I covered the event last year and was really pleased to be invited to take part again, although I felt even more of a fraud as I spoke all evening to people who have put their money where their mouths are and actually done something about their passion for food and drink rather than just hiding behind the safety of a laptop and throwing out opinions whether people want them to or not.*
So what happened, who was there and what did we eat? Well, as per last year, I arrived too late to sample the appetisers made by Milton Keynes catering college students (dammit, I really do have to work on my timing), but breezed in to take my seat on the Mayoral table.
Which turned out to be a genius plan as Mr and Mrs Mayor were on the last few weeks wind down at the end of their tour of civic duty and were more than willing to join in with the gusto of the evening. I was also sat with some of the smaller independent producers whom I've recently covered and got to know - it's these guys who are willing to take the risks that the big brands won't and prove just how exciting your Friday night takeaway can be: @urbangrilla @foodinmk @mkfoodrev @goodtimescafeUK
Starters were cheese, tomato salsa and a couple of tasty green pea splodges - there is always a compromise to be had when catering for a large number of people and good spirits kept the table in excellent humour even when the temperature soared past 'sweaty' and hit 'sauna' early on.
Mains came with plenty of added gravy and mint sauce for those who wanted it.
But it was the desert that was the highlight - a trio of spoonfuls that provided chocolate, lemon and strawberry mouthfuls that tasted as good as they looked. It's never going to be easy to cater for so many people and while compromises will always have to be made, this dish made the most of the opportunity and so hats off to the team @berthoolivier for making such a good fist of it.
As with any event that I now attend alongside fellow eating enthusiast @Loubou, I have learned that she will inevitably take far better pictures than I can. So please check out her blog here as I'm sure she'll give you a much better view of the ambience and atmosphere than any wobbly views of a group of mates on the wrong side of a bottle of prosecco which is pretty much all I managed to come away with.
The big awards went to Spencer Orlington from Bistro Live for Chef of the year, The Don for Best Newcomer and Nonnas for Restaurant of the year, none of which I have visited and so they immediately jump to the top of the 'should visit' list. The winners of the category that I was lucky enough the judge was The Indian Orchard and the Hornes Brewery which are both products which I have already further enjoyed since the judging!
So, in summary I have nothing but massive congratulations for all the worthy winners and competitors that are working so hard to make my home town a better place to live and eat in. You can find all the details at the MK Food and Leisure Award HQ once they have recovered enough from the evening to post them up, or you can follow them @mkfoodawards. If nothing else, the evening just goes to show that the foodie scene here in Milton Keynes is growing at a breakneck pace and there is so much for us to be proud of. Excellent work from everyone - well done and I'll see you all next year!
I'm describing me there in case you hadn't noticed.