David Parkin on an awards reward

IF you’ve not been to a big awards dinner since the pandemic, I think you are in for a surprise.

Given the hiatus since these kind of shindigs last took place, they are returning with a bang.

There seems to be a renewed energy to such events.

I bet some people were even looking forward to last night’s Insider Yorkshire Dealmakers’ Awards.

Bless ‘em.

I went to a black tie awards do last week for the first time in a couple of years.

The Deliciouslyorkshire Taste Awards gather the best of the region’s food and drink businesses – the butchers, bakers and gin and pasta makers.

Just like the much missed White Rose tourism awards, the Taste Awards are like a crash course in the best Yorkshire has to offer.

From big to small, the record number of award entrants included talented artisan producers, farm shops and delis, cafes, coffee shops, breweries, restaurants and hotels, all committed to using the best local produce, and producing something extra special.

Organised by Allison Kane at Delciouslyorkshire, part of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, I was fortunate to be invited by Yorkshire insurance business Marshall Wooldridge and sat next to one of the winners, Pennine Brewing Company, a family-owned micro brewery based in the village of Well, near Masham.

Overshadowed by two big name neighbours in Black Sheep and Theakston’s, Pennine has chosen a name that means it can sell its variety of ales across the North and Midlands with everyone thinking they are a local brewery. Clever.

The Awards, which are the biggest food and drink accolades in the North of England, attracted hundreds of entries.

Led by head judges, artisan food champion and livewire Nigel Barden and Yorkshire chef Steph Moon, the entries were judged across a week in September by a panel which included producers, chefs, food critics, writers and retail buyers.

The winners from the 450 entries were revealed at the black tie event at the Pavilions of Harrogate.

There was a real buzz in the room and I’m not surprised.

Here were businesses that have faced all sorts of challenges since the pandemic first struck last year.

Many genuinely gazed into the abyss but thanks to fortitude, grit and creativity, they have not just survived but thrived.

Head judge Nigel Barden said: “Having been involved in these awards for a number of years now, it’s an absolute pleasure to see them continue to grow year on year and attract new and innovative products and businesses.

“Each year, without fail, we turn up something exciting that we haven’t seen before and products and businesses that blow our socks off.

“It’s a real testament to the resilience and passion of the industry here in Yorkshire that even after the events of the last two years, our food and drink producers are still innovating, collaborating and thriving to such a high standard.”

The Deliciouslyorkshire team welcomed 300 guests, who enjoyed a bespoke menu featuring many of the finalist’s products before the 23 award winners were finally revealed.

They included best new business The Yorkshire Pasta Company in Malton, the best savoury condiment was Yorkshire Pork Dripping from Otley butchers Geo. Middlemiss & Son while two farm shops which won awards were Cedarbarn near Pickering and Mainsgill Farm Shop in Richmond.

Other winners which caught the eye were Fairfax Distillery Special Edition Rum from North Yorkshire and Nutty Not So Sweet Granola from Yockenthwaite Farm high in the Yorkshire Dales and made by the Hird family who have farmed the land since 1842.

The Supreme Product Champion was Yorkshire Pecorino Cheese made by Mario and Sonia Olianas, artisan cheese makers based in Otley who use sheep milk from a farm just 12 miles away to create their award-winning cheeses.

Their Taste Award winning Yorkshire Pecorino Fiore wowed the judging panel with its delicious flavour and sumptuous creamy texture.  “A product made with clear skill and care and with impeccable provenance. A true Yorkshire champion to be rightly proud of.  We absolutely loved it!” they said.

Mario was visibly elated and, fighting back tears, he told the audience that he had only come to Yorkshire for three months 20 years ago and he is still here.

His excitement summed up the evening and I didn’t see any losers in the room, just winners who have used innovation, energy and true Yorkshire grit to succeed.

They are a new generation of producers who join an impressive array of iconic and world famous brands both new and old, from large businesses exporting across the globe to small artisan producers selling throughout the region, each giving their own spin on the great Yorkshire larder.

I couldn’t put it better than Deliciouslyorkshire: “With food and drink provenance enjoying something of a renaissance and consumers more aware of the contents of their plates, Yorkshire’s extensive list of quality hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars, farm shops and B&Bs are spoilt for choice when selecting what treats to serve.

“So in a county of sleepy villages, vibrant market towns and spectacular cities, serving up a slice of local produce with a world famous welcome, Yorkshire really is the food capital of Great Britain and there really is no finer place to eat, drink and be merry!”

Cheers to that!

:::

I READ a story this week about the director of a Yorkshire-based company who fraudulently obtained £150,000 in Covid-19 Bounce Back Loans.

Muneef Ihsan opened bank accounts for three companies in June 2020 which had never traded and were registered at a residential address in Rotherham, applied and successfully got three 50 grand Bounce Back Loans and then placed all three companies into voluntary liquidation three months later.

In the meantime he withdrew £24,000 and transferred the remainder of the money to companies controlled by a friend who bought a £16,000 Rolex watch, withdrew cash and transferred the rest elsewhere before busting his own company in November last year.

Nowhere did I read that any of this money has been repaid.

And what happened to the two individuals involved?

One was banned as a director for 13 years and the other for six years.

The chief investigator for the Insolvency Service said it had “sent out a clear message that where a company is being used to facilitate fraudulent activity, action will be taken to remove the directors from the corporate arena for a lengthy period of time”.

In my opinion banning somebody as a director is the legal equivalent of a slap on the wrist.

I’ve seen enough dodgy dealers banned as directors who carry on with their murky business regardless, just behind a convenient stooge as a front for a new company.

The ease with which Bounce Back Loans could be secured as part of the Government’s business support measures during the coronavirus pandemic means that this case won’t be an isolated one.

And if the only sanction for those who have misused the money obtained is being banned as a director, plenty of these loans won’t end up getting repaid.

:::

AFTER all the negative stories about cricket recently, here’s a positive one.

The University of Leeds Men’s Cricket Club is one of the institution’s largest ambassadors with over 200 members and a wide reaching presence throughout the student body.

The club is looking for a main sponsor for the current and next academic year and is hoping a business partner can step forward to help.

The club’s headline sponsor will have their brand name and logo on both training kit and playing kit, social media promotion throughout the year, the opportunity to promote its business to club members as well as access to members for graduate and intern recruitment, sponsorship of the annual varsity fixture against Leeds Beckett CC which attracts a large number of spectators, affiliation with the club’s charity activities, such as the Leeds Half Marathon and sponsorship of the club’s annual cricket ball with the uni’s women’s cricket club.

And all this for the modest sum of £1,350.

The son of a couple I went to university with, Harvey Luckett, is the sponsorship secretary for the University of Leeds Men’s Cricket Club and would love to hear from anyone interested in supporting them.

You can contact him at harveyluckett@btinternet.com

A tip from me: if you are interested in sponsoring the club, ask if you can join them on their regular fancy dress pub crawl in Headingley known locally as the ‘Otley Run’.

They did say I could join them but then withdrew the invitation when I sent a selfie in my Pamela Anderson Baywatch outfit.

:::

I WENT to London on Tuesday for the first time in ages.

Standing on the platform at Leeds Station, a chap approached me, smiled, and said he was a regular reader of my blog.

“And I just want to say, well said on your article on Roger Hutton,” he added, before walking off down the platform.

What a very nice thing to do. 

It gave me a spring in my step as I boarded the train.

And this feeling of elation only increased when a genuine superstar boarded the train at Wakefield.

Singer and television presenter Jane McDonald was hauling a large suitcase on wheels and I thought she might be off on one of her cruise ship trips.

A little research showed that she was performing at the Royal Variety Performance at the Royal Albert Hall last night and I bet the case was full of all her frocks.

I know how she feels.

I struggle to choose one of my Michelsberg Tailoring suits so end up taking a selection on my travels.

If my valet didn’t get travel sick I’d take him with me to lay out my outfits and administer the eau de cologne.

Leave it, son.

After a day of activities in London (some of it was actually work) I collapsed, exhausted, into my seat on the 7.30pm from Kings Cross to Leeds.

As I sat looking forward to a glass of LNER’s exquisite slightly warm Albanian Chardonnay, a smiling figure walked down the aisle towards me.

It was another reader of this blog.

I met them both on the same day!

This reader though, came bearing gifts.

Drew Haymes, an HSBC banker based in Leeds who deals with SMEs, explained he had been to London to buy bread rolls for his mother.

It isn’t your average errand like popping to the corner shop.

But Drew explained: “My mother Yvonne and my father lived in a maisonette above the Jewish bakery in Welwyn Garden City from 1968 to 1978.

“We have now lived in Yorkshire since 1989 and naturally love everything Yorkshire but Mater loves those rolls.”

Drew told me that for his mother’s 80th birthday on Wednesday, he decided to jump on the LNER Azuma train from Leeds to Kings Cross and popped over to Couzens bakery in Welwyn Garden City to buy her some rolls.

“I had an afternoon of lunch with my uncle and cousin (rack of lamb with an exquisite biodynamic Rioja Crianza) and jumped on the train back to Yorkshire.

“I gave Mater the rolls last night and she has had them this morning with a third one left over for lunch. Maybe a journey for some but a little jaunt for others…”

Drew even gave me a paper bag containing two rolls and advised me that I should have them for breakfast simply spread with just a little butter.

I can understand why Yvonne loves them so much and it explains Drew’s epic expedition.

Two other things.

One, I’m not sure of the provenance of LNER’s wine collection but I don’t think it is biodynamic.

The only dynamic I have after sipping one glass is to decide not to have another one.

And, secondly, don’t you just have to be impressed by a man who calls his mother Mater?

The last time I called my Mum Mater she got her cheque book out and said: “OK, how much do you want me to lend you this time?”

Have a great weekend.

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