The Cumbria Life Food and Drink Awards 2013 very nearly didn’t take place. Everywhere in Cumbria was under a blanket of snow. Everywhere, that is, apart from Cockermouth where it was raining. However, we were listening to the weather and travel news and decided that it would be fine, if a little difficult, to get down to Kendal for the event. We decided to go down the motorway which was a decision which proved to be a good one. Other people from around here who tried to get through to Kendal using other routes weren’t so lucky.
We followed a snow plough from Keswick to Threlkeld and then continued on to Penrith along the A66 under increasingly heavy snow. It didn’t look good. However, once we hit the motorway we found traffic running smoothly, if a little slower than normal. Shap was fairly clear (!) and it was only in the final descent down to the A65 turn off that we encountered really bad weather. The dual carriageway between the motorway and Kendal was under three inches of snow, the town gridlocked.
We managed to find our hotel after the second tour of the Kendal one-way system (which was better than our usual average). At this stage we were running very late. We were then told that no taxis were running so we quickly formulated a plan to drop the car off at Kendal College and retrieve it the following day.
After a quick change and a determined plough back through the snowy roads of Kendal, we arrived at the college. Very soon, we found ourselves seated and enjoying both the company and a fantastic meal prepared by the staff and students of the college.
And so to the awards…
Stuart Maconie, the broadcaster and writer, was the host and did his job well. The Best Café award was the second to be presented on the night. There were lovely introductions to each finalist and then the winner was announced. It went to Baba Ganoush Canteen in Kendal who were worthy winners. Yet the feeling of not winning was awful, really not nice. It was going to be another forty minutes of waiting before the next category we were nominated for. Forty minutes of agitation and tension, slightly relieved by Shills of Station Street winning the Best Specialist Retailer award. Then Ryan Blackburn from The Cottage in the Woods in Whinlatter won Chef of the Year and things were looking up for the West of the county.
At last it was time for the Judge’s special award for Best Newcomer. Again, lovely introductions were read out and then Stuart Maconie said those words. ‘The winner is…The Coffee Kitchen.’ Up we went and received our award. Flashes were going off as we smiled for posterity. We’d won it, not just for ourselves but for all our fantastic staff and wonderful customers. All those early morning starts and late finishes were worth it.
The first thing we did was put it on Twitter and Facebook so that everyone who supports us could share in our joy. What a fantastic evening!
On the way back to the hotel, tramping through the snow, it should come as no surprise to those who know us that we were already talking about what we could improve for next year. We’ll never be able to be up for The Best Newcomer category again but we are determined to continue our improvement as a business. 2013 will be an exciting year.