FDA Intro Presentation

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Thank you to our esteemed judges who have given their time and expertise freely, so they can help champion Cumbria’s amazing food and drink sector and so that Cumbria Life can give out these awards with the authority and independence that such a scheme deserves. This year the Chairman of Judges will be Stephen Doherty.

Steven Doherty
Chef/Proprietor, First Floor Cafe, Lakeland, Windermere

Steven started his cookery career with a 2-year apprenticeship at the Savoy. His association with Albert Roux at Le Gavroche began in 1978 as a Commis Chef and then in 1985 he became the first British person to be Head Chef of a 3-Michelin Star establishment. In 1991 he was awarded the Master of Culinary Arts. Steven’s Lake District love affair began in 1993 with the Brown Horse at Winster, followed by The Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite and then the First Floor Café at the flagship Lakeland store in Windermere.  In 2010, he created The Beer Kitchen at Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley. Steven judges many competitions and is a popular speaker at chef’s conferences and well as finding time to be on the management committee for the Northern branch of the Academy of Culinary Arts.

Stephanie Thompson & Keith Sutton 

Cumbria Life restaurant critic Keith Sutton writes a monthly fine dining review with his partner Stephanie Thompson
Keith edited The Cumberland News and the News & Star in Carlisle from 1993-2005. The Cumberland News was named UK Weekly and Regional Newspaper of the Year in 2001 and 2005 for its coverage of foot and mouth in Cumbria and the Carlisle floods. Before that he edited the North West Evening Mail in Barrow, and with partner Stephanie he also ran the highly regarded Trinity House Hotel in Ulverston from 1987 to 1995. Both Keith and Stephanie had a long career in Fleet Street before moving to Cumbria. He enjoys food and drink, and cycling.


Mary Houston Cumbria Food Tourism Manager

Mary Houston comes from a Cumbrian farming family and has had a varied career in food and tourism, beginning at the age of 12 with part-time work in a garden centre café in Cark-in-Cartmel and followed by a number of years at a famous, Cartmel-based food
producer. Her passion for the food sector turned academic and she based her French degree thesis on France’s renowned food tourism models. After internships at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons and Claridge’s, she moved to Manchester to manage the French/English marketing communications for a number of international food ingredients firms. Mary now works as Food Tourism Manager for the Taste Cumbria project, which aims to position Cumbria as a world-class food tourism destination. In her spare time, Mary very much enjoys using her salary to directly invest in this sector herself.


Richard Axford Assistant head, Kendal College’s School of Hospitality and Catering

As the assistant head of school for hospitality and catering at Kendal College, Richard Axford is responsible for training many of Cumbria’s future chefs and restaurant staff. Richard has more than 17 years’ experience working in hotels across the country as head chef, cooking at AA Red Rosette Level for seven consecutive years. Kendal College’s hospitality department and restaurant have built a national reputation and Richard is the driving force behind many of its initiatives. Last year he brought Cumbria’s four Michelin-starred chefs to the college to cook a meal together for the first time, providing invaluable experience for the students.









Last Year's Winners

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