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Essex Life Food & Drink Awards 2016: Meet the Judges

PUBLISHED: 12:50 22 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:50 22 August 2016

Essex Life Food & Drink awards 2016

Essex Life Food & Drink awards 2016

Muenz

As the nominations close for the Essex Life Food & Drink Awards, it’s time for our expert panel of judges to work through the entries. Here is a quick introduction to the judges who will be picking the winners

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Andrew Oxley - Chef of the Year

Tell us a bit about you

My name is Andrew Oxley and I am the general manager of Down Hall Country House Hotel, where I have been since April of last year. I am a Master Innholder and Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality and have been in the hotel industry for around 20 years.

What will you be looking for while you judge your category?

Quite simply, I will be looking for well-cooked and well-presented food. Innovation is good, but often it is the traditional dishes that, when cooked as they are meant to be, prove to be a winning formula.

Do you have a favourite food memory?

One of my best memories is a recent family Sunday luncheon at The Vineyard at Stockcross in Berkshire. In my opinion, there really is nothing better than a traditional Sunday luncheon that’s cooked well.

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Robert Gunn - Top Farm Shop

What do you do for a living?

My business consultancy runs Tastes of Anglia, the support and promote organisation for the food and drink industry in the region. We work with start-ups through to businesses ready to move into exports. We introduce new producers to distributors and retailers and farm shops play an important role in getting our member’s products to market.

What will you be looking for as a judge?

I will be looking for farm shops that support local producers and set themselves apart from the supermarkets in the products and customer service offered, creating an enjoyable shopping experience for all.

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Stephanie Mackentyre - Restaurant of the Year

Tell us a bit about you

I am the food and drink editor for Essex Life and I am also a presenter for BBC Radio and run my own PR and marketing company — In View Publicity.

What expertise will you bring as a judge?

I have been writing the food and drink pages in Essex Life now for more than ten years and have had the pleasure of dining at many of the fine restaurants and interviewing the owners and head chefs in our great county, so I can appreciate how high the bar has been set.

What will you be looking for while you judge your category?

Quite simply, a strong desire to return. The winning restaurant needs to be outstanding from the moment we arrive, to the moment we leave in every aspect.

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David Burch - Pride in Essex

What do you do for a living, and where?

I am director of policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce, which involves representing the views and needs of businesses to politicians and policy makers both in and outside the county. I have worked for the Chambers since 2012, but I have more than 12 years of experience in this type of work in addition to having run my own business in the past.

What will you be looking for most as you judge this category?

Essex has some really excellent food producers who show that people’s perceptions of the county are wrong and that it really is a place in which to find fine food, so I will be looking for those businesses that are not only proud to be from Essex, but show it in the way in which they produce and market their products or services.

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Suzanne Harris- Pub of the Year Award

Tell us a bit about you

Born and raised in rural Essex and a graduate of Writtle College, I have worked for the established charity, Rural Community Council of Essex, for 16 years. Now Business Development and Partnerships Manager, I have previous experience of working directly with community groups, supporting them to create local plans and improve services.

What expertise will you be bringing as a judge?

I am a life-long resident of rural Essex, and have 16 years’ experience working to support active and thriving communities in the county. I have previously been involved in the judging of the Best Kept Village and Best Kept Churchyard competitions in the county.

What will you be looking for while you judge your category?

Pubs which are a real part of the local community and which help to bring people together — as well as providing good quality food and drink.

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Heather Tarrant - Pride of Essex

Tell us a bit about you

I am secretary to the Essex Agricultural Society and married to a farmer producing milling wheat, malting barley and raising a small native breeds beef herd. What expertise will you be bringing as a judge? Being involved within the agricultural industry and also an end consumer, I believe that I know the quality of the food that is available and what is affordable to the end consumer.

What will you be looking for while you judge your category?

I will be looking for produce that combines top quality food at an affordable price. Do you have a favourite food or drink memory? One of my favourite memories is from a hotel on Lake Garda where we had scampi risotto accompanied by a local white wine while sitting on the restaurant terrace overlooking the lake as the sun set.

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Linda Dumbrell - Customer Service Award

Tell us a bit about you

I have been a partner here at Waitrose in Colchester for the past five years. My role involves delivering the high standard of service that our customers expect and I am also heavily involved with supporting our Community Matters programme in branch.

What will you be looking for as a judge?

I feel very passionate about good customer service. It can be the difference between a good shopping experience and a bad one. I like to be treated as an individual but also not to be harassed if browsing. I like attention to detail. These are some of the qualities I will be looking for.

Do you have a favourite food memory?

I enjoy very traditional English food and drink, such as fish and chips, a pub lunch or a Sunday roast, and my idea of a treat would be afternoon tea for two in a quaint English tea shop.

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Kay Lodge - Tea Room or Coffee Shop

Tell us a little about you

I have recently been elected chair of the Federation of Essex Women’s Institutes, which is a voluntary position. The Federation represents 215 WIs located all over the county with in excess of 9,000 members.

What expertise will you bring as a judge?

I really appreciate and enjoy good quality food, particularly when it represents good value with high quality customer service. I understand the need for high quality food and the support of local produce.

What will you be looking for when judging your category?

I will be looking for friendly and high quality service, excellent food and most importantly, a wish to return.

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The Very Revd Nicholas Henshall Dean of Chelmsford - Best Family Dining

Tell us a little about yourself

I am a Mancunian married to a Geordie and we have spent most of our married life north of the Tyne. We arrived in Essex at the beginning of 2014 and it has been a fascinating experience getting to know a completely new area of the country! I have been an Anglican priest for 28 years

What expertise will you be bringing as a judge?

I am an experienced amateur chef – I have just cooked a range of dishes for 50 guests at my wife’s 50th birthday and cooked for 150 at my own 50th a few years ago. I specialise in southern Mediterranean cooking, but with influences from South East Asia and beyond.

What will you be looking for when judging your category?

In the family dining category, I put equal emphasis on both ‘family’ and ‘dining’. In terms of family, we had three children in 17 months so for the last 20 years we have been quite a judge of just how at home and welcome a family can be (or not) in a restaurant. We have brought our family up to be explorers when it comes to food and I was delighted in Burgundy last year when a brilliant local restaurant rose to the challenge of serving one carnivore, two pescatarians and a vegan – it certainly got a five star review from me on Tripadvisor!

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Lisa Bone - Destination Dining

Tell us a bit about you…

I have been working in the tourism industry for the past 20 years and in Essex for the past seven years. I have a degree in tourism management and it has always been something I have had a great enthusiasm for. I love visiting new places and spending time with my young family whether it be at a new destination, attraction or restaurant.

What will you be looking for when judging your category?

I will be looking for an excellent culinary experience from great food using fresh and local ingredients to outstanding customer service. These are the things that people are willing to travel for and that contribute to the localism of a destination.

Do you have a favourite food or drink memory?

I have far too many food and drink memories to choose from. Most of my favourite memories with family and friends include food and drink, whether it be on holiday, visiting food and drink festivals, spending time in our local pub or going to a posh restaurant.

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Stephen Derbyshire - Essex Food and Drink Producer

Tell us a bit about you…

I am Essex & Suffolk Water’s catchment advisor for the Stour catchment. I have a strong agricultural background with an HND and BSc in Agriculture, I’m also BASIS and FACTS qualified. I have previously worked for an independent research company conducting agricultural chemical trials, working on farms in the UK and overseas.

What is the best thing to have happened in the Essex food and drink industry in the last five years?

Diversification of products and the increase in small producers has allowed an increase in the variety of products available on the market. Many smaller Essex producers now have large brand name products and it is so good that they’re produced in Essex.

Do you have a favourite food or drink memory?

Fish and Chips and fresh sea produce is something I love as I live by the coast and enjoy going to Mersea Island regularly to eat.

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