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Sunday, December 3, 2023
HomeCultureThe big night is back and Weetabix is even on the menu

The big night is back and Weetabix is even on the menu

To be honest, I didn’t care that I couldn’t do up my trousers. I’m 53. Normally that kind of problem makes me feel a little bit defeated by life, especially if they are beloved trousers. They would go in the ‘when I get myself back in shape’ drawer along with the fitted T-shirts and speedos. But last night there were a couple of mitigating factors.

Firstly the trousers were so far off fitting that part of me felt they never could have fitted. It wasn’t like they were on me and I was judging whether I could walk and sit in them while they jostled with my flab like it was an unruly crowd. I couldn’t even bring the fastening mechanisms within touching distance. If those trousers ever had been for me they were not for me now. But secondly this was a return to a familiar routine of recent years: a rush home from work in the Autumn twilight; a quick check that the kids are in a position to fend for themselves and the traditional wrestle with the contents of the wardrobe which are never in reality what you thought they were when you were planning your outfit in your head.

It was all to prepare for the one black tie event that I willingly attend, the one properly upmarket occasion when I suspend my leftie cynicism and enjoy in the spirit intended – to acknowledge the talent and hard work of the food and drink sector in Northamptonshire at the Weetabix Food and Drink Awards. Formerly these were the Carlsberg Food and Drink Awards but last year was Weetabix’s first year of tenure as the main sponsor and that was of course the pandemic year. There were awards but there was no gala night – no fairytale ball – for the winners.

So all this panic and clothing related dismay felt reassuringly familiar after disconcertingly unfamiliar times. Ultimately I fell back on the fact that because I look such a mess most of the time, any attempt to tidy myself up has an effect out of all proportion to what is really going on.

With everyone’s life being a bit of battleground at the moment and this event is something like the food and drink sector getting back on its horse. When I finally took my seat in the suitably sparkling Royal & Derngate Theatre I found I had the honour of being placed next to Sara Harman of Bite Me Spices.

I asked her how things had been over the past year she replied: “Well we’re still here!”

As you looked around the room you couldn’t help doing that: seeing who was still here. National brands, local brands even international brands. Every single one with their own story of dynamic reorganisation, people going above and beyond – everyone in the room deserved this moment of recognition.

I’ve been involved in the judging of various elements of these awards for several years during which time organiser Rachel Mallows has earned my complete confidence that this is a process about uncovering and rewarding hard work and talent. I feel that the awards given out here are genuinely earned.

Admittedly my layman status as a foodie means I’m not emotionally invested in the same way I would be on an awards night for journalism when my judgement would be tainted by a selfish hunger for personal glory. But an event that sees the Lord Lieutenant applauding the serving staff of the Ten Hands Cafe Bar in Towcester (Independent Tea Room/Cafe Gold winner – shout out to the Table 24 posse) has a pleasing frisson of the normal rules of hierarchy being overturned.

This was the first year without Anna Murby as MC who was stepping back for family reasons but was able to enjoy the event as a civilian for the first time. She was replaced by TV’s Helen Fospero (as seen on the One Show). I am always impressed by people who are able to speak without umming, erring or drifting off into their own little world with a wistful smile like I do.

We had cheese souffle from Hamm Tun, bread from Whittlebury Bakery, Bookers Black Gate sirloin, Warners Rhubarb Gin and Ginger Cheesecake with Weetabix Granola. The cheesecake was better than any cheesecake has a right to be.

These awards were put on with Covid related rules in place and the sector still picking itself up off its knees but to everyone’s credit this was still the sparkly uplifting event that the participants deserve so richly. I do applaud the winners as I applaud everyone in the catering and food and drink sectors all the way through the supply chain. Some days the best thing that happens to you is a great meal, a great drink or even just a great burger.

The winners in the 13 categories are as follows:

Artisan Local Drink of the Year

GOLD = Steam Ale – Towcester Mill Brewery

SILVER = Old Silson Gin – Wharf Distillery

BRONZE = Infusion Set – Jelley’s Vodka with Tea Lab

BRONZE = Black Cherry and Vanilla Rum – New Town

BRONZE = Solar Star – Phipps NBC

BRONZE = Pilsner – Silverstone Brewery

Artisan Local Product of the Year (Sponsored by Heygates)

GOLD = Blueberry Jam – Friars Farm

GOLD = Jeyes’s Northamptonshire Sauce – Jeyes of Earls Barton

SILVER = Salted Caramel Ice Cream – Ganders Goat

SILVER = Northamptonshire Blue – Hamm Tun Fine Foods

BRONZE = Mango Caramel Popcorn – What’s Poppin’

BRONZE = Picklish – Bite Me Spices

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

GOLD = Pecan, Pumpkin and Cranberry Cake – Sophisticake Creations

SILVER = Little Bertie – Hamm Tun Fine Foods 

SILVER = Vegan Sausage Roll – Whittlebury Bakery

BRONZE = Mushroom Biriyani – Bite Me Spices

BRONZE = Chilli Jam – Friars Farm

Booker Dining Venue of the Year (Sponsored by Booker)

GOLD = The Falcon at Castle Ashby

GOLD = The Pig and Waffle, Grafton Underwood

SILVER = Murray’s at Whittlebury

SILVER = The Palmichael Restaurant, Burton Latimer

SILVER = The Red Lion, Cranford

BRONZE = The Folly Inn, Towcester

BRONZE = The Tollemache Arms, Harrington

Booker Young Chef of the Year (Sponsored by Booker)

GOLD = Ellie Galloway of The Church Restaurant, Northampton

SILVER = David Smith  of The Palmichael Restaurant, Burton Latimer

BRONZE = Louis Smith of Boboli Restaurant, Kibworth Harcourt    

BRONZE = Shawn Monk of The Falcon, Fotheringhay

Chef of the Year (Sponsored by Dawn Farms)

GOLD = Zak Perrin of The Falcon, Fotheringhay

SILVER = Jim Millar of Willow and Brook, Apethorpe

SILVER = Bart Polinski of The Orangery, Delapre Abbey

BRONZE = Michael O’Gorman of Side Order Catering, Wellingborough

Independent Café/Tearoom of the Year (Sponsored by Whitco)

GOLD = Ten Hands Cafe Bar, Towcester

SILVER = The Apothocoffee Shop, Earls Barton

SILVER = The Good Loaf, Northampton

SILVER = The Grain Store Coffeehouse, Woodford

BRONZE = New Lodge Farm, Bulwick

BRONZE = The Watermill Tearooms, Ringstead

Food and Drink College Student of the Year (Sponsored by The Mallows Company)

GOLD with DISTINCTION = Emma McGlamery (Moulton College)

GOLD = Phoebe Gluyas (Moulton College)

SILVER = Dan James (Northampton College)

SILVER = Susanna Pack (Moulton College)

BRONZE = Lewis Gurney (Tresham College)

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

GOLD = Matt Fountain of Bewiched Coffee

GOLD = Laurence Conisbee of Wharf Distillery

SILVER = Steve Reid of Friars Farm

BRONZE = Greta McDonald of Sweet Lounge

BRONZE = Jeeva Sanmugam of Classic Cuisine

Local Food Hero of the Year (Sponsored by Moulton College)

GOLD = The Old Swan, Earls Barton

GOLD = Northampton Siri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara

SILVER = The Old White Hart, Far Cotton

SILVER = Northampton Hope Centre

One to Watch (Sponsored by Whitworth Bros Ltd.)

GOLD = Yum Chop Foods, Towcester

GOLD = Explore Chocolate, Finedon

SILVER = Vicky’s Kitchen, Northampton

BRONZE = Roman Way Brewery, Weedon

BRONZE = Brothers Pub Co, Northampton

Weetabix Sustainability Award (Sponsored by Weetabix)

GOLD = Blue Skies, Pitsford

GOLD = Re, Flore

SILVER = Syan Farms, Horton

BRONZE = Sol Laug Haven, Moulton

BRONZE = Applegate Organics, Northampton

BRONZE = The Food Library, Northampton

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

GOLD = Saffron, Northampton

SILVER = June Plum, Wellingborough

BRONZE = The Exotic Dining, Kettering

BRONZE = Tamarind, Northampton

The full Mallows Company report on the evening follows:

The Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards celebrated the successes and achievements of hundreds of Northamptonshire based food and drink businesses and individuals excelling in culinary excellence at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton last night.

350 people attended the spectacular occasion where 64 finalists in 13 awards categories were championed, with most of the category results being revealed on the evening.

Awards Director, Rachel Mallows MBE DL said “The Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards is unique in the fact that not only do we celebrate achievement at the awards evening, we provide long-lasting support with individual mentoring, business support and training, marketing and promotion as well as entrance into the Great Taste Awards for our Gold product and drink winners – in our 13th year, we received hundreds of applications in 13 categories, from a diverse range of ambitious and driven individuals who make up the fabric of Northamptonshire’s food and drink sector.”

The awards are generously supported and sponsored by major food and drinks businesses based in the county including headline sponsor Weetabix.

Stuart Branch, Group HR & IT Director from Weetabix said: “What an incredible evening celebrating such inspirational and forward-thinking people and businesses who make up the Northamptonshire Food and Drink scene. As a business based within the county, we are immensely proud to support the awards process with year-long backing to ensure that those who are declared finalist or winners in each category, receive the recognition they deserve as well as mentoring and guidance.”

Nathan Portess, Catering Development Controller at Booker said, “The Booker Young Chef of the Year competition showcases the very best talent that Northamptonshire’s young people working in the hospitality and catering industry has to offer. At Booker, we are committed to helping Chefs across the county by improving choice, price and service for them and we are delighted to support the 2021/2022 Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards. Congratulations to all the finalists and especially Ellie Galloway as the overall award winner in the Booker Young Chef of the year category and The Falcon at Castle Ashby and The Pig and Waffle at Grafton Underwood as the Gold winners in the Booker Dining Venue of the Year category.”

MC for the evening was trusted TV Broadcaster Helen Fospero, who took the time out of her busy schedule with programmes such as the BBC One show, to announce the winners of the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drinks Awards. Helen said, “I’m bowled over by the skill, talent and teamwork showcased tonight by finalists and award winners.’ ‘It’s my first visit to Northampton and I’ll certainly be returning more often to sample the quality produce the county has to offer.’ ‘It’s incredible to see so many young people being encouraged to learn chef skills and forge a career in the food and drinks sector too.’

Ellie Galloway, winner of the Booker Young Chef of the Year was totally shocked by the results saying, “It’s the first year I’ve taken part in the competition and I never expected to get this far.’ ‘I’m so grateful for the award which I know will provide me with amazing opportunities as I progress in my career.’

Meanwhile Lindsey Singh of Re in Flore who won the Weetabix Sustainability Award said, “Having moved back to the UK from India I was shocked at the amount of food waste produced in the UK.’ ‘We have created a shop in the village, rather than a village shop, where our customers value the quality produce we have on offer and can buy exactly what they need without the plastic or excess quantities.’ ‘This award is like a big warm hug; it is heartfelt and it really matters.’

Zak Perrin of the Falcon at Fotheringhay was bursting with pride by saying “I’m blown away to have won the Gold Award in the Chef of the Year competition.’ ‘I was up against some serious talent from chefs across the county, it was a tough competition and I’ll be celebrating with my team for some considerable time.’ ‘The Award will take pride of place on the bar at the Falcon.’

And Food and Drink College Student of the Year silver winner Susanna Pack from Moulton College said, “It’s amazing to be recognized for the skills I have learnt whilst at college.’ ‘I’m in my final year of a catering course and my passion is for cake decorating which I hope to develop in the future.’

On the menu for the evening, guests enjoyed Northamptonshire produce including Hamm Tun Fine Foods’ Cobblers Nibble within the Cheese Souffle, Bookers Blackgate Signature Sirloin, Warners Rhubarb Gin and Ginger Cheesecake with a Weetabix granola base, followed by Pecan, Cranberry and Pumpkin Cupcakes from Sophiticake Creations.

For more information on the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2021/22, please visit www.northamptonshirefoodanddrink.co.uk or call Rachel Mallows on 01933 664437 or email rachel@themallowscompany.com

Meanwhile, to keep up to date with the latest news, please follow the Awards on Facebook at @foodawards or Twitter and Instagram at @foodawardsHQ or on LinkedIn at @weetabixnfadawards using the hashtag #WNFAD.

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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