Suffolk Food Hall grabs top national gong in Countyside Alliance’s Champion of Champions Rural Oscars

Gemma Melton, Oliver Paul and Abi Bumstead collect the Suffolk Food Hall's Champion of Champions awa

Gemma Melton, Oliver Paul and Abi Bumstead collect the Suffolk Food Hall's Champion of Champions award at the Countryside Alliance's 10th anniversary Rural Oscars from MP Liz Truss - Credit: Archant

The Suffolk Food Hall has beaten of nationwide competition to be crowned Local Food Champion of Champions at the Rural Oscars.

The farm shop in Wherstead came out top in a public vote run by the Countryside Alliance to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its annual awards.

All former UK and Ireland Local Food title winners over that time were shortlisted for a prize this year. The Suffolk Food Hall won it in 2011.

One of the business’ founders and a current director, Oliver Paul, said hearing it announced as the winner came as a complete surprise.

“I had a complete Oscars moment,” he said. “There was disbelief and a little bit of emotion.

“There are some really good local businesses up and down the country but to be judged the best over 10 years, it’s quite hard to describe.

“We are utterly delighted but we were only really in the frame because Suffolk has some great things on offer and we could bring that all together in one place under one roof”

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Mr Paul said one reason the business won the award, for anyone promoting rural food by making or selling it, was the varied produce it had to work with.

He said: “Suffolk is an unusual county. We don’t have any signature dishes but we have a very unique geography with our coasts and our estuaries and the favourable climate for agriculture, so food is something that is closely woven into our social history.”

The awards were presented today at a ceremony at Parliament in London by environment secretary Liz Truss.

She said: “This event is a brilliant opportunity to showcase our rural heroes who promote the best our countryside has to offer, helping to build a stronger economy.

“This year’s awards are in their tenth year and the high quality of entries shows just how much we have to celebrate.

Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner said: “Farming is the backbone of the countryside and this category celebrates the whole journey from field to fork.

“Here we have some outstanding champions who go the extra mile for animal welfare, good husbandry, taste and, of course, listening to exactly what their customers want.”

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