Hampshire Life Food and Drink Awards 2013: the judging panel

Hampshire Life Food and Drink Awards judges

Hampshire Life Food and Drink Awards judges - Credit: Archant

Meet the people with the best job in Hampshire. Our 2013 food and drink awards judges are revealed

Voting has once again been intense for this year’s Hampshire Life Food and Drink Awards but thankfully we had a fantastic team of judges on hand to help determine who deserves to be in with the running of winning one of our coveted awards. As judge of Food and Drink Hero, I know I will be looking for that special someone who has helped to put Hampshire in the spotlight on a national level; somebody who recognises the county’s food and drink excellence and has helped to promote it to the rest of the country. But what about our other categories? We took our Judges down to the stunning Longstock Park Nursery on a very sunny morning to find out what they will be looking for in their finalists this year.


The Hampshire Life Food and Drink Awards 2013 winners will remain secret until the awards night itself at Four Seasons Hampshire on 22nd August.


Food/Drinks Product of the Year

Sarah Hunt New Forest Marque Manager

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“With a background in running a pub and buying produce to now owning a farm and a farm shop I feel well qualified to be judging this category again this year. Last year was an interesting mix because it was both large and small producers, which is quite hard to pitch one against the other. I’d really like to see some of the entrepreneurs coming through this year. We’re very lucky in Hampshire and the New Forest, we’ve got some really skilled and talented people and I think it’s time now more than any other time that I can remember for those people to really showcase what they do, and for us to give them the opportunity to do that. I’ll be looking for a quality product from somebody with passion. It’s not just about producing something; I want to see people who really love what they do.”


Best Local Supplier/Producer

Mark Hunt Department Manager of Retail Support at Waitrose

“At Waitrose we look for really good governance and how they make and supply the product so I’ll be looking for somebody who has excellent CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) methods and somebody who engages in the community that they operate in. I’ll also be interested to see how they look after their workforce in terms of making the the product and what processes are involved in getting to that end point. In my job I’ve met with both small local producers and others who supply the whole country and feel I have a good level of experience in terms of knowing the business; my mind is open to all sizes of businesses in this category. These awards are really, really important as they celebrate local producers and the best of Hampshire. We have such a wide ranging county; it really does offer lots of different types of climate and therefore lots of different opportunities and I think as a business in the county, we should be celebrating local producing.”


Best Local Menu

Susie Carter Recipe Columnist for Hampshire Life

“This is my second year judging this category and it’s a really great one as it’s brilliant to see fresh, local produce being used in our restaurants in Hampshire. I always find that it’s quite an interesting category because you can have a small pub taking local produce and treating it very, very simply or a big restaurant doing something very complex; but the reason why they are in this category is because they are supporting local producers and making the best of what the county has to offer and so it’s not necessarily the poshest food that wins it’s how well the ingredients are treated. For me, it’s about seeing the produce centre stage and giving the customer information on where it comes from whether that be on the menu or through the members of staff.”


Butcher of the Year

Denis Dooley Show Secretary of the New Forest and Hampshire County Show

“There are many criteria for the best butcher of the year, obviously there are the best products but for me it’s the customer service and the welcoming atmosphere. I think that butchers are looking at a renaissance and getting much more popular but it’s all about welcoming people in with good shop front displays and a good attitude. It can be quite intimidating going to a butchers, if you’re not used to the meat products, to be able to choose something and to know how much you need; most of us are used to buying pre-packaged meat in a supermarket so they need to be helpful and informative at the counter. The Food and Drink Awards are an opportunity to recognise quality and this is what I hope to highlight in my category.”


Pub of the Year

Georgina Windsor Presenter of ‘The Good Life’ on BBC Radio Solent

“This will be my third time judging Pub of the Year but as I grew up in the pub and hotel industry it is quite close to my heart. Pubs are changing without a doubt, we are seeing them disappear week by week and the way we use our pubs is changing and so people who are running them have really got to look at how we make pubs a part of the community, like they always were. It needs to be that place that you can go and relax in the evening with your friends or partners and then at the weekend have that lovely family feel. You need to make sure that you are really a part of the local environment that you serve by embracing local producers to give a great focus for the community to come and enjoy either the food or drinks from around the area.”


New Forest Marque

Andrew Lazenby Commercial Director for Waitrose

“I like innovation and I like to see things that are different. The New Forest has got a very diverse range of producers; everything from the jams and the chutneys to biscotti and rare breed lamb and it’s these sorts of products that are interesting to me in this category. This is my second year judging the New Forest Marque and I would love to see one or two producers coming together to provide something really unique. The New Forest is a beautiful and exclusive area and I want to see producers who are reflecting this in their products. The Food and Drink Awards are crucial to this county. Hampshire should be on the map as the pre-eminent food county in the UK. The breadth and depth of food production in Hampshire is unique and it’s important that we shout about it.”


Chef of the Year

Robert Strachan Head of Department in Travel, Hospitality and Catering at Highbury College

“I’ve been a chef all my life and have a real dedication to food and a passion for chefs in the industry. I want to see chefs with a real enthusiasm for what they do; chefs with flair, creativity and imagination who also keep it simple and get it right. I want to know if their ingredients are locally sourced and how much knowledge they have on the producers around them. I really hope to meet someone who catches my eye; I’m keeping a totally open mind and I’m really looking forward to being involved with the awards this year. This is a great way to make yourself stand out and appeal to new customers.”


Restaurant of the Year

Carol Godsmark

Restaurant Critic and Journalist

“Last year I found that some restaurants were trying too hard and came across as being out of their depth and so I really want to see people going back to basics this year. The key factors for me are good quality produce, preferably local if you can get it; and seeing food that is dealt with in a simple way by not masking the taste of the ingredients so that they can speak for themselves. That’s what the winner did very, very well last year. The service is also hugely important, from the very first moment you enter a restaurant you should be greeted no matter how busy they are. I also want to see well trained staff that know the menus inside and out and can speak knowledgably about the dishes. When it comes to the menu, keep things simple; more and more people want a casual but smart approach to eating out and this is what will stand out to me.”


Best Farm Shop/Farmer’s Market

Alex Handford

Hampshire Farmers Market Business Manager

“Adding Farmer’s Markets in this year will create a new dimension to this award which I’m looking forward to. When it comes to farm shops the main things for me are good parking and access as well as a good visual layout inside; I need to be able to see what products they have in there and that they are clearly labelled. The people behind the counters need to have excellent product knowledge and good links within the local community. Extras such as cafés are nice to see but not essential. For farmers markets I’m going to be looking for a good form of criteria to keep them as local as possible. I’d like to see a broad range of producers available and what they are doing to promote themselves within the area. All in all it’s about supporting local producers and I want to see exactly how they do that.”


Newcomer of the Year

Henriette Reinders Director at the South East Food Group Partnership

“This is a new category for this year and despite it’s broadness I’ll be looking for something quite innovative that will last. I’m not looking for a short lived success. I’m really looking for something that is original, new in the marketplace and something that stands out from the rest. What I find really important is whether or not the nominees have a five or a ten year plan and I will be interested to see if they have done their research of the market and know the reasons why their business is going to work. I think the awards have an excellent effect on the county, Hampshire is one of the best food county’s and this will encourage new businesses to strive for success from day one.”


Tea/Coffee Shop of the Year

Brenda Fletcher Chairman of the Hampshire WI

“I really enjoyed judging this category last year and once again I am looking for a pleasant ambience with excellent presentation and welcoming staff. I like to see crockery and décor that is appropriate to the venue and somewhere that is accommodating to different tastes and diets; gluten free cakes, for example, were a highlight from last year. Good product knowledge is a must. Last year it was interesting as all of the teashops in the category were fairly new and trying to find a niche in the market, I know being nominated for the award meant an awful lot to their businesses.”