Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards 2011-2012 - Winners Revealed

PUBLISHED: 18:47 01 December 2011 | UPDATED: 12:06 28 February 2013

Singer, Wayne Farrow with Donna Kelsall.

Singer, Wayne Farrow with Donna Kelsall.

All the photos and videos from the big night

Karen and David Challinor spend every waking hour looking after their Gloucester Old Spot pigs. While many people might shudder at the thought, it is a long yearned for dream for the couple, who run Rushey Hey Farm.

They used to spend their days working as a financial advisor and for BMW. But the pull of a rural life finally became too strong. They have spent the past three and a half years grafting to make their pig-rearing business work.

In fact, they have thought of little else than the 100 Gloucester Old Spot pigs that get the run of the fields around the farm. So when their names were announced as the winners of the Cheshire Food Hero Award at the Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards, it came as quite a surprise.

Karen, who also works three days a week for the NHS, said: Winning the award is really amazing. I just cant quite believe it; we never expected anything like this. Its just wonderful. My heart is beating like you wouldnt believe; it feels like it wants to jump out of my chest.

This is just a fantastic thing to get. When you are working away you just get on with it. This is just amazing. Its all a bit like a dream. Were very pleased. Its just wonderful.

It was an award well deserved for first time farmers David, 47, and Karen, 53. They first took up residence at Rushey Hey Farm to have their own horse yard. They also reared beef for a short time but, with help from local farmer Peter Potts, they began keeping the rare breed pigs.

David said: Its been a steep learning curve and we will always be learning. But we get to work with these magnificent animals that get to live happily out in our fields rooting around for food and eating all of the acorns from the trees.

We have been trying to education people about their food and the benefits of the meat we produce versus supermarket meat and it seems to be working. We had to re-educate ourselves at first. We absolutely love what we do and to have an award like this is simply fantastic.

It was also quite a shock for Anne Benson, chairman of Wirral Farmers Market, which was named North West Farmers Market of the Year in a new category at this years event. The market is run by an army of volunteers from the local community and since it was set up in 2000 has become a must-visit place for dedicated foodies.

Anne said: This is an incredible achievement for us, made even more incredible because it is all run by volunteers, who are all fantastic. It feels very good to get an award.

The market has connected the producers with the local people and we also work with local schools that then have gone on to create their own allotments and grow their own. We are doing something than benefits many people and this award is testament to the hard work of the people who have made it all happen.

The Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards is an evening that reveals the countys shining stars and celebrates the finest hotels, dining pubs, restaurants, food producers and chefs. The celebrations could be heard around Manchesters Midland Hotel at the prestigious annual event, a staple of the north wests culinary calendar. Around 300 people filled the Alexandra Suite for the gala evening as Granada Reports presenter, Lucy Meacock, and Cheshire Life food and drink writer, Ray King handed out the awards.

The winners were chosen by a panel of independent judges comprising Lancashire Life editor Roger Borrell, Cheshire Life editor Louise Taylor, 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.

The biggest cheer of the evening came from the team at Room, whose table erupted when they were named Manchester Restaurant of the Year. This building has seen many owners over the years but the current team have staying power and it has gone from strength to strength.

There were also excitable cheers from the Dun Cow at Ollerton, who took home the Cheshire Life Dining Pub of the Year award. Since owners Dianne Lymm and Frances Phillips took on the business they have had to deal with the flooding of the pub on Boxing Day after pipes froze. But the hard work of them, their talented head chef Marc Mattocks, who cut his teeth in some of the countrys finest Michelin and AA rosette establishments, and the rest of their team, has paid off.

Marc said: Im feeling very good right now and this has been a massive team effort, its been hard work. Its not just about winning; its about working hard all year and keeping consistency. The award is all about that consistency.

This isnt just a good award to win, its the best award to get in Cheshire and we won it. Absolutely fantastic news, were all so pleased.

Other winners included The Chester Grosvenor, Damson at Heaton Moor, Tre-Ysgawen Hall Hotel in Llangefni and Host in Liverpool who were also recognised for the talent, flair and culinary creativity their staff have shown.

But the main title of the evening was reserved for Michael Caines, director of food and beverage operations of ABode Hotels and Michael Caines Restaurants, who achievements were recognised with the North West Chef of the Year accolade.

He said: It is a real honour to be selected as the North West Chef of the Year and it is also tremendous recognition for my teams at the ABode Chester and Manchester. The North West has got a very vibrant foodie culture and it is great to be able to be part of this.

All of the winners were presented with the coveted Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards plaques to display as well as celebratory champagne. But no one left empty handed as all those shortlisted also took home commemorative plates.

A raffle, with prizes including a holiday to Portugal and the opportunity to win your weight in Robinsons beer, also raised more than 3,000 for the Royal Manchester Childrens Hospital which provides treatment, care and research to help children across the north west and beyond.

Cheshire Life Food & Drink Awards 2011-2012

Cheshire Life Hotel of the Year
The Chester Grosvenor, Chester
Sponsored by Marketing Cheshire

North Wales Dining Excellence of the Year

Tre-Ysgawen Hall Hotel, Llangefni
Sponsored by Johnsons Printers

North West Farmers Market of the Year
Wirral Farmers Market
Sponsored by Taste North West

Cheshire Life Food Hero of the Year
Rushey Hey Farm, Astbury
Sponsored by Foreman and Johnstone

Cheshire Life Dining Pub of the Year
Dun Cow, Ollerton
Sponsored by Stephensons

Manchester Restaurant of the Year
Room, Manchester
Sponsored by So Beautiful

Liverpool Restaurant of the Year
Host, Liverpool
Sponsored by H Greaves and Son

Cheshire Life Restaurant of the Year
Damson, Heaton Moor
Sponsored by Panache Interiors

North West Chef of the Year
Michael Caines
Sponsored by Robinsons Brewery

For more details on the nominations and sponsors click on the categories above

View the Lancashire Life Winners here

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