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.
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.
Mike Bevans, Owner
Linthwaite House Hotel, Windermere
Mike has been owner of the 4AA Red Star Linthwaite House Hotel since 1990 after previous roles at Langdale PLC, the Craigendarroch Hotel & Country Club in the Cairngorms, and two privately owned hotels in Brighton & Hove. He is a Master Innholder and Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and loves good food. Mike knew from the tender age of seven that he wanted to manage hotels thanks to family holidays in Torquay where the manager seemed to be on a holiday for life. As well as golf, walking and photography, Mike’s biggest passion is music and would like to be at Glastonbury all year round, which he likens to the hospitality industry.
As a former weekly newspaper journalist who has lived and worked in Cumbria for the past 26 years, Gillian Cowburn has been ideally placed to help champion the cause of our local food and drink producers. She still lives in Kendal but is now the PR/Marketing Manager for a shop and deli-café over the border in North Yorkshire. Gillian also continues to share her enthusiasm for local food via her blog at www.scrummypr.com
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.
Food blogger and photographer
Alan Spedding describes himself as a food lover, restaurant-goer, amateur home cook and wild food forager. Based in Whitehaven, the father-of-three writes about his passion for all things culinary on his cumbriafoodie blog, where he often illustrates his food reviews with his own photos of memorable meals. His interest was sparked years ago by a visit to the Michelin-starred restaurant at Sharrow Bay on Ullswater. Alan set out to learn to cook and spent time in kitchens alongside the likes of Raymond Blanc and the Roux brothers. He went on to appear on television programmes including MasterChef and Chef for a Night. His day job is completely unrelated as Alan works in a safety role in the nuclear industry. He is also official food photographer for Taste Cumbria.
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.