AS THE Bite Sussex Rising Star Awards 2022 are launched tomorrow, Nick Mosley gives the lowdown on the importance of recognising the contribution young people make to the hospitality and wider food and drink industry in the county.

Although there are now numerous food and drink awards celebrating the quality and diversity of the food scene in Sussex, the Bite Sussex Rising Stars Awards is the only scheme focused entirely on individuals aged 26 and under.

Young people are the lifeblood of not only restaurants, bars and hotels, but also farming and production.

From Sussex vineyards to fisheries via the hidden heroes working behind the scenes in kitchens and hotels, there are many talented and committed people making long-term careers for themselves.

To celebrate the launch of this year’s awards, organisers Bite Sussex are teaming up with chef and restaurateur Steven Edwards of Etch restaurant in Hove to host a Rising Stars tasting lunch on Sunday featuring five notable young chefs working in Brighton and Hove’s restaurant industry.

Having won the BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals in 2013 at the age of 26, Steven is living testament to how a passion for food and service can lead to commercial success and career fulfilment, even after the unprecedented challenges of the past couple of years.

“It’s more important than ever to encourage and nurture the emerging talent coming through in the industry,” said Steven.

“Recent years have been tough for restaurants what with staff shortages and the increased cost of living. There are lots of factors that have impacted the hospitality industry.

“It gives me great pleasure to host the Bite Sussex Rising Stars tasting lunch at Etch. To offer a platform for the next generation to cook their food for paying guests gives them the confidence and experience they need to further their own careers.

“For me, it’s exciting to see the ideas in their dishes and what’s important to them on a plate of food.”

Participating chefs include Arion Christophers (Fourth and Church, Hove), Antonio Pio Iassogna (Hilton Brighton Metropole), Elisa Gerard (Julien Plumart, Brighton), Dan O’Malley (Etch) and Caspian Armani (Isaac At, Brighton).

Each chef will be presenting a course that showcases their technical and creative skills, with a strong focus on local and seasonal produce.

Isaac At’s Caspian is no stranger to the Bite Sussex Rising Stars Awards having scooped two trophies at last year’s finals in November 2021.

“Seasonality is always important for me,” said Caspian. “Spring is the most inspirational time of the year. Exciting new things are coming to life all around us, and I can’t help but fill my head with ideas charged by that excitement.”

Arion Christophers from Fourth and Church agrees.

“My inspiration for my dish is spring, we’re bang in season,” he said.

“So using asparagus and wild garlic – that I’ve foraged myself – brings back childhood memories of eating asparagus from our garden.

“I’m passionate about learning different and exciting ways to transform raw produce to something amazing.

“I chose to work in the hospitality industry because I love being able to bring joy to people lives with food. It might sound cheesy but I really do love cooking for people.”

A welcome drink is included in the £80 ticket price.

Created by bartender Julien Barnett of Gungho! bar, the cocktail will be packed with hand-foraged Sussex ingredients and gin produced by Tom Martin-Wells of Slake Spirits distillery in Worthing.

Julien is no stranger to using local produce on the drinks menu of his bar in Preston Street, Brighton. He not only champions local distilleries, breweries and vineyards but also creates the many syrups and tinctures to be found on his cocktail menu.

“For my welcome drink, I’ve already been out foraging local rock samphire,” he said. “I’ll be combining that with Slake and gorse and green tea kombucha.”

Although the lunch marks the launch of the 2022 awards, it’s the public and a panel of industry experts who will decide the winners across nine categories at the end of the year.

Public nominations open online on Friday and run until the end of July. Then the judges, all respected professional voices in the food, drink, hospitality and tourism industry chaired by Sir Peter Field, will convene for face-to-face and telephone interviews alongside secret shopping visits before an award ceremony in the autumn.

To nominate your Sussex hospitality, food and drink rising stars, visit