Celebrations were in full flow last night [Thursday 26 January] at this year’s spectacular Sussex Food & Drink Awards ceremony, where eight of Sussex’s top food and drink producers were hailed as local heroes and received their trophies at the American Express Community Stadium.

A record-breaking 11,000 people voted for over 350 Sussex food and drink businesses and individuals in the sixth Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2011/12 and Chairman of the Judges, Clive Beddall OBE, noted that Sussex is now seen as one of Britain’s true centres of excellence for food and drink by national food buyers.

He continued: “Research shows that, despite economic downturn, demand for locally sourced food has actually accelerated during the past 12 months and more than half the country’s shoppers now say they are prepared to pay extra for local food.

“The Sussex Food & Drink Awards celebrate the exceptional standards of quality and innovation that have taken the county’s producers into the top half of the UK’s Premier League for locally produced food and drink. “

Over 350 leaders in the food, drink and farming industries gathered for what is now dubbed ‘the Sussex foodie event of the year’, with all tickets sold out. Guests were treated to a wonderful ‘Sussex bubbly and ale reception’, sponsored by Harvey & Son and Carr Taylor, followed by a stunning seven-course banquet. The menu featured an array of Sussex goodies including: Sussex duck; locally caught lemon sole; roast cutlet and braised breast of Sussex lamb; treacle tart with Willetts farm ice cream; a selection of local cheeses and Sussex ground coffee with Sussex bubbly truffles.

Winners were announced in a BAFTA-style presentation, hosted by Danny Pike of BBC Sussex. The consistency of standards in Sussex was highlighted with second time wins for Shoreham for Best Sussex Farmers Market, sponsored by Harveys Brewery, and The Sussex Produce Company in Steyning for Best Sussex Food/Farm Shop, sponsored by the South Downs National Park Authority and Collabor8. Phil and Steve Hook of Longleys Farm in Hailsham were also second time winners in the Sussex Farmer of the Year category sponsored by Knill James Accountants.

The Foragers in Hove won the Best Sussex Eating Experience, sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter; and Bramptons Butchers in Brighton’s Kemp Town was awarded Sussex Butcher of the Year, sponsored by Natural Farms.

Sussex Food Producer of the Year, sponsored by the Southern Co-operative, was awarded to High Weald Dairy in Horsted Keynes; Wobblegate pure apple juice in Bolney came out on top in the Drink Producer of the Year, sponsored by the Sussex Food & Drink Network; and the much coveted title of Sussex Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Natural PR, went to 24-year-old Paul Peach who works at the Horse Guards Inn in Tillington.

Paula Seager, MD of Natural PR which runs the awards, said: “Tonight has been a wonderful celebration and we are so proud that these awards have played a part in building the reputation of Sussex as one of the best food destinations in the country and home to some of the most creative and exciting producers of exquisite food and drink.

“As ever, the awards would not be possible without the support from all our wonderful sponsors and the many great organisations and individuals involved and we hope that we can continue to make these awards a success for many years to come.”

For more information on all the winners and the awards please visit www.sussexfoodawards.biz

Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2011/12 Winners:
Best Sussex Farmer’s Market – sponsored by Harveys Brewery
Winner – Shoreham
Runners up – Lewes & Steyning

Sussex Farmer of the Year sponsored by Knill James
Winner – Phil and Steve Hook, Longleys Farm, Hailsham
Runners up – Jenny & Trevor Passmore, Church Farm, Coombes, Lancing, Robin and Kevin Ashby, Willetts Farm, Blackham

Best Sussex Food/Farm Shop sponsored by the South Downs National Park and Collabor8
Winner – The Sussex Produce Company, Steyning
Runners up – Cheese Please, Lewes & Sharnfold Farm Shop, Stone Cross, Nr Pevensey

Sussex Food Producer of the Year sponsored by the Southern Co-operative
Winner – High Weald Dairy, Horsted Keynes
Runners up – Caroline’s Dairy, Sidlesham, Nr Chichester, Daylands Farm, Ashurst

Sussex Drink Producer of the Year sponsored by the Sussex Food & Drink Network
Winner – Wobblegate pure apple juice, Bolney
Runners up – W J King Brewers, Horsham & Highdown Vineyard, Ferring

Best Sussex Eating Experience sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter
Winner – The Foragers, Hove
Runners up – Simply Delicious, Bognor Regis and Tottington Manor, Edburton, Nr Henfield

Sussex Young Chef of the Year sponsored by Natural PR
Winner – Paul Peach, the Horse Guards Inn, Tillington
Runners up – Craig Holden, the Mill House, Ashington and Rob Lightbody, Jeremy’s Restaurant, Borde Hill Gardens, Nr Haywards Heath

Sussex Butcher of the Year sponsored by Natural Farms
Winner – Bramptons Butchers, Brighton
Runners up – S K Hutchings, Partridge Green & Westdene Butchers, Brighton