Judging for the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2024 is now complete. Here we meet some of the experts who had the difficult job of choosing the finalists and winners.

We are truly blessed in Suffolk when it comes to food and drink. That’s why it’s always a hard job for the judges of the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards to narrow down the entries to just three finalists, and crown one of them as the winner in each category.

The finalists for each category will be revealed in the East Anglian Daily Times on Wednesday, March 20 and the winners will be announced at the awards event at Snape Maltings, on April 29.

Each category has two judges, a judge from the category sponsor, and an industry expert. These expert judges give their time because they’re passionate about our county’s food and drink industry, and we couldn’t do it without them.

East Anglian Daily Times: Experts from local businesses such as Paddy & Scott's have helped judge the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2024Experts from local businesses such as Paddy & Scott's have helped judge the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2024 (Image: Paddy & Scott's)
Here, some of our judges tell us why they want to be part of the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2024:

Best Coffee Shop/Cafe

Expert judge: Joseph Cordy, head of commercial at Paddy & Scott’s 

“East Anglia and Suffolk particularly are becoming a real hub for outstanding food and drink within the UK, combining exceptional producers with innovative businesses to drive real change within the industry UK wide. 

“It is really important that the people doing this are recognised for their hard work with awards like this.”

Best Suffolk Producer

Sponsored by The Hotel Folk

Expert judge: Brendan Padfield, owner of The Unruly Pig 

“We are blessed in Suffolk to have some of the finest UK produce in abundance, and yet I think we sometimes punch below our weight. 

“Chef/patron at The Unruly Pig, Dave Wall, has always said ‘If you want to cook only fresh, seasonal produce, then there is no better place in this land than our wonderful county of Suffolk – it’s a chef’s heaven’. I couldn’t put it better myself!

“The county is replete with some of the best food produce and drink products in the whole of the UK - simple as that.”

Chef of the Year

Expert judge: Lee Bye, chef patron at Tuddenham Mill  

“I am delighted and honoured to be asked back to judge the Suffolk Food and Drinks Awards Chef of the Year category for 2024.  

“Suffolk food and drink continues to fly its flag high across the UK hospitality scene, of which the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards is the ideal night to raise a glass to the wonderful talent we have in our county.” 

Field to Fork

Sponsored by Suffolk New College

Expert judge: Bruce Masson, partner in the farms and rural business team at Larking Gowen LLP, chartered accountants 

“There is so much variety in what the county produces. The passion and the commitment of our growers and producers is unrivalled and the difficulty in choosing a winner in the competition is testament to this.”

Food/Drink Experience

Expert judge: Victoria Savory, head of marketing, Adnams retail and hospitality  

“The food and drink industry is continually evolving and it’s vital to recognise and showcase the operators that are innovating and setting new benchmarks in our field. 

“They are a huge inspiration to us all and are catalysts for more great things in the Suffolk food and drink industry.”

Expert judge: Jenny Cousins, director of The Food Museum 

“Food businesses in Suffolk are being really creative and pushing boundaries – we should celebrate good ideas, success and innovation. 

“Through the judging process I’ve been blown away by the journeys that the businesses I visited have been on, and the attention to detail and resourcefulness that they have shown.”

East Anglian Daily Times: A delicious plate of food from the Bildeston CrownA delicious plate of food from the Bildeston Crown (Image: Charlotte Bond)
Food and Drink Retailer of the Year

Expert judge: James Buckle, whose family own Nedging Hall Estates, which encompasses the Bildeston Crown, Mauldons Brewery, Nedging Hall, the Lindsey Rose and the Mauldons Brewery Tap

“Suffolk has such an amazing array of food and drink businesses and it is essential to celebrate them all and to give accolades where they are due – exactly what the EADT and Suffolk magazine manage to do so well with these awards. 

“It is really refreshing to see the incredible variety and calibre of businesses that have entered the competition for these awards. 

“There are some amazing people involved in Suffolk food and drinks businesses, just to have survived the last few years is a real testament to their tenacity, but they have done much more than that, and are really making Suffolk a country wide foodie destination.  

“It is an industry that we need to celebrate, employing people with relevant skills and maintaining vibrant local communities.”

Expert judge: Sarah Horsnell, head of innovation at Appetite Me  

“I think it’s incredibly important to recognise the successes of Suffolk food and drink businesses as there are so many challenges that they currently face – now more than ever. 

“Every food and drink business has to go the extra mile and think innovatively to ensure the success of their business. 

“Food and drink retail is about so much more than just product. Customer experience and added value are incredibly important as food and drink prices rise.

“Staffing also remains a huge issue across the retail sector and so smaller teams are driving their businesses forward under immense pressure.  

“It is vital that their successes are recognised and celebrated.”

Front of House Experience

Expert judge: Paddy Bishopp, owner of Colourchange (UPVC) Ltd 

“I jumped at the chance to judge the Front of House Experience category as Suffolk is such a warm and welcoming county. 

“In hospitality, how you are made to feel is key to a great experience and I want to champion the best in this area.” 

Pub/Bar of the Year

Expert judge: James Ramm, head of sales at Woodforde’s Brewery 

“Suffolk’s food and drink scene is steeped in rich heritage and crafted by passionate hands. 

“Similar to Woodforde’s Brewery, many of Suffolk’s food and drink businesses are committed to sustainable practices, using local ingredients, reducing waste and protecting the environment.

“A thriving food and drink scene attracts visitors, generates revenue and creates jobs within the community. 

“By applauding their hard work, we not only enjoy the delicious rewards, but also plant the seeds for a thriving, sustainable future. Cheers to their success!”

Expert judge: Rebecca Alderton, marketing and communications manager at Gressingham Foods 

“Suffolk is an amazing location for food and drink with its rich farming heritage and nationally-recognised restaurants and pubs. 

“There are so many amazing local and artisan producers many of which, like Gressingham, are long standing family-run businesses that help to support the local economy. 

“The wide variety of producers is impressive, from Adnams gin to Aspall Cyder and Dingley Dell pork to Gressingham Duck, every taste is catered for. 

“The rich food and drink scene along with the beautiful countryside and beaches makes Suffolk a great tourist destination.”

East Anglian Daily Times: A tasty dessert from Kesgrave HallA tasty dessert from Kesgrave Hall (Image: Newsquest)
Restaurant of the Year

Sponsored by The Visitor Economy Network Initiative (VENI)

Expert judge: Paul Milsom, managing director at Milsom Hotels and Restaurants 

“I am delighted to be part of these prestigious awards and to help the judging process. We have hosted the awards in the hangar at Kesgrave Hall for a number of years, so it will be fun to see this part of the process, which ultimately make the awards so sort after. 

“Suffolk is a great place to open and run a food and drink business and as a result is has a terrific restaurant scene with lots of great places, cooking delicious food and matching that with great Suffolk hospitality. 

“It helps to have a huge array of talented suppliers on one’s doorstep, and I am sure the worthy winner will be a restaurant that is championing all that is special about Suffolk produce.” 

The finalists for all of these categories, plus the Outstanding Achievement Award and Best Newcomer, will be announced in the East Anglian Daily Times on Wednesday, March 20.

To find out more about the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2024, visit the website at suffolkfada.co.uk