The Taste of the West awards were held at the aptly named Great Hall at Exeter University on Thursday 12th September.
420 people gathered to celebrate the West Country’s finest food and drink, best pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops. While the political chaos which is Brexit raged on in London this week, just how ready are the region’s food producers for whatever is thrown at them in the ensuing weeks and months? If the Great Hall gathering was anything to go by, very ready.
John Sheaves, Chief Executive of Taste of the West said “The region’s food industry is one of our main industry sectors, but it is more than that – it links directly with our primary producers here, but of course with our foodservice and retail sectors too – it is the perfect condiment to both”. Mr Sheaves added “This was aptly demonstrated with the vast array and diversity of winners on show. There was a time when the West Country food industry was confined to the production of primary products, which of course we do grow best here like meat and dairy products, but now the sector is home to a huge variety of food and drink products from our farmers and growers yes, but also from artisan and speciality food producers who have taken up the food challenge. This all means that consumers can now buy the most incredible range of products – all produced here in our wonderful region”. John Sheaves told the gathering that “whatever the outcome of Brexit, the region was well placed now to offer the world a fantastic broad range of food and drink which is provenance based, top quality, healthy and sustainably produced”.
To underline this fact, the winner in the best place to visit in the whole of the south west was Langaller Manor House B&B, Taunton, Somerset. This is the second year running that this prize has gone to a business in Somerset. On the products side of the scheme, for the first time, there was a Reserve Supreme Champion which went to Cornwall’s very own Cornish Moo which the judges described as a fantastic initiative by an individual farm to convert a commodity product-milk into a consumer savvy brand. To underline the healthy image of West Country food and drink, The Supreme Champion Product award went to Natural Branscombe for their innovative approach to Salad production. The judging panel said “over the course of two judging days, we just kept coming back to it. You can pick out individual flavours from each and every leaf and flower tasted, it was so fresh and enticing and we thought that both the Supreme Champion and the Reserve reminded us of what good quality food products can taste like when produced naturally but with care and attention to taste”.