The party was in full swing at the Amex Stadium in Brighton on Thursday (January 28) as the annual Sussex Food and Drink Awards made its grand return.
Almost 400 leaders in the food, drink and farming industry gathered in the Brighton and Hove Albion stadium along with friends, family and special guests to celebrate the best of Sussex food and drink.
The awards, which have been dubbed ‘the Sussex foodie event of the year’, were celebrating their 10th anniversary and had a few extra twists including two new categories and very special performances from two opera singing chefs.
Guests enjoyed a fantastic seven course banquet prepared by Sodexo Prestige before BBC Sussex’s Danny Pike and former gold medal winning British athlete Sally Gunnell presented the awards.
Ryan Tomkinson will be a name to watch out for in the future as he saw off some sturdy competition to win Young Chef of the year.
The 21-year-old is Demi Chef de Partie at The Pass restaurant in the South Lodge Hotel, in Lower Beeding, and will look to follow in the footsteps of former Pass chef Steven Edwards who won the award in 2011 and has since gone on to win Masterchef.
His mother revealed the youngster had been working extremely hard after finishing runner up in the category last year, spending around 90 hours a week in the kitchen.
Ryan said: “It’s Crazy. I really went for it this year.
“I came second last year so this is more of a relief than anything.
“I’m not sure what will happen next but I’m thinking of maybe working in London, Oxford way.
“I have done everything good in Sussex now but I will never forget Sussex produce and resources that’s the main thing.”
It was also a successful night for Horsham Local Produce Market as it picked up its second award in three years.
The twice weekly market, held in the Carfax in Horsham, was crowned Sussex Farmers Market of the year, an honour it previously won back in 2014.
Pj Aldred, of Horsham Local Produce Market said: “We are over the moon. It was quite unexpected.
“We love Horsham and its customers and we will continue to run it in town. We absolutely love it.”
Marion Carter, who also helps run the market, added: “We are a bit shocked.
“There are lots of great markets out there in Sussex so its a great achievement to win.”
A couple who have become familiar with the awards are Charlie and Sarah Hughes.
The pair, who run Southview Farm in Bury, picked up the Sussex Farmer of the year award for a second time.
Charlie proposed to his now wife Sarah live on stage back when they won the award in 2014.
He said both the businesses and the family had come along way since, with Sarah giving birth to their first child last year.
Sarah said: “Its been challenging with the new addition, juggling work with family life.
“There are lots of things we want to continue and improve but it is lovely to get the recognition.”
Charlie said his wife was even ordering produce from her recovery suite after their new baby was born.
He added: “It is a real privilege to have won it for a second time and shows we are not taking our foot off the pedal.”
Celebrations were also in order at the The Cat Inn, in West Hoathly, as it picked up the Sussex Eating Experience of the year.
Head chef Alex Jacquemin said: “We are shocked to be honest. We didn’t think we would win.
“It has been a good year for us. Every year we are getting better and better the quality of the food is going up and up.”
It was also a good night for English sparkling wine as Ridgeview Wine Estate took home the Drink Producer of the year.
The family run business, based in Ditchling, was overjoyed with the award and said it was showing the French that the British can also make quality sparkling wine.
Tamara Roberts, of Ridgeview, said: “It means a huge amount.
“Being voted for by the public is amazing thing and for that to be reflected by the judges I am extremely proud.”
It was a good night for Sean Hutchingson after his shop S.K. Hutchings, in Partridge Green, picked up the Butcher of the year award.
He said: “This award means a lot because it was the customers who voted for us - that is what did it for us. We work very hard to give the customers what they want.
“We have done this for 27 years and we had to work hard to get through foot and mouth and BSE.”
However, Sean’s celebrations were cut a little short as he had to be back at work by 3am the following morning.
Farmers at The Traditional Cheese Dairy, in Stonegate, were left overjoyed as they were crowned Sussex Food Producer of the year.
Rebecca Dyball, of the Traditional Cheese Dairy, said: “If anyone knows cheese making it is really kind of secluded job.
“To win this is massive and I might have to ask for a pay rise.”
With the awards also celebrating their 10th anniversary two extra categories were added to this years competition.
The first was newcomer of the year which was picked up by Eggs and Apples in Hurst Green.
Susannah Hewett, of Eggs and Apples, said: “We were really up against the big guns tonight.
“Our staff are fabulous, we get so many complements on their customer service.”
The final new category was Sussex Street Food of the year which was won by the Trolls Pantry in Brighton.
The street food provider, which is based in the Hobgoblin pub in Brighton, prides itself on local, seasonal and ethical food and has made a big commitment into making sure no there is no food wastage in the kitchen.
Paul Clark, of the Trolls Pantry, said: “There is a lot of wastage going on and bad standards. I just want to raise the bar.
“It is pretty difficult in fact it is really expensive but its really worth it and the customers think so too.”
Sharnfold Farm shop,in Stone Cross, also picked up an award for Sussex Food Shop of the year.
The winners and runners up were as follows:
Sussex Food Producer of the Year, sponsored by The Southern Co-operative
Winner: The Traditional Cheese Dairy, Stonegate, East Sussex
Runners up: Higgidy, Shoreham-by-sea, West Sussex and Springs’ Smoked Salmon, Edburton, West Sussex
Sussex Drink Producer of the Year, sponsored by Rix & Kay Solicitors
Winner: Ridgeview Wine Estate, Ditchling Common, East Sussex
Runners up: Dark Star Brewing Co Ltd, Partridge Green, West Sussex and Nutbourne Vineyards, Pulborough, West Sussex
Sussex Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by Sodexo Prestige
Winner: Ryan Tomkinson, The Pass, South Lodge, Lower Beeding, West Sussex
Runners up: Michael Sutherland, The Sussex Ox, Polegate, East Sussex and Stephanie Hayward, Ockenden Manor, Cuckfield, West Sussex
Sussex Farmer of the Year, in association with Farmers Weekly
Winner: Charlie and Sarah Hughes, Southview Farm, Pulborough, West Sussex
Runners up: Julia and Simon Feakes, Sussex Lamb, Horsham, West Sussex and Tim and Rupert Hoare, Adsdean Farm, Funtingdon, West Sussex
Sussex Butcher of the Year, sponsored by Absolute Butchery
Winner: S K Hutchings, Partridge Green, West Sussex
Runners up: A C Coughtrey Butchers, Pulborough, West Sussex and Barfields Butchers, Brighton
Sussex Farmers Market of the Year, sponsored by Harveys of Lewes
Winner: Horsham Local Produce Market, West Sussex
Runners up: Lewes Farmers Market, East Sussex and Shoreham Farmers Market, West Sussex
Sussex Eating Experience of the Year, co-sponsored by Natural PR and Sussex Food & Drink Network
Winner: The Cat Inn, West Hoathly, West Sussex
Runners up: The Curlew Restaurant, Bodiam, East Sussex and The Sussex Ox, Polegate, East Sussex
Sussex Food Shop of the Year, sponsored by Wealden District Council
Winner: Sharnfold Farm Shop, Stone Cross, East Sussex
Runners up: Charlie’s Farm Shop, Bury, West Sussex and Rushfields Farm Shop, Poynings, West Sussex
Sussex Newcomer of the Year, sponsored by Spofforths Chartered Accountants
Winner: Eggs to Apples, Hurst Green, East Sussex
Runners up: Coggings & Co, Brighton and Etch Food, Billingshurst, West Sussex
Sussex Street Food Vendor of the Year, co-sponsored by Food Rocks and Hepworth & Co Brewers Ltd
Winner: The Trolls Pantry, Brighton
Runners up: Boca Loco, Arundel, West Sussex and Jah Jyot, Southwater, West Sussex