Champagne corks are popping at Cocina at Casa Hotel after it took the top title in the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards for a second year running.
The two-rosette, four-star restaurant was one of 13 winners announced at the town’s fourth annual Food and Drink Awards at Chesterfield College’s Heart Space Building on Wednesday.
Judges described their dining experience at Cocina as ‘great’ and a ‘fantastic meal’.
They highlighted how the ‘professional staff offered good customer service and food was presented with flare and creative style that worked well’, while the menu was ‘innovative with great choice.’
In addition to the prestigious Chesterfield Restaurant of the Year title, the four-star hotel - which is owned by local entrepreneur Steve Perez - also scooped the Conference Venue of the Year title at the glittering awards ceremony.
Other winners to retain their title included Delhi 41, which has been Best International Restaurant of the Year in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and The Red Lion Bar and Bistro at Peak Edge Hotel which retained its Gastro Pub of the Year title for a second year running.
Simon Davidson, of R. P. Davidson Cheese Factor, took the coveted Food Hero title.
He joined the family business based in Chesterfield Market Hall 30 years ago after leaving the army.
Simon remains there today where he now runs the business and is a familiar face and voice on the market as well as in the town.
In total, 14 food and drink establishments, producers and individuals were named as the town’s finest at the sell-out awards ceremony hosted by celebrity chef and couture cake maker to royalty and the stars, Mich Turner.
She said: “There is clearly a cornucopia of food talent in Chesterfield, and the Food and Drink Awards brought us a banquet. I was thrilled to see the emerging taskforce in the town’s food and drink sector actively involved in the awards ceremony as well as those who have established family businesses. What a wonderful awards ceremony – an inspiration and celebration of the past, present and future.”
Organised by Destination Chesterfield, in association with Chesterfield College, more than 100 hospitality students prepared and served the food on the evening for 250 guests.
Stuart Cutforth, college principal, said: “The Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the talent and commitment that goes into making our local gastronomic industry great.
Every year this celebration helps us to inspire our catering and hospitality students and apprentices to become future award winners.
“Their involvement in competing for young chef of the year or cooking and serving guests at the event allows them to showcase what they are capable of to the best employers in the area.”
Destination Chesterfield manager and awards organiser Dominic Stevens said this year’s event was a ‘runaway success’
“This year we had more nominations than previous years and also more businesses put forward for the awards, which is testament to Chesterfield’s food and drink scene,” he said.
“The support across Chesterfield has been phenomenal, with people keen to see the town, and the businesses and people working within its hospitality sector succeed and grow.”
The winners of the 2016 Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards were named as:
Restaurant of the Year –sponsored by Chesterfield Borough Council
Cocina at Casa Hotel
Krirstine Vinogradova restaurant manager and Mark Ingram, conference and banqueting supervisor, said: “We’re very excited and proud of the whole team. We are over the moon. It is very much deserved. We’re a friendly team and very passionate about the food we serve and the service we deliver. It’s a fantastic hotel but the passion of the staff make it award winning.
Café and Tea Room of the Year – sponsored by Kier
Stephenson’s Coffee House
Stephenson’s also won the coveted Café and Tea Room of the Year title in 2013 and 2014. The CFDA16 judges described Stephenson’s Coffee House as ‘having a great choice of food and lovely professional staff.’
Claire and Sam Wood, owners of Stephenson’s said: “This is the third year running for the mum and son team to win Stephenson’s Coffee House and we are delighted that the people of Chesterfield have voted for us again.”
Gastro Pub of the Year – sponsored by Arvato
Red Lion Bar and Bistro at Peak Edge Hotel
The CFDA16 judges said ‘the ambience of the dining experience at Red Lion Bar and Bistro was very good; also commenting that the food was very rich in flavours with good presentation’.
Eddie Kilty, head chef, and Angela Syddall, sales and events manager, said: “We are delighted to win Gastro Pub of the Year. The competition in Chesterfield is growing. We have a lot of plans for the pub regarding food and service, so the next few months will be really exciting.”
Pub/Bar of the Year – sponsored by Custom Solar
Rose and Crown – Brampton
The CFDA16 judges described the Rose and Crown as ‘a real local pub with a great range of local beer.’
Matthew Randall, manager of the Rose and Crown, said: “It feels absolutely incredible to win Pub of the Year. The Rose & Crown is absolutely a community pub where people meet, relax and chill out. There is always a great atmosphere.”
Chesterfield’s Best Newcomer – sponsored by Barber Harrison Platt
The Lilypad Café
The CFDA16 judges said of The Lilypad Café: “This business has become a big favourite in Chesterfield very quickly. It has lovely, very different food and clearly sources as much as it can locally.”
Emily Chapman and Ian Woodhead, co-directors of Lilypad Café, said: “It feels unbelievable to win. A year ago we were setting up and starting our journey, so to see our hard work paying off is fantastic. We started our journey in Australia and recreated it in Chesterfield by putting a new spin on it. People are loving it.”
Best Customer Service – sponsored by East Midlands Chamber
H&F Vintage Tearooms
The CFDA16 judges described staff at H&F Vintage Tearooms as ‘top quality, friendly, professional and responsive to everyone’s needs’.
Sharon Hilton, chef, and Luis Catalano, manager at H&F Vintage Tea Rooms, said: “It’s amazing to win. We cannot believe it. Everyone who works at the tearoom loves it as well as us and this filters downs to our customers.”
Best Out of Town – presented by Chesterfield College
Stones Restaurant, Matlock
The CFDA16 judges described their visit to Stones as ‘an outstanding experience from first contact and throughout every stage of service. Staff were warm and attentive and very professional with excellent product knowledge. The standard of cooking, presentation and taste was exquisite’.
Kevin Stone, restaurant owner, and Rowena Pilsbury, restaurant manager, said: “We like to think we’re very hospitable to all customers and serve great food. We enjoy serving people. We aim to give them a great service from start to finish.”
Chesterfield Food Producer of the Year – sponsored by Casa Hotel
Teresa Lambarelli also won the coveted Chesterfield Food Producer of the Year title in 2013. In the last 12 months, she has increased her product range from seven to 32 products, increased staff numbers to four and employed an apprentice. There are also plans to expand distribution into the food service industry.
Teresa said: “There was a lot of high quality competition, so to regain the award is fantastic. We have authentic, healthy products that are a big hit with schools. It’s a dream come true. I love what I do.”
Young Chef of the Year – sponsored by The Parish Church of St Mary and All Saints
Jordan (18) is a level 2 catering student at Chesterfield College. He prepared roast rump of lamb and baby lettuce followed by strawberry and black pepper sponge cake for the judges.
He said: “It feels unbelievable to win. I can’t believe that I’ve won. The course has been everything to me. I’ve always liked cooking. Eventually I’d like to own my own restaurant.”
International Restaurant of the Year – sponsored by MSE Hiller
The CFDA16 judges described Delhi 41 as having ‘good, well-prepared food and knowledgeable staff who made a real effort’.
Shah Kamali, owner of Delhi 41, said; “We work as a team in our family-run business. We work hard to maintain the quality of our food. Our atmosphere and food really set us apart.”
Family Friendly – sponsored by Jumble Design
Chesters Restaurant and Takeaway
The CFDA16 judges loved the fact that the staff at Chesters interacted with the children and there was a good activity pack.
Chris Ioannides, owner of Chesters, said: “We’re really, really honoured to win the award. We feel privileged to know that people recognise all the hard work that we put into the restaurant. It’s a family business and we’re very hands-on. We know how important family time is, so we go out of our way to make it special for families.”
Conference and Banqueting – sponsored by Mitchells Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
Casa Hotel was described as ‘a superb venue. Attention to detail is always top class. The ambience decor and quality is first class’.
Food Hero – sponsored by Banner Jones Solicitors
Simon Davidson of R. P. Davidson Cheese Factor
Other supporters of the awards include the Derbyshire Times, Peak FM, Holdsworth Foods, Central Technology Ltd, ra Information Systems, Black Eyed Susan and Reflections.