Businesses with a passion for local food and drink

PUBLISHED: 11:51 16 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:40 20 February 2013

Businesses with a passion for local food and drink

Businesses with a passion for local food and drink

Sharon Chilcott talks to three men making an outstanding contribution to regional produce

Three regional entrepreneurs were recognised for the passion with which they promote local food and drink at the Warwickshire Life and Worcestershire Life Food and Drink Awards 2012, sponsored by Waitrose in association with The Broadway Florist.



Shortlisted in the Outstanding Contribution to Food 2012 Award were Daren Bale, chef/proprietor of The Hop Pole Inn in Bewdley; Rhys Humm, director of The Holywell Water Company Limited in Malvern Wells and Paul Halsey, managing director of Purity Brewing Company in Great Alne, near Alcester.



Judges found this a challenging category; there was little to separate the contenders as all are true ambassadors for their region and its food and drink. All also show a strong commitment to local sourcing and to minimising the impact of their business operations on the local environment.




Flying the flag
In the end it was Daren Bale from The Hop Pole Inn who carried off the accolade for Outstanding Contribution to Food, which was presented to him at the awards ceremony at Spring Grove House, Bewdley, attended by around 200 guests.



Daren sets out to fly the flag for local producers. He and his wife Louise have been at The Hop Pole since July 2011 and they pride themselves on having built up the pubs reputation for pleasant and friendly service and great food.



Daren is committed to sourcing the best, seasonal produce for his menus as locally as possible, ensuring it is sustainable. The pub even has its own allotment, where locals come and help out, and Daren is enthusiastic and innovative in his efforts to support and work in partnership with local suppliers and his local community. He goes the extra mile to spread the word about his suppliers. He said: We are very energetic in promoting other people and we are not self-centred. Winning means we have the opportunity to bring even more attention to what we do to push out the message that we are here and we are being serious and we are to be reckoned with.



Daren also works hard to promote the ethos of local food within and without the county boundaries. He demonstrates regularly at food festivals around the country at last years Ludlow Food Festival he shared his ideas for dishes using local cheeses and at the Pershore Plum Festival he cooked up a variety of dishes using plums. He also gets involved in educating future generations of chefs. The pub adopts a local school every year and Daren visits to give demonstrations and talk about food. I also go to local colleges as a guest chef to talk about food and the life of a chef, he added.



At the pub, he runs regular cooking with chef events, where he demonstrates use of local produce and shares culinary hints and tips. This year he is running a course for gentlemen only on February 2, with ideas for the perfect Valentines dinner.



Daren also acts as a judge for Heart of England Fine Foods and he is a Worcestershire Ambassador, sharing that groups common enthusiasm to create a county to be proud of.

Malvern on the map
A man on a mission, award finalist Rhys Humm has rescued the historic Malvern Water brand from extinction and helped put the pride back in the product.



After the American soft drinks giant Coca Cola closed down Malvern Water two years ago, Rhys fought hard to win the right to put the name Malvern onto bottles of his companys locally sourced water. His aim was to put the water back on the top table again and make it available so local people could buy it. He succeeded and Holywell has now registered the trademark Holywell Malvern Spring Water.



Rhys, director of The Holywell Water Company Limited in Malvern Wells, said: We have brought this brand a long way in three years. I think we have made a huge impact in terms of drawing people to Worcestershire and given people a smile on their face when Coca Cola closed down Malvern Water, everyone thought Malvern Water was gone for good. People are really proud of what we have done.



His work to re-establish Malvern Water as a prestigious brand includes a marketing tie-up with a top London restaurant, promoting Worcestershire as a place to visit with the aim of supporting the local economy. Early this year Rhys concluded a deal to export the product to Hong Kong, putting Malvern Spring Water on the international map.

Beer on the menu
With a lifelong passion for food and drink, award finalist Paul Halsey, managing director of Purity Brewing Company has been inspired to get beer on the menu.



He has developed food and beer matching events with selected restaurants in Birmingham and Warwickshire and encouraged them to provide beer menus alongside their wine menus.



We put our heart and soul into promoting the regional food and drink industry. It is what our business is all about its embedded in our roots. Thats reflected in our results. We have seen big growth in the business over the past seven years the figures tell the story, he said.



Purity Brewing Company, established in 2005, is committed to sourcing UK malt wherever possible and uses bittering hops from Worcestershire and Herefordshire. Ithas a strong commitment to responsible waste management and to recycling and the company has created its own unique Pond and Wetland system specifically developed as a means to treat waste water.

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