What a night!
2020 threw us all some serious curve balls, not least not being able to run the Deliciouslyorkshire Taste Awards which are the biggest food and drink accolades in the North of England.
But through adversity, wonderful things can grow and happen and this year’s event is set to be our biggest and best year yet!
David Parkin, award winning journalist and communications expert, summed the evening up perfectly:
“If you’ve not been to a big awards dinner since the pandemic, I think you are in for a surprise.
Given the hiatus since these kind of shindigs last took place, they are returning with a bang.
There seems to be a renewed energy to such events.
I bet some people were even looking forward to last night’s Insider Yorkshire Dealmakers’ Awards.
I went to a black tie awards do last week for the first time in a couple of years.
The Deliciouslyorkshire Taste Awards gather the best of the region’s food and drink businesses – the butchers, bakers and gin and pasta makers.
Just like the much missed White Rose tourism awards, the Taste Awards are like a crash course in the best Yorkshire has to offer.
From big to small, the record number of award entrants included talented artisan producers, farm shops and delis, cafes, coffee shops, breweries, restaurants and hotels, all committed to using the best local produce, and producing something extra special.
Organised by Allison Kane at Delciouslyorkshire, part of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, I was fortunate to be invited by Yorkshire insurance business Marshall Wooldridge and sat next to one of the winners, Pennine Brewing Company, a family-owned micro brewery based in the village of Well, near Masham.
Overshadowed by two big name neighbours in Black Sheep and Theakston’s, Pennine has chosen a name that means it can sell its variety of ales across the North and Midlands with everyone thinking they are a local brewery. Clever.
The Awards, which are the biggest food and drink accolades in the North of England, attracted hundreds of entries.
Led by head judges, artisan food champion and livewire Nigel Barden and Yorkshire chef Steph Moon, the entries were judged across a week in September by a panel which included producers, chefs, food critics, writers and retail buyers.
The winners from the 450 entries were revealed at the black tie event at the Pavilions of Harrogate.
There was a real buzz in the room and I’m not surprised.
Here were businesses that have faced all sorts of challenges since the pandemic first struck last year.
Many genuinely gazed into the abyss but thanks to fortitude, grit and creativity, they have not just survived but thrived.
Head judge Nigel Barden said: “Having been involved in these awards for a number of years now, it’s an absolute pleasure to see them continue to grow year on year and attract new and innovative products and businesses.
“Each year, without fail, we turn up something exciting that we haven’t seen before and products and businesses that blow our socks off.
“It’s a real testament to the resilience and passion of the industry here in Yorkshire that even after the events of the last two years, our food and drink producers are still innovating, collaborating and thriving to such a high standard.”
The Deliciouslyorkshire team welcomed 300 guests, who enjoyed a bespoke menu featuring many of the finalist’s products before the 23 award winners were finally revealed.
They included best new business The Yorkshire Pasta Company in Malton, the best savoury condiment was Yorkshire Pork Dripping from Otley butchers Geo. Middlemiss & Son while two farm shops which won awards were Cedarbarn near Pickering and Mainsgill Farm Shop in Richmond.
Other winners which caught the eye were Fairfax Distillery Special Edition Rum from North Yorkshire and Nutty Not So Sweet Granola from Yockenthwaite Farm high in the Yorkshire Dales and made by the Hird family who have farmed the land since 1842.
The Supreme Product Champion was Yorkshire Pecorino Cheese made by Mario and Sonia Olianas, artisan cheese makers based in Otley who use sheep milk from a farm just 12 miles away to create their award-winning cheeses.
Their Taste Award winning Yorkshire Pecorino Fiore wowed the judging panel with its delicious flavour and sumptuous creamy texture. “A product made with clear skill and care and with impeccable provenance. A true Yorkshire champion to be rightly proud of. We absolutely loved it!” they said.
Mario was visibly elated and, fighting back tears, he told the audience that he had only come to Yorkshire for three months 20 years ago and he is still here.
His excitement summed up the evening and I didn’t see any losers in the room, just winners who have used innovation, energy and true Yorkshire grit to succeed.
They are a new generation of producers who join an impressive array of iconic and world famous brands both new and old, from large businesses exporting across the globe to small artisan producers selling throughout the region, each giving their own spin on the great Yorkshire larder.
I couldn’t put it better than Deliciouslyorkshire: “With food and drink provenance enjoying something of a renaissance and consumers more aware of the contents of their plates, Yorkshire’s extensive list of quality hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars, farm shops and B&Bs are spoilt for choice when selecting what treats to serve.
“So in a county of sleepy villages, vibrant market towns and spectacular cities, serving up a slice of local produce with a world famous welcome, Yorkshire really is the food capital of Great Britain and there really is no finer place to eat, drink and be merry!”
Cheers to that!”