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The Weetabix Food and Drink Awards are back

Anna Murby at the launch of the Weetabix Food and Drink Awards for 2021/22

The county’s hospitality sector now has double reason to celebrate with not only the full re-opening of hospitality just days away, but also the launch of the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards for 2021/22!

Created by the sector for the sector, the annual competition is aimed at raising a toast to 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.

Now in its thirteenth year, the Awards are thrilled to have the continuing support of Weetabix as headline sponsors for a second year – a sign of the Burton Latimer company’s commitment to the county’s flourishing food and drink sector – while the breakfast giant is  joined by existing category sponsors Booker, British Pepper & Spice, Daily Bread, Dawn Farms, Heygates Flour and Animal Feed, Howes Percival LLP, Moulton College, and Whitworth Bros Ltd Flour Millers as well as further continuing support from associate sponsors, Musk Process Services, SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) and Warner’s. 

Additionally, this year’s competition sees the return of Thrapston-based Whitco Catering and Bakery Equipment Ltd as sponsors of the ‘Independent Café / Tearoom of the Year’ category, one which makes a welcome reappearance to the line-up of categories which are now open to chefs, producers and eateries as well as students, entrepreneurs and food heroes.

It also again features the ‘Weetabix Sustainability Award’, which was introduced for the first time last year to reflect the company’s ‘Change for Better’ commitment to sustainability.

Francesca Theokli, Marketing Director at Weetabix, said: “As a business deeply rooted in our local community, we know how much the success of Northamptonshire matters. The food and drink produced in Northamptonshire is truly second to none, and that’s definitely something worth celebrating. 

“We’re delighted to be returning this year as headline sponsors – after what we know was a very tough year for lots of local businesses, these awards are a fantastic way for the sector to come together and support its own. We’re looking forward to the great – and hopefully very tasty – things on the horizon for food and drink in Northamptonshire!”

The full details of the new-look competition were revealed by Awards Director, Rachel Mallows MBE, at the launch which took place today at Northampton’s Delapré Abbey, home of Restaurant Hibiscus, which not only took Gold in the ‘Booker Dining Venue of the Year’ category in 2020, but also saw its head chef, Sam Squires, awarded the same accolade in the ‘Chef of the Year’ category.

Having put the finishing touches to their new menus in readiness for their re-opening next Thursday, Sam revealed how both awards have been a huge boost to the venue: “The increased exposure, prompted by the announcements, saw a massive influx in new customers making reservations, so much so that we had to open our booking line early to try to cope with the demand” said Sam.

“It has also prompted us to review everything we do to ensure we create the best possible dining experience and inspired us to come up with some new and exciting ideas, not to mention generated such a feel-good factor across the team, meaning everyone is so looking forward to coming back after what has clearly been a rollercoaster year!” he enthused.

Those were sentiments echoed by Rachael Templeton of Blue Aurora Wine at Lutton Farm near Oundle, whose blueberry wines picked up a Gold and two Bronzes in the ‘Artisan Local Drink of the Year’ category, when she explained the valuable impact that their triple success has had on their business: “We were absolutely delighted when the results were announced as part of the virtual celebrations back in November, not least as these were the first awards we’d ever entered and we’ve found the detailed feedback from the judging panel to be both helpful and reassuring!” said Rachael.

“The subsequent coverage we’ve received has certainly helped raise our profile, prompting an increased following across social media and has attracted new customers, leading to our taking on two new local stockists so, as you can imagine, we’re thrilled we took the plunge and entered!” she added.

Meanwhile, Richard Gordon of The Greedy Gordons at Twywell, who secured Gold in the ‘F&B Achiever of the Year’ category and who saw his Cranford venue, The Red Lion, take Gold in the ‘COVID-19 Local Hero of the Year’ category after being named co-winner of the ‘Booker Food Pub of the Year’ in the 2019 Awards, was keen to express his gratitude: “When the pub was named as a finalist in the summer of 2019, we saw huge growth week-on-week, prompting a 30% increase in year-on-year sales and once our win was then announced, our customer base again grew enormously and we were inundated with enquiries and bookings” revealed Richard.

“The social media effect of shares and likes drove tens of thousands of people to our platforms and it’s been fabulous therefore to celebrate our continued success with all of those supporters that we simply would not have reached otherwise.

“The entire team is very proud of our achievements in this competition and I would say that winning double gold this time was by far my career highlight, making all the blood, sweat and tears of the last year worthwhile!” he added.

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 Dining Venue 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)

Independent Café / Tearoom of the Year (Whitco Catering and Bakery Equipment Ltd)

Local Food Hero of the Year 

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 again see finalists awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze, 

will be announced at the Awards celebrations later this year.

For more details on all the categories in the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2021/22, 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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