Celebrations were in full flow 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 as they received their trophies at the East Sussex National Golf Resort & Spa near Uckfield.

Thousands of people voted for hundreds of Sussex food and drink businesses and individuals in the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2010/11, which is run by Natural PR and this year celebrated its fifth anniversary!

Said Clive Beddall OBE, Chairman of the Judges: “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.

This competition has raised the profile of an ever-growing variety of products from across the county and what has pleased me most this year is that more and more Sussex hotels, pubs and restaurants are highlighting local produce on their menus.”

Over 200 leaders in the food, drink and farming industries gathered for what is now dubbed ‘the Sussex foodie event of the year’. 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 special fifth anniversary menu was created by AA rosette chef Andy Wiles and featured an array of Sussex goodies, including: local Sussex rabbit rillette; Harvey’s beer battered line-caught Sussex pollock; a trio of Sussex venison; layered Sussex blackberry fool; a selection of local cheeses and Sussex ground coffee with chocolate truffles and mini cup cakes.

It was an even split across the county as winners were announced in a BAFTA-style presentation, hosted by Danny Pike of BBC Sussex. East Sussex fought off tough competition seeing wins for the second year in a row from Uckfield for Best Sussex Farmers Market, sponsored by Harveys Brewery and Lewes based Cheese Please for Best Sussex Food/Farm Shop, sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter. Having recently received the accolade of a Michelin Star, it was a night for more celebration for The Curlew Restaurant in Bodiam which won Best Sussex Eating Experience, sponsored by A Taste of Sussex; and Tablehurst Farm in Forest Row was awarded Sussex Butcher of the Year, sponsored by Leonards and Natural Farms.

West Sussex saw siblings Jenny and Trevor Passmore of Church Farm in Lancing win the very popular title of Sussex Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Knill James; Sussex Food Producer of the Year, sponsored by Musgrave, was awarded to Caroline’s Dairy in Sidlesham, Chichester; Dark Star Brewery in Horsham beat neighbouring rivals Hepworth’s to take first place in Sussex Drink Producer of the Year, sponsored by Natural PR; and another Horsham winner was South Lodge Hotel’s sous-chef, Steven Edwards, who took away the much coveted title of Sussex Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Blue Spark Organisation.

As fireworks lit up the banquet hall, Paula Seager, MD of Natural PR which organise the awards, said: “Tonight has been a true 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

The winners are:
Best Sussex Farmer’s Market – sponsored by Harveys Brewery
Winner – Uckfield
Runners up – Lewes & Shoreham

Sussex Farmer of the Year sponsored by Knill James
Winner – Jenny & Trevor Passmore, Church Farm, Coombes, Lancing
Runners up – Tim Hassell, Home Farm, Goodwood & Shon and Simon Sprackling, Rother Valley Organics, Petersfield

Best Sussex Food/Farm Shop sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter
Winner – Cheese Please, Lewes
Runners up – Plaw Hatch Farm Shop, Sharpthorne & Sussex Produce Company, Steyning

Sussex Food Producer of the Year sponsored by Musgrave Retail Partnership
Winner – Caroline’s Dairy, Sidlesham
Runners up – Nut Knowle Farm, Horam, nr Heathfield & Plaw Hatch Farm, Sharpthorne

Sussex Drink Producer of the Year sponsored by Natural PR
Winner – Dark Star Brewery, Horsham
Runners up – Hepworths Brewery, Horsham & World Coffee, Lindfield

Best Sussex Eating Experience sponsored by a Taste of Sussex
Winner – The Curlew, Bodiam
Runners up – Restaurant Tristan, Horsham & Simply Delicious, Bognor Regis

Sussex Young Chef of the Year sponsored by Blue Spark Organisation
Winner – Steven Edwards, South Lodge, Horsham
Runners up – Simon Duncan, Sam’s of Brighton & Hanna Payne, the Pass at South Lodge, Horsham

Sussex Butcher of the Year sponsored by Leonards & Natural Farms
Winner – Tablehurst Farm Shop, Forest Row
Runners up – S K Hutchings, Partridge Green & New Street Butchers, Horsham