BUTCHERS, bakers, and artisan sausage makers are among the finalists at the Sussex Food and Drink Awards.

The prestigious competition sees dozens of producers battle it out to be crowned county champion.

This year’s finalists include producers of Sussex honey, award-winning chocolate, fudge, ice cream, preserves, beef biltong, and hand-crafted sausages.

The public can vote for their favourites, and over 12,000 votes have already been counted ahead of the January 18 deadline.

The chief criteria is that the entrants must serve or sell local produce.

Paula Seager, who runs the awards, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to see so many people voting and giving our superb regional food and drink producers the recognition they deserve.

“That’s what these awards are all about.

“Businesses from across the county have made it onto the list, including 31 from West Sussex, 19 from East Sussex and seven from Brighton and Hove.

“The competition is incredibly tight again this year and we would love to beat our record number of votes from last year.

“The results of the public vote are so important and will help our expert judges to select the top three grand finalists in each category, who will be announced in March.”

There are several titles up for grabs.

Over the next six weeks, judges will appoint Sussex’s young chef of the year. The final six will participate in a Masterchef-style cook off in March at the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College.

Nationally acclaimed chef Matt Gillan from Heritage restaurant in Slaugham will head up the panel of judges. These include fellow Michelin star chefs George Blogg from Gravetye Manor near East Grinstead and Tristan Mason from Restaurant Tristan in Horsham, along with sponsor and former restaurateur Adrian Burr from Blakes Foods.

Also being contested is the Food Producer of the Year category. The organisers said: “Sussex is renowned for its innovation in making artisan food products and this category represents so much of what is special about the region.”

Seven farmers’ markets are in the running for a trophy too. The organisers said: “These markets are now a familiar fixture in many of the towns and villages across the county and have grown in popularity over the last decade.

“They are one of the best advocates in supporting local and regional food and drink producers and offer a great opportunity to sample some of the very best that Sussex has to offer.”

Butchers are going head to head for a Food Awards trophy, too. The organisers said: “From traditional family butchers who have passed down their skills from generation to generation to resourceful outlets who specialise in locally sourced meats or farm shops that have managed to diversify and build a reputation in quality and zero carbon footprint, they are all well represented in this year’s Sussex Butcher of the Year category.”

Another category is Sussex Food Shop of the Year. Organisers said these businesses “present a delightful spread of both new and old from across the region, each offering its own unique take on bringing plough to plate. Some familiar names as well as some exciting new ones can be found on the shortlist this year.”

The Sussex Drink Producer category is hoping to find the county’s favourite Sussex tipple.

Organisers said the award recognises “not just some of the county’s, but also the country’s very best wine producers, brewers, non-alcoholic drink producers and specialist gin and spirit makers.”

Sussex Eating Experience of the Year, organisers said, celebrates how “residents of Sussex have an outstanding choice of where they choose to dine out, from Michelin star restaurants, country pubs, elegant fine dining and trendy cafés.”

The Young Sussex Farmer of the Year will also be selected, and there are several other awards too. Grand Finalists from all ten categories will be invited to attend a BAFTA-style ceremony on April 29 at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.

The winners will be revealed and over 300 guests will enjoy a seven-course Sussex produce banquet, hosted by the awards’ patron Sally Gunnell OBE and Danny Pike from BBC Sussex.

You can vote for your favourite now at www.sussexfoodawards.biz.

Here’s the full list of the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2020 finalists:

Sussex Food Producer of the Year, sponsored by Southern Co-op

Bangers Galore, Horsham, West Sussex

Boho Gelato, Brighton & Hove

Jengers Craft Bakery, Billingshurst, West Sussex

Latchetts Farm, Danehill, East Sussex

Noble and Stace Chocolatiers, Midhurst, West Sussex

Perfectly Preserved, Worthing, West Sussex

South Downs Honey, Lancing, West Sussex

Southview Farm Dairy, Pulborough, West Sussex

The Copper Pan Fudge Company, Chichester, West Sussex

The Sussex Biltong Co, Piltdown, East Sussex

Sussex Butcher of the Year, sponsored by RP Meats Wholesale Ltd

Archers of Westfield, Westfield, East Sussex

Bramptons Butchers, Brighton & Hove

C.L.Leppard of Mayfield, Mayfield, East Sussex

Cottenhams of Lindfield – Craft Butchers, Lindfield, West Sussex

Coughtrey’s Butchers, Pulborough, West Sussex

Cowdray Farm Shop Butchery, Midhurst, West Sussex

Michael Courtney Butchers, Midhurst, West Sussex

New Street Butchers & Deli, Horsham, West Sussex

Nick The Butcher, Hartfield, East Sussex

Tablehurst Farm, Forest Row, East Sussex

Sussex Farmers Market of the Year, sponsored by Harvey’s Brewery

Chichester Farmers Market, West Sussex

Forest Row Village Market, East Sussex

Hailsham Farmers Market, East Sussex

Horsham Market (Saturday), West Sussex

Lewes Farmers Market, East Sussex

Shoreham Farmers Market, West Sussex

The Great Little Farmers Market, Worthing, West Sussex

Sussex Eating Experience of the Year, sponsored by Lloyds Bank Cardnet

Crabshack, Worthing, West Sussex

etch. by Steven Edwards, Brighton & Hove

Into The Blue, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

Restaurant Interlude, Lower Beeding, West Sussex

Semolina, Brighton & Hove

The Cat Inn, West Hoathly, West Sussex

The Earl of March Country Pub & Restaurant, Lavant, West Sussex

The Fig Tree, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex

The Pink Cabbage Produce Co., Mayfield, East Sussex

The Seahorse Cafe, East Preston, West Sussex

Sussex Drink Producer of the Year, sponsored by Natural PR

Bedlam Brewery, Plumpton Green, East Sussex

Bolney Wine Estate, Bolney, West Sussex

Brighton Bier, Brighton & Hove

Brighton Gin, Brighton & Hove

Chilgrove Spirits, Chichester, West Sussex

Drunken Berries, Chichester, West Sussex

Long Man Brewery, Litlington, East Sussex

Oxney Organic Estate, Beckley, East Sussex

Ridgeview Wine Estate, Ditchling Common, East Sussex

Wobblegate Crushed Fruit Juices, Bolney, West Sussex

Sussex Food Shop of the Year, sponsored by Sussex Food and Drink Network

Barney’s Delicatessen, Brighton & Hove

Cowdray Farm Shop, Midhurst, West Sussex

Eggs to Apples Farm Shop, Etchingham, East Sussex

Jeremy’s Two, Cowfold, West Sussex

Nick the Butcher Farm Shop and Deli, Hartfield, East Sussex

Park Farm Shop, Falmer, East Sussex

Rushfields Farm Shop, Poynings, West Sussex

The Fresh Fish Shop, Haywards Heath, West Sussex

The Seasons Forest Row, Forest Row, East Sussex

Veasey & Sons Fishmongers, Forest Row, East Sussex