Tom Flint: The silent heroes of Sussex food and drink

Brighton Gin bar was a welcome addition
Brighton Gin bar was a welcome addition

Awards season is well and truly upon us. Last week we saw the launch of the BRAVO Awards, Brighton’s first 100 per cent public vote based awards, and later this month the Brighton’s Best Awards will be announced. 
 Whilst these are both tremendously exciting, this week I will be telling you all about The Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2017, that were announced at a black-tie bash at the AMEX in Brighton.

You may have already read a full listing of the winners and runners up elsewhere in this week’s edition so I will spare you the repetition and focus a little more on the event itself; whilst also celebrating one or two of my favourite winners and runners up.

The Sussex Food Awards are a celebration restaurants, chefs, food producers, markets and farmers from across the country. This is something that I particularly enjoy about the awards as they really celebrate some of the silent heroes of the food and drink industry.

The evening kicked off with a champagne reception which this year had been bolstered by a Brighton Gin bar, which was a very welcome sight.

We soon headed down to the main conference hall for the awards dinner and ceremony.

I was sharing a table with some of the nominees who were clearly looking to enjoy their evening, whilst managing their nerves.

Catering on such a grand scale is a daunting task with 400 people attending the event and the caterers, Sodexo Prestige, put in a great effort. The highlight was the main dish which featured “pork thrice” with a mini pie the standout element.

Dessert was a bit of a mystery thanks to the words “liquid puff pastry” appearing in the description, and an eyebrow or two was raised as a result.

With dinner over and the awards underway the tension in the room was palpable.

Brighton was lightly represented and I want to congratulate the Bluebird Tea Co on their Newcomer of the Year victory, just pipping Brighton restaurant, The Set, to the post. Shoreham farmer’s market took the award for Farmer’s Market of the Year award giving another victory to the city.

The standout award for me was Sussex Farmer of the Year and I was really pleased to see two fantastic local farmers that I have been lucky enough to meet in the running. Camilla and Roly Puzey of Saddlescombe farm, who I shared a table with, are conscientious and passionate farmers who are doing amazing things on Devils Dyke.

My allegiances were split, however, as Joanna and Andrew Knowles of Trenchmore farm were also up for the award.

In the end Trenchmore edged it and were well deserved winners.

If you’ve not tried for their incredible Trenchmore beef and Silly Moo cider give it a try.

With the final award, we tasted success on our table with The Real Pie Company from Crawley winning Food Producer of the Year.

Congratulations to them and all the winners and runners up who put in so much work throughout the year to make this county such a wonderful food destination, and thanks to everyone who makes these awards such a memorable event each year.