The food and drink industry in the Highlands and Islands and within the Cairngorms National Park area has honoured this year’s outstanding crop of businesses at its 10th annual awards dinner in Inverness on Friday (24th October).
Over 300 industry representatives were in attendance to see which of the 41 businesses would scoop the 14 awards up for grabs on the evening. Winners ranged from breweries and bakeries to restaurants and retailers and included producers of premium Scottish salmon, salt, ice cream, goat and buffalo.
The top honour of the evening - Ambassador of the Year Award - was presented to Shirley Spear, founder and director of Skye’s Michelin star restaurant The Three Chimneys and the House Over-By, exactly 30 years and a week since the restaurant opened its doors to the public.
And Kiltarlity-based Highland Cordials walked away with the prestigious Judges’ Award for their impressive tasting Nettle & Ginger Cordial.
Other winners of a Highlands & Islands Food & Drink award included Annie Body of Annie’s Bakery in Canisbay for Young Shining Star Award; Cairngorm Brewery for Best Drink Award; Dalwhinnie Distillery for Best Marketing Initiative Award; Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company picked up the Environment Award; The Scottish Goat Meat Company in Keith won the Healthier Food and Drink Award; Loch Duart Ltd in Scourie were winners of the Export Award; Avoch-based FAO27 for Food & Drink Business Growth Award; Skye Farm Shop won Independent Food & Drink Retailer of the Year; Orkney Buffalo won the New Business Award and Black Isle Dairy at Daviot picked up the New Product Award for its range of dairy ice cream.
The hotly contested Restaurant of the Year Award was presented to Station Road at the Lovat Loch Ness in Fort Augustus, and the Best Eatery Award went to Frankie’s Fish & Chips in Shetland.
Shirley Spear, Ambassador of the Year, was a popular winner. She said: “I am inordinately proud of all that my husband Eddie and I have achieved, developed and sustained over the past 30 years, despite our remote location and sometimes inhospitable circumstances.
“Further than this, it is hard to express the more discreet pride I take in knowing what we achieved in Skye helped to inspire other chefs, hoteliers and restaurateurs, tourism operators and all related businesses and - yes! - even the Scottish Government, that taking more pride in our very special food and drink culture was the right way forward for Scotland as a nation.
“The current food, drink, hospitality and tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands is a very different kettle of fish to what it was 30 years ago and I am delighted to be celebrating this undeniable fact, together with all the other award winners, business leaders and sponsors, in Inverness.”
The Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards are supported by The Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Forum and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and are the region’s most prestigious food and drink awards, celebrating excellence and achievement in the industry and recognising industry players at the top of their game.”
Gordon & MacPhail was title sponsor for a second year. Stephen Rankin, the company’s Director of UK Sales and Chair of the Awards’ judging panel said: “We’re delighted to be involved in the awards again this year. I’ve been hugely impressed by the standard of the entries. Their quality and diversity acts as a showcase for the Highlands and Islands - a region rightly renowned for the quality of its produce.”
The annual awards dinner and ceremony was held at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, and the evening was compered by funny man Fred MacAulay in his own inimitable style.
The evening’s menu featured a selection of top class Scottish produce including food from a range of quality regional producers and suppliers: Gordon & MacPhail, Keltic Seafare Ltd, Highland Fish Ltd, Highland Fine Cheeses Ltd, Shetland Cheese Ltd, Angelic Gluten Free Ltd, Maclean’s Highland Bakery, Rose Cottage Country Kitchen and Swansons Fruit Company Ltd.
And with music provided by duo RadioJam, whose set list included a range of hip-hop, RnB, soul and pop anthems, the event combined all the necessary ingredients for an inspiring and memorable evening’s entertainment.
Chris Taylor, Head of Tourism, Food & Drink at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “Once again, food and drink businesses from across the Highlands and Islands have risen to the challenge and ensured the reputation of our produce and natural larder as amongst the best in the world.
“2014, the Year of Homecoming, has been fantastic for our businesses and many have benefited from the increased exposure around the world at events such as the Ryder Cup. This is set to continue with the Year of Food and Drink in 2015.
“Across our region, HIE staff support businesses and producers to develop new ranges and reach new markets and it is heartening to see so many of them represented at the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards.
“These awards are an essential feature of the industry, recognising excellence and ambition whilst also raising the profile of businesses across the region. We are delighted to be continuing our support and congratulate all of the winners and nominees on this huge achievement.”
For more information about the awards and winners visit www.hifoodanddrinkawards.co.uk.