Awards celebrate local produce

Sally Gunnell
Sally Gunnell

A number of local businesses were recognised for their gastronomical success at the annual Sussex Food and Drink Awards last week.

J Heath and Son, in Albert Parade, Eastbourne, was named runner-up in the ‘Sussex Butcher of the Year’ category at the 2013/14 awards ceremony.

Two Hailsham businesses were also recognised in their respective categories, with Sharnhold Farm Shop scooping the runner-up spot in the ‘Sussex Food/Farm Shop of the Year’ award and David and Marian Harding clinching second spot in the ‘Sussex Farmer of the Year’ category for their work at Court Lodge Farm.

This was the eighth year for the prestigious awards ceremony, which was hosted by patron Sally Gunnell OBE DL and Danny Pike of BBC Sussex at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.

More than 350 leaders in the food, drink and farming industry gathered for what is now dubbed the ‘Sussex foodie event of the year’ and supports many local farmers, food and drink producers and outlets which use and sell superb local fare.

Guests were treated to a bubbly reception followed by a seven-course banquet created using the best local ingredients – fitting for a ceremony that celebrates the best of local produce.

Former Olympic champion Sally Gunnell OBE DL said, “This is my second year as patron for the Sussex Food and Drink Awards and just one look at the grand finalists list reassures me that these awards are just getting better and better.

“I am thrilled to see a wonderful range of established and sustainable businesses that - very importantly – make us delicious food and drink to enjoy.”

The awards scheme is run by Natural Partnerships Community Interest Company and is judged by a loyal and high-ranking panel.

In the categories where local businesses came second, Charlie Hughes of Southview Farm Dairy in Pulborough triumphed in the ‘Sussex Farmer of the Year’ category, while Veasey and Sons Fishmonger, in Forest Row, won the Best Sussex Food/Farm Shop award.

J Heath and Son was just beaten to the title in their category of ‘Sussex Butcher of the Year’ by Archers of Westfield in Hastings.

Paula Seager, managing director of Natural PR Ltd, said, “We are proud of the Sussex Food and Drink Awards and want to wish our winners, grand finalists and finalists this year our warmest congratulations. We would also like to thank our patron, Sally Gunnell OBE DL and our sponsors, judges and media partners, who all share a vital role in making these awards a success.”

As well as appreciating the best of the local food industry, the awards ceremony also held a raffle to raise funds for Sussex’s only children’s hospice, Chestnut Tree House. With the help of the Wallace and Gromit Children’s Charity, they managed to raise an impressive £2,4000 during the evening.

The evening was also capped off by a surprise marriage proposal by the winner of ‘Sussex Farmer of the Year’, Charlie Hughes, who gave an emotional speech before popping the question. The crowd burst into applause as his girlfriend said ‘yes’.