Devon’s talented food and drink scene was alive at Monday (2nd October) night for the 12th Food Drink Devon Awards.
Over 444 individuals from the county’s finest food and drink producers, hospitality and catering businesses and speciality retailers celebrated in style at the esteemed awards’ ceremony, held at Sandy Park the home to Gallagher Premiership Rugby team, the Exeter Chiefs.
During the evening Mike Palmer, Executive Chef at Two Bridges Hotel, Dartmoor was awarded the coveted title of ‘Chef of the Year’. The award acknowledges the explosion of talented chefs in the region who have been driving innovation, championing local produce and producing exceptional quality food. After sampling Mike’s menu, judges’ described him as ‘a truly exceptional talent’ creating ‘attractive and cleverly presented food, cooked to perfection and above all tasting absolutely delicious’.Celebrating sustainability, Food Drink Devon’s ‘Sustainability Pioneer Award’ shines a light on businesses going that extra mile in their endeavours to be environmentally friendly. At the ceremony ‘Hospitality Sustainability Pioneer’ was awarded to country house hotel, THE PIG-at Combe near Honiton for their incredible sustainability initiatives, with B Corp certified Two Drifters Distillery, famed for their carbon negative rum, claiming the ‘Producer Sustainability Pioneer’ title. For the first time in the awards’ history, Food Drink Devon awarded a ‘Sustainability Pioneer Recognition Award’ won by The Venus Company for their dedication over the past 20 years as they aim to become the greenest cafe operator. Competition was fierce in the ‘Taste of Devon Product Awards’ with a staggering 300 product entries. The ‘Food Product of the Year’ accolade went to Springwater Farm for their Free Range Mangalitza Pork Mince with ‘New Food Product of the Year’ being awarded to Andrew King Chocolates for their Signature Nine Nut Selection. Luscombe fought off stiff competition to claim ‘Drink Product of the Year’ for their Passionate Ginger Beer, while Rull Orchard took home the title of ‘New Drink Product of the Year’ for their Perryote. From the 300 product entries, all of which were blind-tasted by independent judges, 24 really impressed, achieving a faultless score of 100% and a ‘Platinum’ award.
Deserving producers and their products were those who gained a ‘Taste of Devon Product Award’, as listed above, and Andrew King Chocolates for their Signature Eighteen, Aune Valley Meat for their Maple Bacon and Rib Eye Steak, Beckland Charcuterie’s Beef Bresaola, Ben’s Farm Shop for their Free Range Port Cured Ham, Cakewhole’s Hummingbird Cake, Langage Farm for their Devonshire Clotted Cream, Lovaton Farm for their Lleyn Hogget Loin Chops and Gloucester Old Spot Pork Rolled Leg, Pretty Little Pastries and their Box of Apples, Quayside Distillery’s Coffee Vodka and Ridge & Furrow Cider for their Naturally Sweet Cider.Other ‘Platinum’ winners included Sharpham Dairy and their Sharpham Brie, South Hams Brewery’s Mulled Cider, Stevie B’s Bakery’s Honey Cake, The Husbandry School and their Salad with Edible Flowers, The Studio for their Exmoor Blackberry & White Chocolate Fudge, TORS Vodka for their Vodka, Truly Treats and their Vegan Hazelnut Brookie and Utopian Brewing for their Fraenkisches Rotbier. Products in the ‘Taste of Devon Product Awards’ achieving a score of 90-99% were awarded ‘Gold’ awards of which there were 153, with a further 74 obtaining ‘Silver‘ awards for scoring 85-89%. For the second year in a row, the highly prestigious ‘Best Fine Dining Restaurant’ award was presented to Restaurant Twenty Seven by Jamie Rogers in Kingsbridge, commenting on Jamie Rogers’ restaurant, judges said ‘his passion for food and local produce is clear to see’. The ‘Best Hotel Restaurant’ award went to Honiton’s exceptional THE PIG-at Combe, with judges describing it as a ‘brilliant example of hospitality and dining at its very best’. Harry’s Restaurant, set in the heart of Exeter won the ‘Best Restaurant’ award with judges describing them as ‘a great example of how independent restaurants can lead the way’. The Dartmoor Inn at Lydford, was the proud winner of the ‘Best Pub’ category with judges commending them for their ‘beautiful presentation and exceptional service’. Outside, Bantham took home the accolade for ‘Best Café’, judges raved about the ‘delicious food’ and ‘incredible’ location. Outdoor barbecue cooking school, High Grange Devon near Axminster took home the ‘Best Training School’ accolade with The Tors Inn at Okehampton the successful winner of ‘Best Takeaway’ with judges particularly commending their ‘friendly service’. In the ‘Retail Awards’ ‘Best Online Retailer’ went to Torquay’s Devon Farm Kitchen with Ben’s Farm Shop, Staverton triumphed in the ‘Best Retailer’ category, impressing judges with their ‘traditional farm shop’ and ‘extensive range of produce’. The evening’s canapés and three-course dinner were created by Craig Beecham, head chef at Sandy Park, Matt Mason, chef director at Winslade Manor and Jamie Rogers, Restaurant Twenty Seven by Jamie Rogers who transformed the best raw ingredients into a delicious banquet. The menu featured fabulous local produce from members and food and drink sponsors including Veyseys Butchers, Bar Buoy, Calancombe Estate, Crab Shed Salcombe, Dartmouth Foods, Bays Brewery, Ebb Tides, Sandford Orchards, Devon Eel Co, Huxbear Vineyard, Luscombe, No. 1 Coffee, Quicke’s Cheese, Salcombe Dairy Chocolate, Sandridge Barton Wines, Sharpham Cheese and Westcountry Fruit Sales. Commenting on the awards, Chair of Food Drink Devon, Greg Parsons, said: “Devon has a fantastic food and drink scene, one of the best to be found anywhere in this country. Once again, we have enjoyed a record number of entries for the Food Drink Devon Awards and it will be no surprise that we have awarded a record number of Gold and Platinum winners. Our aim with the awards is not to measure one against the other, but to identify products and destinations that we are proud to present as Devon’s finest.” A special thank you goes to sponsors of the awards Partners&, M&B Edible Oils, Bays Brewery, Caterfood, West Country Fruit Sales, Bishop Fleming, Vale Labels, Harvey & Brockless, Impact Design & Marketing, Stephens Scown, inkREADible Labels, Hedgerow Print and Food Magazine, with the staging being provided by PL1 Events. Also, for the ‘film to fork’ video, Ocean City Media. Each year judging for the awards is carried out by a panel of independent and unbiased experts including a number of celebrated names from the region. All results and winners are verified by an independent adjudicator, with entrants receiving the opportunity to benefit from invaluable feedback provided by the panel.