Supporting our local food heroes

Posted 1st May 2020

NFDA2020 LogoOver the last six years, local breakfast giant Weetabix has supported the celebration of some of our most passionate foodies through its sponsorship of the ‘Local Food Hero’ category in the county’s prestigious annual sector competition.

Now, as headline sponsor of the ‘Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards’, that role has become all the more crucial as the company not only helps to support sector businesses facing the toughest of challenges, but also honours those which, through their impressive responses to the crisis, have become stalwarts of their communities.

Weetabix Food Company Marketing Director, Francesca Theokli, says recognition of our heroes is vital and indeed, while the awards may currently be operating very differently from their usual format, the company’s commitment to the competition is unwavering: “The Awards were launched twelve years ago to help support and promote the fantastic food and drink sector we have here in the county, one in which Weetabix has a proud 88 year heritage” said Theokli.

“When we took on the headline sponsorship this year, we could little have imagined the challenges that we would now be facing. We are thrilled though, to be able to celebrate some of the tireless work that is being done. Proof in the agility and dynamism of our food and drink sector.

“Indeed, the key theme of this year’s Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards is sustainability – encouraging food and drink businesses to act in ways that are good for consumers, the environment and society. Of late, that has got an even sharper meaning to it and so we’re delighted to help shine a deserved spotlight on those who, despite their own trading difficulties, are still managing to play a vital role in local life and beyond”.

Among those demonstrating just such strength of character, resolve and compassion are Richard and Sonya Gordon of The Red Lion in Cranford, reigning co-winner of the ‘Booker Food Pub of the Year’ category (sponsored by Booker), which was forced to close its doors when the lockdown was put in place.

The couple are now leading a team of volunteers, including furloughed staff members who want to put their newly found spare time to good use, in supplying a thrice-weekly, non-profit-making shopping service for four local villages.

As Richard explains, they source, pack and deliver fresh meat, fruit, vegetables and other staples to those who are self-isolating, all the while observing the social-distancing rules carefully: ‘Orders are done online, then we call the customer a few minutes before we arrive, take payment and then leave the delivery on the doorstep so it can be picked up safely once we’ve walked a safe distance away” said Richard.

“We’ve made hundreds of drop-offs already so, not surprisingly, we’re getting through lots of disposable gloves and hand sanitiser, and while it’s not quite the same as pulling pints or serving award-winning meals, it’s good to know were helping those who are vulnerable or who can’t leave their homes, plus it’s keeping us out of trouble that’s for sure!” he added.

Fellow award-winner Mindy Robinson of Sophisticake Creations in Northampton, whose Zucchini and Walnut Cake took the title of ‘Artisan Local Vegetarian/Vegan Product of the Year’ (sponsored by Daily Bread) last year, is another whose business is on hold, given that demand for her celebration cakes has dried up, yet she too is generously sharing her skills through regular online workshops.

“Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I live stream a baking session called ‘Make and Bake with Mindy’ from my kitchen at home, creating a simple recipe from ingredients which I hope most people would have in their cupboards so that I’m not encouraging any extra trips to the shops” explained Mindy.

“Unlike usual TV cookery shows, I post the ingredients in advance on social media so, rather than just watch, people can have a go themselves and the great thing is that lots of children are joining in, so hopefully the legacy from this terrible time will be that I might have inspired the next generation of bakers” she said.

Meanwhile Simon and Louise Cottle, who run The Red Lion at Thornby, which was named ‘Community Pub of the Year’ at the Awards Dinner back in November, are continuing to quench the thirst of locals by offering a twice-weekly drinks delivery service after taking orders via social media, while in nearby Long Buckby, husband and wife team Gary and Rachael Bradshaw from Hamm Tun Fine Foods, whose ‘Little Bertie’ cheese won the ‘Artisan Local Savoury Product of the Year’ category (sponsored by Heygates Flour and Animal Feed), have expanded the offering of their deli, which remains open.

They have not only added many more regular items to their usual range of tasty treats in the shop and online but are also providing a shopping and delivery service to surrounding villages, including dropping off prescriptions from the village surgery.

Thanks to the continuing support of headline sponsor Weetabix and the other category sponsors and partners, the Awards is now acting as a business support hub to the sector and is keen to promote more stories of the county’s local food heroes.

To nominate someone or a business you know to be deserving of recognition, or to let the awards team know more about any activity in which you may be directly involved, please email Rachel Mallows at The Mallows Company –

You can also share your stories via social media on Facebook at @foodawardsHQ and on twitter and Instagram at @foodawards