Businesses and individuals in the food and drink industry from across the Highlands and Islands enjoyed the sweet taste of success tonight (Friday 23 October) as the winners of this yearís Williamson Foodservice Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards were announced at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness.
The judging panel of industry experts shortlisted more than 35 businesses and individuals for the Awards. Sponsored by Williamson Foodservice, organised by the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Forum, and supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scotland Food & Drink, the Awards celebrate excellence and achievement in the area's food and drink industry.
Over 250 guests at the Awards dinner were entertained by Albert Roux, OBE and Maitre Cuisinier de France. Mr Roux opened his first Scottish restaurant, Chez Roux at Rocpool Reserve, in Inverness earlier this year.
The inaugural Young Ambassador of the Year Award recognising a young personís outstanding contribution and achievement in the Highlands and Islands food and drink sector, sponsored by Polaris Learning Ltd, was presented to Caroline Gregory of The Lovat Arms Hotel, Fort Augustus. The judging panel were very impressed by Caroline's remarkable commitment to business, social responsibility, the environment and the local community and is an outstanding role model for others. Carolineís business, The Lovat Arms Hotel in Fort Augustus, will also take home the Judges' Recognition Award sponsored by Williamson Foodservice which recognises and rewards excellence in any category or for one particular entry.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead said: “The food and drink industry in the Highlands and Islands employs around 30,000 people and is home to 25 per cent of Scotland's food and drink manufacturing businesses. These awards recognise and celebrate the quality produce created by the many highly skilled and innovative companies across the region.
“Part of the reason Scotland's food and drink industry is currently thriving is because our restaurants, hotels, fishermen, farmers, retailers, producers and suppliers are working in partnership to deliver world class produce. We must continue to grow our nation's appetite for our first class produce and we will support our producers and suppliers every step of the way as we strive to enhance Scotland's international reputation as a land of food and drink.
“All of those nominated have shown excellence in innovation and I am looking forward to tasting the best produce that the Highlands and Islands has to offer.”
Albert Roux, guest speaker at the Awards dinner, said:”I can't stress enough the importance of these competitions. They bring the best out of you and even if you do not win you learn a tremendous amount on the way.
“You have a multitude of talent in Scotland – something clearly demonstrated in our kitchens where we are training a large number of young Scots chefs.
“My family and I are extremely proud to have been involved in teaching some of the youngsters who today are the shining light of Scotland. They have fantastic produce to work with. Now all they need is an appreciative audience to perform for – people who are prepared to pay that little bit extra to get nothing but the best.”
Gary Williamson, managing director of Williamson Foodservice and title sponsor of the event, said: “Recognising excellence in the food and drink sector of the Highlands and Islands is the aim of the Awards and, as chair of this year's judging panel, I know that this has been achieved. I'd like to congratulate all Award winners and, in particular, Caroline Gregory, who received the inaugural Young Ambassador of the Year Award, as well as the Judges' Recognition Award for her business, the Lovat Arms Hotel in Fort Augustus.
Hazel Gordon, chairman of the Highland & Islands Food & Drink Forum, said: “The Forum is delighted to congratulate all our Award winners tonight. I know our hard-working judging panel were very impressed with the high standard of entries across all categories for the Awards; while this made their job particularly challenging this year, it shows that the industry in the Highlands and Islands continues to go from strength to strength.”
Chris Taylor, HIE's Head of Tourism, Food and Drink, said: “The food and drink industry is very important to the economy of the Highlands and Islands. HIE would like to congratulate those nominated for the Awards as it showcases the extremely high quality within the industry.”
The winning entries for this yearís Awards are as follows:
Best Use of Local Food and Drink Award, sponsored by John M Munro
Argyll Food Producers 'Food from Argyll'
Distance No Object Award, sponsored by Scottish Development International
Gordon & MacPhail – Benromach
Environment Award, sponsored by TIO Limited
Wester Ross Fisheries Ltd
Healthier Food and Drink Award, sponsored by Robert Wiseman Dairies
The Drumossie Hotel
Innovation Award, sponsored by Scotland Food & Drink
New Business Award, sponsored by J&D Cowper and JBT Distribution
A-Bun-Dance the Bakers Ltd
New Product Award, sponsored by FINDS, Anne Moseley and Steve Kulinski
Reids Bakery (Thurso) Ltd – Biscuit and Cake Range
Partnerships for Success Award, sponsored by C2 Cultivating Collaboration Project
Young Ambassador of the Year Award, sponsored by Polaris Learning Ltd
Caroline Gregory, Lovat Arms
Taste of Highlands and Islands Restaurant of the Year Award, sponsored by the Press and Journal
The Islay Restaurant, Toravaig House Hotel
Judges' Recognition Award, sponsored by Williamson Foodservice
The Lovat Arms Hotel
Contact: Alison Bell
Phone: 01463 715771 or 07765 242686