hope we’ll be able to finally go out and celebrate together – safely of course!” she added.

Owing to lockdown 2, the results of the remaining categories in the hospitality sector will be announced at the second course of the virtual online Awards celebration at a later date, following the end of restrictions. Those categories are:

Booker Dining Venue of the Year (sponsored by Booker)

Booker Young Chef of the Year (sponsored by Booker)

Chef of the Year (sponsored by Dawn Farms) 

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

Local Food Hero of the Year (sponsored by Northampton College)

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

For the full list of the first course results and of the remaining category finalists, or for more information on the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2020/21, please visit www.northamptonshirefoodanddrink.co.uk or call Rachel Mallows on 01933 664437 or email rachel@themallowscompany.com

To watch the video of the first course, please visit www.youtube.com and search for #WNFAD20.

Meanwhile for further details on how you can join the second course of the virtual Awards celebration when they are announced, please follow the Awards on Facebook at @foodawards or Twitter and Instagram at @foodawardsHQ or on LinkedIn at @weetabixnfadawards.

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