Sally Gunnell OBE hosted over a hundred Sussex food and drink business leaders last week at a networking event celebrating the 68 finalists in the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2013/14, at the Norfolk Pavilion at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, Mid Sussex.

Farmers, butchers, chefs, market organizers, shop keepers, brewers and vintners, from the far reaches of East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove, enjoyed delicious local food and drink and met the sponsor judges, winners from previous years and learnt about what could make them the winner of this year’s coveted trophies.
“I want to congratulate all the finalists in this year’s awards and this event is a great opportunity for finalists to discover how to make the most of this competition which is all about boosting the local food market,” said Sally Gunnell OBE, patron of the Sussex Food and Drink Awards.
“Aside from receiving their trophies, Grand Finalists get free tickets to THE Sussex foodie event of the year, the Sussex Food and Drink Awards Banquet, which is a superb seven-course banquet created entirely from local produce, to be held on 30th January – but most importantly, the winners get huge respect and recognition.”
This year’s awards scheme was launched at the South of England Show VIP opening breakfast on 6 June, with finalists nominated and assessed by an expert panel of judges, overseen by newly appointed chair William Goodwin, following the retirement of Clive Beddall OBE.  All agreed that the standard is incredibly high this year and the competition is going to be extremely tough.
It’s going to be another really exciting year for the awards with some truly excellent candidates including lots of new names, as well as some familiar ones, who have made it onto the shortlist.
We are so lucky that Sussex is blessed with a wealth of glorious food and drink, from the beautiful South Downs and its coastal waters, to the huge number of creative and hard-working producers and manufacturers in the county who are creating award-winning food and drink every day.
This year the awards include:
Sussex Farmer of the Year Award sponsored by Spofforths
Best Sussex Food Producer sponsored by The Southern Co-operative
Best Sussex Eating Experience sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter
Best Sussex Farmers Market sponsored by Harveys
Sussex Butcher of the Year sponsored by Natural Farms
Best Sussex Food/Farm Shop sponsored by Cheese Please & Natural PR
Sussex Drink Producer of the Year sponsored by the Sussex Food & Drink Network
Nominations for Sussex Young Chef of the Year remain open until the end of July, when the top six will be announced and go forward as usual for the cook-off in October.
To see who made it onto the shortlist and to vote for your favourite, visit www.sussexfoodanddrinkawards.biz – details of how to text your vote can also be found on the website.