Celebrating Norfolk’s food heroes

Norfolk's food heroes were last night given the recognition they deserve at the 11th EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards at the Holiday Inn Norwich North.

They are the champions of local produce from pies and pastries to steaks and sausages.

Whether they are responsible for cooking with them, creating them or even simply shouting really loudly about them, this county's food heroes are what makes the Norfolk food and drink industry something worth celebrating.

And, at the 11th EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards last night, they were given the recognition they deserved with a glittering ceremony at the Holiday Inn Norwich North.

All the finalists in the nine award categories – which included best farmers' market and butcher of the year – were chosen from the dozens of nominees put forward by EDP and EDP Norfolk Magazine readers.

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A team of judges then set about choosing the best chefs, bakers, farm shops and pubs across the county from that long list to become the 27 finalists.

At the awards ceremony last night, the winners were announced by BBC Look East presenter and EDP Norfolk Magazine columnist Susie Fowler-Watt as nominees, judges, sponsors and supporters enjoyed a delicious meal of local produce.

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As he welcomed everyone to the event, EDP editor Peter Waters said: 'Congratulations to all our winners and finalists. They are the very finest of our thriving and successful food and hospitality industry – people who are passionate about Norfolk produce, whether growing or rearing it, cooking with it, making things with it, or simply selling it.'

The first award of the night went to Grooms Bakery, of Burnham Market, which took home the accolade for baker of the year.

In the Norfolk's best pub menu category, judges praised Weston Longville's The Parson Woodforde for its imaginative menu and wide appeal.

They added: 'The Parson Woodforde really stood out from its rivals because of the passion and sheer drive of its staff.'

But in the chef of the future category, the judges found it impossible to choose between the three young nominees.

Nikita Hoskin, who recently joined the Last Wine Bar in Norwich; Lewis Orr, who began as a kitchen porter at the Lavender House before working his way into the kitchen; and Edd Watkinson, chef de partie at the Parson Woodforde, were all highly commended following a cook-off.

The final award of the night was also arguably the most prestigious.

Galton Blackiston successfully beat off strong competition from Richard Hughes at the Lavender House at Brundall and Nick Mills from Brasted's in Framingham Pigot to take the coveted outstanding achievement award.

The Norfolk born and bred chef is known not only for his Michelin-starred Morston Hall, on the north Norfolk coast, but also his many books and television cookery programmes.

The judges said: 'Justifiably widely acclaimed for his culinary talent and his championing of seasonal, local produce, Galton is an inspiration both to his fellow chefs and the general public.'

Ahead of the presentations, guests were treated to a mouth-watering meal of local produce which included neck fillet of Norfolk pork slow roasted and served with a parsnip and roasted apple puree, and raspberry cheesecake topped with fresh raspberries and accompanied by a blackcurrant liqueur coulis.

Tim Wainwright Noble, operations manager at Holiday Inn Norwich North, said the hotel began planning for the awards two months ago and, from the kitchen staff to front of house, they all enjoyed the opportunity to show off what they could do.

He said the dessert would include sugar work on 200 plates – something usually only seen at a la carte restaurants. 'We're always going for something different, that extra mile,' he said.

The food and drink awards were the latest event in the month-long EDP Bidwells Norfolk Food Festival celebrations.

Mr Waters said: 'These awards are not only the county's well-established food Oscars but they are also a highlight of the Norfolk Food Festival, a month-long celebration of what I believe is the best food offering of any county in the country.

'The EDP is more than just a newspaper: it is here to promote and showcase the best of our county and champion Norfolk's causes.

'That's why we started the awards in 2001 and that's why we got involved with the food festival when it was just a single weekend in Norwich.

'It is now the UK's largest county-wide food festival with five distinct weekend destination events. I'm thrilled that the EDP has been able to help achieve this.'

For a full interview with Mr Blackiston turn to pages 22 and 23.

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