Celebration of Sussex Life Awards 2014 - meet the host, entertainer, judges and sponsor

Host - Marcella Wittingdale

Host - Marcella Wittingdale - Credit: Archant

It’s almost time for our finalists to don their black tie or cocktail dresses, ready for the inaugural Celebration of Sussex Life Awards

Visit our official Celebration of Sussex Life Awards website at sussexlifeawards.greatbritishlife.co.uk


On 9 October, judges, finalists, and guests will descend on the Hilton Brighton Metropole for the glittering Celebration of Sussex Life Awards. The awards will champion, highlight and showcase our outstanding food, drink and hospitality industry. From local producers and suppliers to small farming businesses, restaurants, chefs, pubs and hoteliers, all those up for awards care about the countryside and the future of our region.

The companies there on the night have been nominated by you, our wonderful readers. An award is a great boost to outstanding local businesses and helps support the local business community. Our judges, all of whom live and work in East or West Sussex, have selected a shortlist (to be published in the next issue) and are currently visiting and interviewing the shortlist to determine a worthy winner in each of the 12 categories. All finalists can expect a black tie Champagne reception, locally-sourced, three-course dinner and a wonderful evening hosted by Heart’s Marcella Whittingdale, with entertainment from Matthew VanKan.


Meet the sponsor

Jonathan Pressley, MD of prestigious local jeweller Pressley, lives in Shoreham-by-Sea with his partner Rachel and two small children. When not occupied with family life he is often to be found on the golf course or playing football. An obvious love of jewellery takes up a lot of his time, and he is currently designing a house on Shoreham seafront.

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Living so close to the sea has its obvious culinary advantages, and Jonathan is a great lover of fresh fish. “We also like to dabble in something spicy – curry is a big hit with the family.” When eating out he often heads to Brighton: “A couple of my favourites have to be the Curry Café and the Chilli Pickle, both award-winning Indian restaurants. Another is Yum Yum Ninja, where one of my close friends is the head chef.” Back nearer home on Shoreham seafront Jonathan names The Real Patisserie as a favourite – “they make the most amazing sandwiches and cakes.”

A staunch ambassador for buying local, Jonathan often visits the farmers’ markets in Shoreham and Chichester, “as the quality of their produce is in a completely different league to what you would get in a supermarket.”

“I feel very strongly about supporting local businesses as Pressleys is itself a local business. As an independent jeweller we understand better than most the complex nature of running a small business and the amazing capabilities of our staff that we rely on and who need to be championed. By supporting local businesses and industries we hope to give them the confidence to grow and adapt alongside large multinational organisations rather than be intimidated by them.” When talking about his decision to be part of the Celebration of Sussex Life Awards, he says “we have never been a sponsor of an event like this and we thought it would be a fun and exciting partnership to get involved with.”

“I have lived in many places around the world, including London and Canada, but none compare to Sussex. For Pressleys, Sussex is the key to our heritage, and the environment and demographic support our company’s image and ethics perfectly.”


Meet the host - Heart FM’s Marcella Whittingdale

“After travelling the length and breadth of Britain, flying out to Afghanistan and a stint in New York and Manchester as a TV reporter, it feels pretty fantastic to be firmly planted in Sussex for a while.

“I am lucky enough to have lived in Brighton for around 10 years now and I’m really chuffed my two little girls were born in this amazing city. It is hard to beat Sussex as a county that has everything. Fabulous beaches, beautiful countryside and some cracking pubs and restaurants.

“Currently reading the news for Heart’s Breakfast show, I am loving my new home in radio, even the 4 o’clock starts! I cover all the news for Sussex and Surrey.

“As well as working in broadcast journalism I am thrilled to be starting lecturing at Sussex Uni – helping teach the Multimedia MA up at the Falmer Campus.”


Meet the entertainer - Matthew VanKan

Matthew VanKan sings the songs of Sinatra, Nat King Cole and suchlike – a catalogue of tunes that have now come to define him as a singer honoring the music of entertaining legends. Expect a refreshing spin on some of the most popular music ever written; nostalgic ballads, jazz standards, swing tunes and a few surprise song choices that will get you hooked.

Matthew performs in the UK and around the world at private parties, weddings, corporate events, international hotel functions and in a few exclusive venues open to the general public. He’s a true storyteller and a born entertainer and we look forward to introducing him to a new audience on the evening of the awards ceremony.



Kathy Gore - Community Pub of the Year

Kathy works extensively with local charities, including chairing Friends of Sussex Hospices which is run entirely by volunteers and which raises funds to

support the 12 hospice care providers that serve the adults and children of Sussex. She’s also a Trustee of the Sussex Community Foundation and a Deputy Lieutenant of East Sussex. She’s looking forward to “meeting community publicans and visiting pubs which are considered by your readership as being the best in Sussex. In March this year more than 100 pubs across Sussex took part in the Mad March Pub Quiz to raise money for our hospices. Good food and drink are important but true community pubs increase social interaction and increase community spirit.”


Tracy Carroll - Sussex Visitor Attraction of the Year

Tracy runs a PR and marketing company working mainly with small business owners and specialising in food and drink. “I’m also passionate about supporting independent shops, restaurants and producers, so in April this year I launched a food finding website called www.LocalFoodBritain.com. Starting in Sussex, we’re creating a powerful online platform for the UK’s local food and drink producers and providers.” Tracy’s looking forward to visiting some great attractions: “ I’ll be taking my role as a judge very seriously while also, I am sure, relishing every minute.”


June Moran - Tea/Coffee shop of the Year

Retired secondary school Head Teacher June Moran is now the County Chairman for the West Sussex Federation of Women’s institutes, so she’s very well-placed to judge the tea/coffee shop of the year category. She says: “This is a rural county and in my role I travel many miles visiting WIs and villages. I love driving and have a particular penchant for tea shops and tasting their wares. Afternoon tea is my favourite time of the day and I am also partial to good coffee.” When asked about her food weakness, she says “Cake! Particularly Victoria sandwich and scones with home-made jam.”


Grace Timothy - Best Family Dining

Our columnist Grace is founder of MothersCollective.com. She’s looking forward to “finding more child-friendly but not necessarily child-focused restaurants for my family.” Grace thinks Sussex is fantastic for the diversity, exceptional quality and passion of its food producers. “I live in a tiny village but even we have a brilliant dairy farm up the road from us, excellent organic meat round the corner and the most fantastic winery.” Grace refuses to feel guilty about food – “if I’m choosing to eat it I make sure I enjoy every bite” – so her guilty pleasure would be alcohol, Prosecco most of all.


Cherry Menlove - Food and Drink Innovation

West Sussex-based Cherry Menlove is founder/owner of an online homeware shop that encapsulates modern English country living. She’s also a published lifestyle author and blogger. Cherry is looking forward to seeing the breadth of talent and creativity at work in Sussex. “It is a thriving and exciting county to live in.” Cherry says she and her husband would eat out every night of the week if their four-year-old twins would only make that possible. “I think I may have to wait a while for that dream to cometrue though.


David Hill - Newcomer of The Year

Group CEO of Brighton-based entertainment design, events and production company The E3 Group David Hill is judging the Newcomer of the Year category. He says he is “looking forward to seeing what’s new, exciting and, above all, delivering on quality and value for money. “As a county, Sussex has many definable characteristics and values and I believe diversity is one of those values that the county prides itself on. The rich and diverse cultural tapestry has resulted in a broad range of excellent food and drink producers and retailers.” David’s guilty pleasure is chocolate, but he also considers himself a crème brulee connoisseur.


Jenny Mark-Bell - Sussex Life Hospitality Hero (co-judge with Howard Lewis)

Customer Service of the Year Jenny Mark-Bell is editor of Sussex Life. With two categories to judge, Jenny is looking forward to meeting lots of Sussex characters and celebrating the very best of our county. “My job means I’m lucky enough to sample lots of new food and drink innovations and meet some of the people moving the industry forward. From street food in Brighton to crab from Selsey, we are spoilt for choice. It is really important that we recognise those who work so hard to put Sussex food on the map and I’m looking forward to doing that.” Seafood and cheese are Jenny’s weaknesses, making Sussex the perfect

stamping ground.


Mark Woolley - Tourism Ambassador of the Year

Mark Woolley is owner and creative director of the Electric hairdressing brand, which has six salons – including one in Brighton – and a professional

product line. Mark says he’s looking forward to celebrating the local creativity and talent that exists in Brighton and Hove. “The South Downs are blessed with

many fine food and drink producers and outlets, there is so much choice in the area with everything from Sussex lamb and Harveys (of Lewes) Best Bitter, to the

freshest fish straight form the south coast. Our numerous farmers’ markets offer great opportunities to sell locally sourced goods, making the whole area an

inspiring community for local producers.”


Howard Lewis - Sussex Life Hospitality Hero (co-judge with Jenny Mark-Bell)

Howard, General Manager for Hilton Hotels, manages the Hilton Brighton Metropole. Howard is looking forward to seeing the passion and diversity of what we have to offer in the food and drink industry in Sussex. “I am always impressed by the efforts that those entering put in to these awards and I am sure we will hear of some amazing contributions within the industry.” Howard is very fond of cheese: “I especially love blue cheeses and really strong cheddars. Locally I have enjoyed Slipcote, Sussex Charmer and recently tried the lovely Brighton Blue but I do try and limit how much cheese I eat because once I get started I find it very difficult to stop!”


Alice Cooke - High Street Hero

Assistant Editor Alice is a staunch supporter of independent retailers, living in a West Sussex village with a thriving high street including a Post Office and village shop. Alice is looking forward to finding out about the realities of trading in East and West Sussex and meeting the people who do so with such flair.

The only problem? Having lots of sanctioned shopping trips might put a strain on her purse...


Richard Baker - Hotelier of the Year

Richard Baker MBE MI MIH lives in The Cuckmere Valley. He is a management consultant with 40 years of experience in the hospitality and catering sector. He says: “I am looking forward to meeting contestants that have sparkle, great leadership skills, sound business strategies, excellent standards and who are

able to demonstrate how they contribute to tourism in Sussex.”


Hazel Sillver - Restaurant of the Year

Journalist Hazel Sillver has the enviable task of judging the restaurant category, and is looking forward to “eating lots of delicious food in the surrounds of

our best eateries.” She thinks Sussex residents are very open to exciting, eco-friendly and locally produced food and they have high standards, which makes for

a great challenge.