THE diversity of Sheffield’s food scene was in the spotlight this week as specialists in everything from street food to gourmet dining won recognition in the 2011 Eat Sheffield Awards.
A record 15,000 votes were cast in the fourth annual celebration, which reached a climax on Monday night in a gala dinner at the St Paul’s Mercure Hotel.
More than 300 restaurants, pubs, cafés and food outlets in the area were nominated for honours in 14 categories.
Some were so hotly contested that the shortlist had to be extended.
Eventual winner of the coveted Restaurant of the Year award was the Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley, just over the Derbyshire border near Eckington, which also took the favourite gastro-pub award.
Owner Gill Swift said: “We’re out in the sticks. I didn’t think we stood a chance against the big Sheffield names.”
She and husband Glen took over the pub in 2004 and spent three years restoring it. Head chef Lee Vintin arrived two years ago. This week’s award was their biggest success to date and 14 of the team crowded on to the stage to accept it.
“It’s been very hard work for us but I’m absolutely elated to win – we’re all very excited,” said Gill.
“Eat Sheffield is down to the public vote and I’m a Sheffield girl, born in Stannington. It’s so great to think that this was voted for by people that I’ve lived with all my life. I’m very proud, I can’t believe it.
Another double award winner was Silversmiths, the city-centre restaurant launched two years ago with the help of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
It was voted favourite British restaurant and also took the Green and Sustainable award.
Owner Justin Rowntree said: “We always support the Eat Sheffield Awards but to go away with two awards is beyond my wildest dreams. It means so much because it’s the locals, our regular customers, who are voting.
“Gordon Ramsay told us at the start to ‘do one thing well’ and that’s what we aim to do. Now we’ve really found our identity and stamped it on to the restaurant, it’s getting better and better.”
The Sheffield Food Hero award went to Eddie Andrew, founder of Our Cow Molly – based at his family farm in Dungworth.
Eddie turned his hand to ice cream-making in 2007 as dairy farming became more of a challenge. The business has flourished since then, becoming a family attraction in its own right.
He has also found time to champion the Sheffield cause, being a founder of the Sheffield Food Group and the Made in Sheffield brand.
“His passion for all things Sheffield – his drive, energy, creativity and can-do-will-do attitude – make him a true food hero and a worthy winner of this award,” said Eat Sheffield manager Niki Baker.
Newcomer of the year was Wig & Pen by the Milestone, while favourite food outlet, sponsored by the Sheffield Telegraph, went to the Street Food Chef in Pinstone Street.
Other winners were: favourite café – Fusion Organic; favourite European – La Mama; favourite Italian – Nonna’s; favourite Indian – Aagrah; favourite Asian Oriental – Hui Wei; favourite traditional pub – The York; favourite family outing – Endcliffe Park Café.
Niki Baker added: “It’s a joy to celebrate the fantastic food culture in Sheffield and without the hard work of the restaurateurs and the support of the public these awards wouldn’t happen. So thank you to everyone who voted or took part.”