FDA Intro Presentation

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Food glorious food...

The cream of the county’s food scene celebrated at last year's inaugural Cumbria Life Food & Drink Awards

It was a night to remember when Cumbria Life hosted its first Food & Drink Awards. Producers large and small; chefs from all three of the county’s Michelin-starred restaurants; newcomers and old hands gathered at Kendal College for a three-course dinner and awards presentation. The 180 guests heard Hairy Biker and Cumbria Life columnist Dave Myers, who was compère for the evening, talk about the breadth and strength of the county’s food scene. “It’s good to blow our own trumpet and events like this give us all a voice,” he said. “Sometimes I think we’re not quite aware of how good we are.”

There was double cause for celebration for the chef Simon Rogan, whose Cartmel eatery L’Enclume was named Restaurant of the Year and who was presented with the Judges’ Special Award for Outstanding Achievement. Handing over the special award, chairman of judges Steven Doherty spoke about Simon’s record at L’Enclume, which includes a Michelin star and being rated the second best restaurant in the UK in The Good Food Guide 2012. Speaking after the event, Simon said: “I was obviously really thrilled and very, very proud to win both awards. For the restaurant award we were in very good company among all the amazing places in Cumbria so to come out on top is great and testament to all the nine years of hard work to get where we are.” He said the Judges’ Special Award was particularly welcome because it meant that people understood what he was aiming for at L’Enclume. “Hopefully they’re proud of what we’re trying to do and pushing our region forward.”  

Speaking after the event, Steven Doherty said there had been a genuine sense of excitement during the evening as the finalists waited to learn who had picked up each award. The accolades were also a tool for promoting their businesses: “They know they’re doing a good job and it’s a nice pat on the back but it’s very positive marketing that you can just use for ever.”

There were special Cumbria Life Awards for Lifetime Contribution for Peter Gott and Colin Akrigg. Peter is a farmer, based at Endmoor near Kendal, whose work on the campaign for recognition for Traditional Cumberland Sausage and media profile helps keep Cumbria in the spotlight. Colin is the head chef, along with Mark Teasdale, of Sharrow Bay at Ullswater. His dedication and skill have helped the renowned hotel to keep its Michelin star every year since 1997.

Lisa Smith, who started her Ginger Bakers business from her home kitchen in Kendal in 2006, was “so shocked and so surprised” to be named Best Small Supplier/Producer. “It helps enormously; it’s something that makes a statement about quality,” she said.

Justin Woods, who was named Chef of the Year, partly in recognition of the variety of venues which he oversees at Kendal’s Castle Green Hotel, said he was “elated” by his win. “It’s a tribute not only to me but to my team for their daily devotion to good food,” he said.

Nick and Ana Jones, of Little Salkeld Watermill, were delighted to win the Best Tea Shop award. They said it was a well deserved accolade for their tea room team’s “vision, dedication, skill and enthusiasm”.

The awards evening was the biggest event of its kind ever held by Kendal College. Principal Graham Wilkinson said he was delighted by the performance of the young chefs and food service students. “For the students to get large banqueting experience is a really excellent part of their training.” Graham said that among many compliments the college received following the event, one hotelier commented that the food was of AA rosette standard.