The Cotswolds Food and Drink Awards is now in it’s 20th year!! Over this time we have become the most trusted and pre-eminent food, drink and hospitality awards for the area. Trusted by readers with a growing reach across the Cotswolds we are proud that our awards continue to be a fantastic platform for each and every business. Here’s to the next 20!
It’s that time again – the Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards are back.
The awards, to be held at Cheltenham Racecourse on October 17, will champion and highlight the fantastic food and drink businesses in our region.
From local tea shops to pubs, independent retailers to restaurants, you have nominated your favourites.
We made the difficult decision – not once, but twice – to postpone the awards, in 2020 and 2021, because of the effect COVID-19 has had on the industry. Too many of our dearly-loved restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafés and producers found it a difficult time; with constantly changing government guidelines surrounding hospitality, staff being furloughed, challenges in recruiting – and re-recruiting – skilled people, and loyal patrons feeling nervous about leaving their homes. It simply didn’t feel like the right time to be celebrating our usually thriving food and drink businesses.
While some, sadly, had to call it a day, others found new ways in which to operate in challenging times; setting up takeaway services, delivering the complete restaurant service direct to homes, introducing subscription models, and installing all manner of shelters in gardens. In 2020 we saw quirky open-sided ‘pods’, fairy light-festooned marquees, geodesic domes and tipis – many staying as attractive long-term additions – and we’ve also seen traditional pubs transformed into village stores, selling everything from fruit and veg to daily papers.
The way in which independent Cotswold businesses have joined forces to share experiences and ideas during these difficult times has been truly heart-warming, and fills us with both hope and excitement for the days to come. And so, we’re pleased to be launching our Food & Drink Awards for the 20th year, and hope you’ll join us in recognising some of our heroes.
Candia McKormack, Editor, Cotswold Life
It was over 20 years ago when I recall Mike Otter from Taste of the West, Chris Dee from Gloucestershire Tourism, Cotswold Life and I sitting down together and discussing the concept of a food awards.
We knew our region had something unique that deserved meaningful recognition and celebration. Other parts of the UK had really started embracing their food cultures and showcasing them in a variety of ways. We didn’t want to be the followers, but become the leaders.
At that time, I had been lucky to have cooked Cotswold produce in India, most of Europe, Japan and indeed Australia, where I now reside. The demand for supply, and the inquisitive questions from international journalists and even Japanese breakfast TV film crews, had all been about the new food culture they had heard about. It was and remains a joy to be able to advocate for what Cotswolds produce and hospitality is around the globe, and so easy to tell the tales of the characters that define the local sector.
I didn’t realise then, after the very first event on a summer’s evening in the food marquee at The Cotswold Show on Bathurst Estate, that 18 events and a couple of pandemic years later they would be one of the leading food awards in the UK today. They continue celebrating some of the most diverse and quality products the Cotswolds has to offer. Cotswold Life and everyone involved should be very proud.
When I say everyone, that includes readers who have celebrated their personal favourites via the nominations process. There are so many nominations each year that get shortlisted to make the finals list, showing the eclectic range available to consumers and the expert and personal variations in palates. However, the stars of the show are those involved in the sector, from plough to plate. Be you a producer, chef or publican, you are united by your dedication to being the finest, by your high standards and commitment to business and customers, and the struggles faced over the last two years.
These awards at 20 years signal a rising from the shackles of a pandemic that closed your doors, took away the connection you knew and loved so well, and then swamped you in financial constraints to surf with uncertainty. Well, you rode the wave magnificently, being agile at every stage and pivoting as required. Some of you creating new ideas and products that will be with us forever, and utilising the time to rethink ideas for the next 20 years that put Cotswold food and drink onto the local and global stage with distinction. It’s not been easy, but you have not been alone; each and every business faced the same.
So, take a moment. Pause. Reflect. Now pat yourself on the back, as well as your team mates and colleagues. You have been awesome. Get involved. Tell the globe your news story and consider a nomination for the 2022 Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards. These awards are a chance to celebrate those adaptations you struggled with but have now refined, and your bounce back with the ‘new normal’.
The Cotswolds is England at its best (as was the tourism strap line then). It’s all set to be an amazing celebration of 20 years.