Annual Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards launched

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A BREAKFAST inspired by the Queen’s Jubilee is one of the new categories in the Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards which were launched this week.

The awards, now in their fourth year, were launched on Thursday at the Malt Shovel Tavern in Bridge Street, Northampton, the pub which won the title of community pub of the year (town) in last year’s competition.

Rachel Mallows, from The Mallows Company, of Bozeat, which organises the awards, said: “The success of the awards is borne out through the support by sponsors and the number of people interested in participating.

“People of the county are, particularly, very discerning and have really started to get interested in it and shout about the fact they are interested in it. Buying local is of interest for whatever reason, whether that is because of the air miles that food travels or because they want to support the local economy.”

Last year there were hundreds of nominations and more than 10,000 votes were cast in the categories that were decided by public vote. Rachel said: “This year we are looking forward to the chance to get lots of nominations from people across the county.”

Last year’s winner of the chef of the year title Lee Gaskins, who is head chef at Highgate House in Creaton, urged anyone thinking of entering the competition to give it a go.

He said: “I would wholeheartedly recommend doing it. There’s a bit of kudos for it and it’s great for marketing and it’s great for bringing people in.”

He said the awards are a good way to promote the county’s food and drink industry to customers and for people in the business to find out about each other.

He has gathered some more award-winning talent at Highgate House as he took on the winner of the young chef of the year category Leighanne Harrison, at his own kitchen last December. He plans to encourage her to enter the chef of the year contest this year.

The awards will have 12 categories this year with some changes made to the line-up which should encourage a wider variety of food producers and businesses to put themselves forward.

The royal-themed category is new for this year. For this the organisers want to get entries from cafes, hotels and bed and breakfast providers who think they can produce a great Northamptonshire jubilee breakfast.

They will have to produce a first course, which could be toast, cereal or fruit, a second cooked course and a drink. But they must also describe in their application how their breakfast reflects the jubilee theme. Rachel Mallows, of The Mallows Company is hoping for some imaginative answers to this question. The breakfasts will then be judged at a cook-off at Tresham College in Corby on Friday, June 1. Rachel said: “They have to be very explicit and say how it relates to the jubilee. If people need help in completing the form they have just got to ring and we will talk to them on the phone about it or come and see them.”

The second new award for this year is the artisan local product or drink. Rachel said: “This is celebrating people doing things very much at a craft level, perhaps at home, products like chutney. So they don’t have to compete with those that have larger premises or factories.”

There have also been some changes to established categories. The Curry Chef of the Year category is now the Spice Chef of the Year. This was altered so that a wider range of chefs would take part and to increase the variety of cuisine in the category. Rachel said: “It is including different cuisines within that so it could be someone who prepares food items marinated in, or which contain, chilli, mustard or other spices and this could bring in Caribbean, Japanese or British food.”

Two other categories have been changed this year. The product and drink of the year are now categories for new product or drink. Entrants must have started producing their wares since January 2011. “We really wanted to celebrate new things coming onto the market,” said Rachel.

The awards have been sponsored by Carlsberg UK and local companies have also sponsored individual awards. The presentation dinner will take place on Wednesday, November 14. To enter any of the categories of the awards or to nominate your favourite pubs, restaurants and products, visit the website at www.letyourselfgrow.com/food anddrinkawards and download a form, or telephone 01933 664437 or email Rachel at rachel@rachelmallows.com