By VICTORIA LEGGETT
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The spiritual home of Norfolk’s food and farming industry celebrated its greatest ambassadors on Monday night.
The Norfolk Showground was transformed into a rustic banquet hall for the 14th annual EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards.
From restaurateurs and chefs who have made it their mission to promote the county, to the local farmers succeeding on a national scale, the evening sought to celebrate the cream of the crop.
Welcoming finalists and guests to last night’s ceremony, EDP editor Nigel Pickover said it was “vitally important” that the county’s food and drink industry was supported and championed.
He added: “Great food, produced locally, is an intrinsic part of what makes somewhere a great place in which to live and work – there is no doubt that Norfolk’s food and drink plays a major part in our distinctive, and much envied, way of life.”
The top accolade of the night went to a chef and restaurateur who has been a leading light on the Norfolk culinary scene for more than 20 years.
Richard Hughes, who was presented with the Outstanding Achievement Award, was praised for the impact he has had on the county’s food industry and, in particular, his ability to inspire young people and set them on the road to success.
Judges said: “When others may have given up on them, Richard has an uncanny knack for picking people with an aptitude for the culinary world. He regularly teaches schoolchildren, exciting them about the possibilities of cooking and working in hospitality.”
One of the most prestigious of the new awards introduced for 2012 was for the Food and Drink Hero.
Winner Vanessa Scott, of Strattons Hotel in Swaffham, was hailed as a “vocal champion of West Norfolk’s countryside, way of life and tourism opportunities”.
Among the winners of the night’s 11 other awards was Eric Snaith, head chef at Titchwell Manor, near Brancaster, who wowed judges during a closely fought cook-off at the Debut Restaurant kitchens at City College Norwich. Judges EDP feature writer Stacia Briggs and Steve Thorpe, head of the hotel, hair and beauty school at the college, which sponsored the award, said: “We were really impressed with Eric’s menu, which aimed to show off the best of our local ingredients and celebrate what is really great about Britain.”
A common theme among comments from all the judges of the categories, which included the Norfolk Coast Seafood Award and the Best School Food Project, was how strong the field was for this year’s awards.
The evening sought to celebrate Norfolk food and drink in every way and, from the moment guests arrived at the Norfolk Showground Arena, they found themselves surrounded by some of the best examples of the industry. Finalists and their supporters were greeted by a farmers’ market of local producers, offering samples of their wares in place of traditional canapés, and an Adnams bar, before sitting down to hearty Norfolk meal.
Starting with a hamper of local produce, diners were able to choose from a delicious selection of Norfolk breads, chutneys and pickles.
It was then time for guests to get hands-on for the main course as Bernard Matthews turkey crowns were delivered to the tables.
Steve Thorpe, head of hotel, hair and beauty school at City College Norwich, who together with students from the hotel school were responsible for the Norfolk banquet, instructed one member of each table – kitted out with a knife and chef’s hat – to carve their meat.
The evening was rounded off with a selection of English puddings – including chocolate tart with raspberries and lemon drizzle cake – and a cheese table.
The ceremony was hosted by BBC East presenter David Whiteley and EDP Norfolk Magazine editor Angi Kennedy.
Addressing the guests, Mr Whiteley said: “Tonight we celebrate everything that is right with the food and drink world in Norfolk. And there’s lots to celebrate – especially when you look round this room at all the food talent. We could make an epic episode of Come Dine With Me.”
•The winners were:
•Outstanding Achievement Award
Sponsored by Hansells
Winner: Richard Hughes
“Richard has an unrivalled passion for nurturing young talent and in particular giving opportunities to disadvantaged youngsters, many of whom have gone on to successful carers.”
•Food and Drink Hero
In partnership with BBC Radio Norfolk
Winner: Vanessa Scott
“Through sheer force of personality and an infectious enthusiasm, Vanessa spreads her positive message across everyone she comes into contact with.”
Runners up: Mary Kemp and Rob Simmonds
•Best Drink Producer
Sponsored by Crisp Malting Group
Winner: Grain Brewery
“There is a great deal of respect for the Grain product in the brewing industry, and the beers have won a number of awards.”
Runners up: Norfolk Cordial and Winbirri Vineyards
•Best Family Dining
Sponsored by Larking Gowen
Winner: The Pigs, Edgefield
“What the judges liked was the dedication to targeting families and the embracing of ‘The Pigs’ theme throughout.”
Runners up: Dunston Hall and The Mill Café, Bar and Restaurant
•Best Food Sustainability Initiative
Sponsored by Easton College
Winner: Strattons Hotel
“Sustainability is not an optional extra for Strattons, but the bedrock on which the business is built.”
Runners up: Norwich Farm Share and Bewilderwood Adventure Park
•Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer
Sponsored by Archant
Winner: Truly Local
“The shop, on Stalham High Street, declares itself ‘The little shop with big ideas’ and the judges felt it certainly lived up to its slogan.”
Runners up: Arthur Howell butchers and Goodies Farm Shop
•Best Plough to Plate Champion
Supported by Anglia Farmers
Winner: Heygate Farms
“The Norfolk Peer new potato from Heygate Farms has been an outstanding success and illustrates perfectly how a customer-focused farming business can break away from the industry’s traditional stereotype.”
Runners up: Morton Turkeys and Swannington Farm to Fork
•Best Restaurant Experience
Sponsored by Adnams
Winner: Roger Hickman’s Restaurant
“A visit to Roger Hickman’s restaurant is everything dining out should be: an exciting an inspirational gourmet journey which leaves you unashamedly booking your return trip.”
Runners up: The Ingham Swan and The Last Wine Bar
•Best School Food Project
Sponsored by the Royal Norfolk Show
Winner: Heather Avenue Infant School
“Every child in the school takes part in cooking every week. Food menus are themed to create excitement and links to the wider curriculum.”
Runners up: Kinsale Junior School (The Aquila Club) and The Happy Lunch Club
•Chef of the Year
Sponsored by City College Norwich
Winner: Eric Snaith, Titchwell Manor
“Eric’s dessert was described as ‘a Norfolk summer on a plate’. It blended strawberries and lavender, showcasing impressive techniques and a marriage of flavours that perfectly complimented each other.”
Runners up: Chris Busby, of Brasted’s, and Phil Milner, of The Orange Tree.
•Norfolk Coast Seafood Award
Sponsored by Norfolk Coast Partnership and the Norfolk Norfolk Fisheries Local Action Group
Winner: Cookie’s Crab Shop
“They serve outstanding fresh, quality seafood at very reasonable prices. The lobster platter alone deserves an award.”
Runners up: The Anchor Inn and Wells Crab House Café
•Exceptional Food Safety Management Award
Sponsored by Red Cat Partnership
Winner: The Mill Café, Bar and Restaurant
“Aware that the dining experience can be a daunting event for those with food intolerances, Anna and Hugo Stevenson and their well-trained team go to extraordinary lengths to ensure every customers is made to feel welcome.”
Runners up: Holiday Inn Norwich North and Blue Sky Leisure
•Excellence in Agriculture
Sponsored by Norfolk County Council
Winner: L F Papworth
“Now specialising in contract farming arable land, Tim and Kit Papworth use their experience, marketing skill and enthusiasm to provide good returns for their clients.”
Runners up: Heygate Farms and J H Withers and Son
•Pride of Norfolk
Sponsored by Bernard Matthews Farms
“Woodforde’s is probably Norfolk’s most iconic beer, loved by locals and beer enthusiasts right across the UK. But this success has not been at the expense of its roots.”
Runners up: The Booja-Booja Company and Breckland Orchard
With thanks to the National Trust for sponsoring a welcome reception for the awards
You don’t have to be a fisherman to enjoy a visit to the Bridge Inn, but it might help. There are two 22 lakes in the immediate area, and anglers make a beeline to the pub, which is about 10 miles from Norwich, every season.