2012-2013 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards sponsored by Robinsons Brewery
PUBLISHED: 15:27 21 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:25 20 February 2013
The region's culinary elite descended upon Manchester's Midland Hotel for the Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards<br/>WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS AND KIRSTY THOMPSON
When Peter Jones showed his wife Ruth his new plot of land at Woodside Farm in Childer Thornton, she didnt know what to think. There was little else on the Wirral site apart from a few ramshackle glasshouses that hadnt been used for years.
But the 53-year-old spent months restoring the huge structures as well as building more to start up his business, Wirral Watercress. Seven years on and things could not be better for the third generation market gardener. He has been dubbed Yoda of the green stuff by leading chefs and his produce is served in some of the regions top restaurants. He grows watercress and everything from wild rocket and edible flowers to micro salads.
He sources, grows and develops his produce for Michelin-starred chefs across the north west and North Wales including Marc Wilkinson, chef patron at Fraiche, Tyddyn Llans Bryan Webb, the Chester Grosvenors Simon Radley and Northcote Manors Nigel Haworth.
It was a fitting tribute for Peter when he was named Cheshire Food Producer of the Year at the Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, sponsored by Robinsons Brewery. The accolade, his first major award, was given in recognition of his dedication and the quality food he produces.
He said: Im absolutely over the moon. It is wonderful to have the recognition for seven years hard work. This award came from the top in the industry and it is just amazing.
Im going to celebrate by planting more watercress. You have to keep going. But I couldnt have done it without Ruth. When I first showed her my plans, she probably wondered what on earth I was doing. But she has been amazing.
The team from the Alderley Edge Hotel celebrated huge success. The Brasserie, a more informal venue than its fine dining restaurant, was named Cheshire Restaurant of the Year. The hotels chef, Christopher Holland, also took home the nights top accolade of North West Chef of the Year. Many staff members, including wife Gaynor who is the wedding coordinator at the hotel, cheered when his name was read out in front of the regions culinary elite.
Christopher said: I did not expect this at all. I am really, really happy. I always try to do my best and to pick up an award is just another level. It is scary but also amazing.
I cannot wait to tell our children, Ruby and Jordan.
Ahmet Kurcer, general manager, continued: This is the perfect example of why it is so important to nurture home grown talent and what results you can get with it. I am so very proud of Chris and all of the staff at the hotel. I could not have wished for any more than this.
To get an award from Cheshire Life is what everyone wants. I am very happy and pleased for everyone.
There were tears of joys from Sarah Richmond, general manager of The Stanneylands Hotel in Wilmslow which was named Cheshire Hotel of the Year. This venue had been shortlisted last year, narrowly missing out to The Chester Grosvenor Hotel. But this year the Stanneylands team, including head chef Richard Maun, took the prize.
Sarah said: It is absolutely fantastic. We are really lucky to have an amazing chef like Richard and we are so very pleased to have won, I am absolutely speechless. I am so proud of what we have done as a team.
We cant wait to celebrate with the whole team back at the hotel. This recognition is just incredible and to receive it in front of your peers...it doesnt get any better than that.
The Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards is an evening that celebrates the finest hotels, dining pubs, restaurants, food producers and chefs. The cheers could be heard around Manchesters Midland Hotel. Around 300 people filled the Alexandra Suite for the gala evening as former Miss World contestant turned television presenter, Claire Smith, and Cheshire Life food and drink writer Ray King handed out the awards.
The winners were chosen by a panel of independent judges comprising Cheshire Life editor Louise Taylor, Lancashire Life editor Roger Borrell, highly regarded food consultant Rosemary Watts, Trevor Stone, who headed the AstraZeneca catering operation, Ray King and Lancashire Lifes cookery editor Philippa James, who also runs a successful cookery school.
It was not long before champagne corks popped at the Fox and Barrel table. The Cotebrook pub, which has been named in the Good Food Guide and received an award in the Good Pub Guide, was named Cheshire Dining Pub of the Year.
The popular venue was launched just over four years ago by former chef Richard Cotterill, who learnt his trade under the tutelage of the Chester Grosvenors Simon Radley and his business partner, Gary Kidd, who has run pubs for over 20 years. Since then the pair, who met while working at The Grosvenor Arms at Aldford, with the help of head chef Aaron Totty are helping nurture young talent in the kitchen.
Gary said: This is just unbelievable. Weve been doing this for four and a half years and weve done well so far but this is just incredible. To get an award like this in your local area means everything.
A Cheshire Life award is the one that everyone wants. And now weve got one. We are absolutely overwhelmed and so pleased. This is the perfect prize for the team who always work so very hard.
Budding culinary talent was also recognised when The Oystercatcher in Rhosneigr, Anglesey, was given the North Wales Hospitality/Dining Excellence award. It was only in May this year that this stunning venue opened.
This far from traditional restaurant, launched by Tarporleys John Timpson, has its own chefs academy for unemployed youngsters in Anglesey to gain experience and qualifications to arm them with the skills for a career in catering. This project is run as a social enterprise supported by the Timpson Foundation.
Karen McConnell, manager, said: This is amazing news and we cannot wait to tell the cadets what they have achieved, particularly in such a short space of time. It is wonderful to see them achieve their potential and we are so pleased for them.
Other winners included Liverpools Salt House, a wonderful tapas restaurant in the former Bishop of Liverpools residence. Co-owners Paddy Smith, Jonathan Poole, Martin Renshaw and Caryn Philip received the Liverpool Restaurant of the Year accolade. San Carlos Cicchetti on the ground floor of Kendals were recognised for their flair and culinary creativity and were declared Manchester Restaurant of the Year.
Winners received Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards plaques and champagne. Those shortlisted took home commemorative plates.
A raffle, with prizes including a state-of-the art sound system, designer jewellery and the opportunity to win your weight in Robinsons beer, raised almost 2,400 for the North West Air Ambulance charitys funds.
North West Chef of the Year
Chris Holland, The Alderley Edge Hotel, Alderley Edge
Cheshire Food Producer of the Year
Sponsored by Taste Northwest
Peter Jones, Wirral Watercress
Cheshire Hotel of the Year
Sponsored by Marketing Cheshire
The Stanneylands Hotel, Wilmslow
Cheshire Dining Pub of the Year
Sponsored by Stephensons
Fox & Barrel, Cotebrook
North Wales Hospitality / Dining Excellence of the Year
Sponsored by LilyRose Events
The Oystercatcher, Rhosneigr
Cheshire Restaurant of the Year
Sponsored by H Greaves and Son
The Brasserie, Alderley Edge Hotel, Alderley Edge
Manchester Restaurant of the Year
Sponsored by Joseph Heler Cheese
San Carlo Cicchetti, Manchester
Liverpool Restaurant of the Year
Sponsored by Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses
Salt House, Liverpool
Canaps and Prosecco San Marco Extra Dry, supplied by Robinsons Brewery
Ham hock and leek terrine with homemade and deconstructed piccalilli, supplied by Classic Catering
Pot roasted rump of Lancashire lamb with a port wine sauce, fondant potato and Savoy cabbage with rosemary and glazed carrot, supplied by H Greaves and Son
Autumn fruit crumble tart with vanilla ice cream and crme Anglaise, supplied by Sugar Daddy Patisserie
Blacksticks Blue, Rinded Trotter Hill Mature Farmhouse Lancashire, and Kidderton Ash goats cheese supplied by Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses. Traditional white Cheshire, Joseph Gild and Original Reserve Red Leicester, supplied by Joseph Heler Cheese
Monte Carbonero Blanco, Monte Carbonero Tinto and Monet Carbonero Delicate Blush, supplied by Robinsons Brewery