County’s best celebrated at 2017 Kent Life and Kent on Sunday Food & Drink Awards
PUBLISHED: 11:19 17 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:44 17 October 2017
More than 200 attended a glitzy ceremony at Ashford International Hotel on Monday
The county’s finest producers descended on the Ashford International Hotel on Monday evening for the fifth Kent Life and Kent on Sunday Food & Drink Awards.
The glitzy black-tie ceremony celebrates the best the region’s food and drink industry has to offer, including local producers and suppliers, small farming businesses, chefs, restaurants, pubs and hoteliers - all of which are nominated by readers.
Having narrowed down a shortlist for the categories celebrating the greatest in food and drink producers and providers around the county, the winners were selected by a panel of high-profile individual judges, who all live and work in Kent.
The winners were announced by BBC Radio Kent presenter Andy Garland in front of an audience of some 200 people, following a three-course meal.
Chapter One in Locksbottom scooped the prestigious Restaurant of the Year gong, to cap an incredible few weeks for chef Andy McLeish, who along with business partner Marcel Faulstich took ownership of the fine-dining eatery last month.
They told us afterwards: “What makes Chapter One special is our passion for the restaurant business, and that’s what’s going to carry us forward.
“Kent is where we are based and we are very proud of using local produce. As a matter of fact, we were tasting quite a few local wines and we probably want to add them to our wine list as well.
“Chapter One is going to be the number one restaurant in the south east going forward. Watch this space.”
Kent Food and Drink Hero of the Year went to Jonathan Neame of Faversham brewery Shepherd Neame - a gong designed to recognise an individual who has made a lasting contribution to the county’s food and drink community.
Steve Whitney, from Whits of Walmer, won Chef of the Year and told us why he believes the county continues to produce the very best.
“I’m a Kent boy, I went to Thanet Technical College, moved to London, moved abroad, came back, got fed up with London and decided to buy down in Kent.
“I just love this part of the world, I couldn’t live anywhere else. Kent is it for me.
“Where our restaurant is you’ve got this fantastic coastline that goes all up to Whitstable and further, with beautiful beaches, and then on the other side you’ve got fantastic countryside that you’ve got all your fruit and veg. It’s all there.”
Judges were looking for a talented individual who can demonstrate their own flair and expertise to produce high-quality dishes, and deemed The Kings Head, Wye worthy winners.
Scott Richardson and Mark Lightfoot said: “We work with local suppliers, that’s the foundation of the business.
“We’re really proud of using everything local. We’re not from this industry so we’ve got a different perspective, and we’ve got quite open eyes.
“What we didn’t realise, but certainly do now, is what we’ve got in Wye is phenomenal, and what Kent has got is ridiculous.
“We moved out of London and moved to Hertfordshire but it’s got nothing on Kent. The people, producers, customers, envrionement, it’s just a really nice place to own a business and be successful.
“We might not be from Kent but we’re here and embedded in the local community and we want to live the Kentish life.”
Elsewhere, Cliftonville scooped the Farmer’s Market of the Year gong, Roost Restaurant and Cafe won the Family Dining Award, The Heath Stores, Horsmonden won Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer of the Year and Farm Shop of the Year went to Groombridge.
Hendricks of Hythe, a chocolaterie specialising in hand-rolled and moulded truffle chocolates, claimed the Customer Service of the Year award went to
Owner Tamsin Cullen said the secret to her success was “attention to detail and going the extra mile for our customers”.
She added: “It’s absolutely fabulous, especially as we were winners last year so I’m really happy to be recognised for a second year running.”
Elsewhere, The Bow Window won Independent Cafe/Tea Room of the Year and said the victory “put Lenham on the map”, while Laura Bounds of Kent Crisps, winner of Product/Producer of the Year, said her triumph was “an incredible achievement”.
She added: “Kent is just full of amazing wine, chocolate, restaurants, it’s absolutely brimming with amazing producers so we’re very fortunate.”
Finally, Newcomer of the Year went to Houdini’s Magic Bar in Broadstairs, which is the first venue of its kind anywhere in the south east.
Owner Sam Watson said: “It’s something completely different, every night is magic night. This is our first year and it’s been so much hard work but now it’s paid off.”
Summing up the evening, presenter Andy Garland said: “It’s great to be back hosting these prestigious awards for the third year in a row in such a valuable venue.
“The quality has been absolutely outstanding and we’re really pleased with the time and effort that our readers have taken in nominating their favourite businesses.”