A noisy, hungry and thirsty crowd of around 300 people jammed into Melbourne’s new QT hotel on Monday night to find out who the winners of the 2017 delicious Produce Awards were.
The crowd also wanted to talk, and event co-host and delicious columnist Matt Preston managed to control the rowdy guests.
Preston and delicious editor-in-chief Kerrie McCallum dedicated the evening to the memory of Valli Little, founding food editor of delicious, who passed away just over a month ago.
Preston noted that in an industry that usually celebrates the chef, it was good to be able to shine the spotlight on the producers. “They play a vital part in our industry.”
Kerrie McCallum said the delicious Produce Awards, now in their 12th year, continue to champion the best Australian produce and the people behind it, thanks to a passionate network of food industry experts who nominate outstanding produce and producers from all over Australia, and the insights of the national judging panel and expert and critics panels.
“We celebrate the growers, the farmers and the food stores. They all play a part in bringing amazing food to our tables. This year we again have producers from all over Australia and more entries than ever before.”
McCallum thanked what is a small army of experts, critics and the superstar judging panel of chefs: Maggie Beer (Awards Patron), Matt Moran (2017 Ambassador), Ashley Palmer-Watts (International Guest Judge who is executive chef at Dinner by Heston in London and Melbourne) plus Guillaume Brahimi, Peter Gilmore, Christine Manfield, Alla Wolf-Tasker, Shannon Bennett, Andrew McConnell and Colin Fassnidge.
Among the crowd were about 40 News Corp Australia clients who support either delicious, the Herald Sun or other parts of the News Corp empire. HWT guests included the chairman of the Herald and Weekly Times Penny Fowler who was accompanied by managing director – commercial at HWT, Peter Zavecz.
Making the trip from Sydney were News Corp Australia’s chief digital officer Nicole Sheffield, executive GM of News Corp national sales Louise Barrett and director of food for News Corp Australia Fiona Nilsson.
McCallum paid tribute to Lucy Allon, who organises the awards annually while other delicious staff on hand included managing editor Samantha Jones and food director Phoebe Wood.
Sixteen awards were presented, including new awards to 2017: Outstanding Native Producer, Outstanding Artisan, and the Alla Wolf-Tasker Foundation delicious Produce Awards Scholarship which was awarded to Michael & Cressida McNamara from Pecora Dairy, NSW.
This year, state winners across the four major categories (From the Dairy, From the Earth, From the Paddock and From the Sea) were judged by the national judging panel, and all state winners were considered for the overall Producer of the Year Award, which was last night awarded to Ocean Grown Abalone Ranched Greenlip Abalone.
The full list of winners and gold medallists appears in the September issue of delicious, on sale Thursday, August 10, and on delicious.com.au.
Photo [L-R]: Nicole Sheffield, Kerrie McCallum, Matt Preston and Fiona Nilsson