The 23rd Manchester Food and Drink Festival will take place this year from 24th September – 5th October, with new measures in place.
And, as always, the festival will culminate in the MFDF annual awards, which celebrate the best of each year when it comes to the city’s food and drink scene.
This year is different, of course, and the awards have been tailored to reflect the huge pressures and changes the industry has faced.
The 2020 event is about supporting jobs across a huge range of sectors decimated by the pandemic – from event production to hospitality – and, of course, celebrating our incredible food and drink scene and night-time economy.
A host of new categories have been created especially for this unprecedented year – all designed to recognise the industry’s impressive innovations and adaptations since lockdown and beyond. New awards for 2020 include Best DIY Delivery Food Offering, Best Food and Drink Box Delivery, Best Innovation and Lockdown Heroes.
The awards will be voted for entirely by the public via the MFDF website, with the winners announced at a virtual ceremony on 5th October which will for the first time be live streamed.
The shortlists have been compiled by the MFDF judging panel, made up of the region’s leading food and drink critics, writers and experts.
A new award for best online ‘at home’ food and drink content recognises the best online content shared by Manchester’s chefs, producers and industry experts including recipe cook-a-longs, chef demonstrations, Q and As, virtual wine tastings and masterclasses.
The shortlist includes: Cork of the North for their live wine tasting masterclasses broadcast via social media; Higher Ground for their live cook-alongs; Salvi’s videos with chef Maurizio and his daughter Sienna; Manchester Gin for their live masterclasses; Simon Wood for his recipes and videos; Rachel Stockley for her Baratxuri recipe videos; Andrew Nutter for his online cookery videos broadcast via social media; Six By Nico; and Grape to Grain for their wine tastings.
Another new award for 2020 celebrates the restaurants who have adapted their business model, menus and offering to provide a takeaway/delivery service during lockdown.
The restaurants to make the shortlist are: Six by Nico; Wolf at The Door; Elnecot; Bundobust; Mughli Charcoal Pit; Hip Hop Chip Shop; Rudy’s; and Yang Sing.
The new award for best DIY delivery food offering, meanwhile, is all about the restaurants, chefs and businesses who have created ‘do it yourself’ recipe delivery meal kits for people to create their own restaurant quality meals/dishes at home.
On the shortlist are: Hawksmoor at Home; Adam Reid Great British Menu; YaoYao Noodles; Elite Bistros at home; Northern Soul grill it yourself kit; Wood at Home; DD’s Burgers at KoffeePot; and Baratxuri.
There’s also a new award to reflect the best food and drink delivery boxes available during lockdown – whether it be veg boxes, wine boxes or beer boxes.
The award for best innovation shows the best innovative and most creative ways that businesses have dealt with COVID-19, whether it’s virtual events, online markets/services or community projects.
The contenders include: Grub E-mart (hosting street vendors online for orders and collections); Levenshulme market (providing a platform for traders to go online as well as local charities); Stretford Food Hall (finding innovative ways to serve the community right the way through lockdown); and Andrew Nutter’s cheese and wine boutique.
Also shortlisted are: Cloudwater (for supporting other breweries through this crisis, letting them use their web shop and also supporting Higher Ground with their delivery runs); Didsbury Gin, who moved production over to hand sanitiser; Manchester Union lager for their growler collection and refills; and House of Hops – the micropub in Swinton who invested in a canning machine to deliver their craft draft beer to homes.
One of the most eagerly anticipated MFDF awards is always newcomer of the year, and this year is no exception, with several new openings to celebrate – despite it being a year like no other.
The nominations for best newcomer this year include: Escape to Freight Island; Tom Kerridge’s Stock Exchange restaurant The Bull & Bear; The Edinburgh Castle Pub; Six By Nico; Higher Ground; Perfect Match; Street Urchin; and Stretford Food Hall.
The award for best online veggie/vegan offering will honour the restaurants and food businesses that have provided innovative and exciting menu options for vegetarian and vegan diners via takeaway/delivery services during lockdown.
The shortlist includes: Wholesome Junkies; Blue Caribou’s DIY poutine kits; YaoYao Noodles; Vaso Indian Kitchen; Eddie Shepherd Walled Garden; Herbivorous; Pasta Factory; and The Ottomen.
The street food trader award will go to one of the Greater Manchester-based street food legends who have adapted their services to provide takeaways and deliveries during lockdown.
On the list are: The Ottomen; Oh Mei Dumplings; Gingers Comfort Emporium; Nasi Lemak; Herbivorous; Abeja tapas; I Knead Pizza; and Jerk Shack.
Artisan drinks producer of the year, meanwhile, recognises the plethora of fabulous local drinks producers across the city, from gins and ciders to ales and meads.
Takeaway coffee experience of the year recognises quality coffee takeaways during the COVID-19 crisis: Just Between Friends; Federal Café; Foundation; Ancoats General Store; Grindsmith; Heart & Graft; Another Heart to Feed; and Manchester Coffee Co all make the list.
And there’s also an award to celebrate lockdown heroes: those individuals who have dedicated their time and businesses to provide continued support for the wider community, the food and drink industry and Greater Manchester as a whole during the COVID-19 crisis.
This award is open to the public to nominate their heroes – and you can also vote for your food and drink favourites from the full MFDF awards shortlist, which is now live.
“This year’s Festival awards are taking place at an extraordinary time – the most difficult period yet for our industry, and against the backdrop of a global crisis,” said MFDF sounder Phil Jones.
“It’s been a very tough year for restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes – but we’ve also seen a huge amount of innovation, creativity and community focused altruism from the hospitality industry.
“While it is not possible to run the awards in the usual way this year, we felt it was more important than ever to recognise and celebrate our hospitality sector. This year’s awards, delivered with the help of our sponsor Just Eat, are designed to celebrate, showcase and support our brilliant dining community in 2020 and beyond.”
Voting is open now. The closing date for votes is midnight on the 26th September and the winners will be announced at the virtual awards ceremony on 5th October.