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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Cumbrian food and drink champions enjoy sweet taste of success

The strength, depth and diversity of the county’s food sector were underlined at the Cumbria Life Food and Drink Awards.

Food and drink winner photo
Lifetime achievement winner Jacqui Baldry

Retailer Cranstons, the Lakes Free Range Egg Company, and the George and Dragon Inn at Clifton, near Penrith, were among the north Cumbrian winners at a gala celebration at Kendal College.

Food writer Matthew Fort, best known as a judge on BBC2’s Great British Menu, was guest of honour.

Penrith-based Cranstons, which celebrates its centenary this year, was named best Cumbrian food retailer.

Stanley Cranston established the family firm in Kirkoswald in 1914.

Today it employs 180 people and has shops in Penrith, Carlisle, Brampton and Hexham, the Cumbrian Foodhall in Ullswater Road, Penrith, and a second foodhall at Orton Grange near Carlisle, which opened in November.

The judges were impressed by the new outlet, on the A595, describing it as “a lovely fresh pristine retail experience with knowledgeable staff and a very wide range of artisan products”.

The accolade followed Cranstons triumph at the CN Business Awards last autumn when it won retailer of the year.

There was a double success for the Lakes Free Range Egg Company. The business took food producer of the year while its founders and owners, David and Helen Brass, received a special award for outstanding contribution.

The firm supplies the likes of Booths, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and McDonald’s from its own flocks and network of family farms mostly within 30 miles of its base at Stainton near Penrith.

Enhancing animal welfare and environmental sustainability are key principles. The judges praised it as “a model company doing great things locally in a global market”.

The George and Dragon at Clifton was named dining pub of the year.

The judges said it had been “revitalised” in just over 12 months under new chef Ian Jackson.

And Jacqui Baldry, who has run the Howtown Hotel, Ullswater, since 1962, received a lifetime achievement award. The judges said she “sets standards she expects people would want in their own homes”.

The hotel has 12 en-suite rooms but no TVs or tea and coffee-making facilities as Mrs Baldry prefers guests to engage in conversation and will happily serve tea and coffee in their room.

Elsewhere, it was also a good night for celebrity chef Simon Rogan, whose L’Enclume restaurant in Cartmel is the first in the county to be awarded two Michelin stars.

L’Enclume chef Mark Birchall was chef of the year and Ben Donkin, demi chef de partie there, won young chef.

Another Rogan venture, Rogan and Company, was restaurant of the year while its chef, Kevin Tickle, collected the rising star award.

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