THE countdown has begun to the Sussex Food and Drink Awards at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton.

The February 7 banquet is dubbed the “Sussex foodie event of the year” and 400 leaders in the food, drink and farming industry will be there.

Paula Seager, co-director of Natural Partnerships CIC which runs the awards, said: “We made the decision to change the awards banquet to February last year to move away from dry January and it was a sell-out.

“These awards are all about supporting and boosting our wonderful Sussex food and drink producers, farmers, local markets, farm shops, restaurants and pubs and we want to embrace that fully with our guests by continuing the awards banquet in fun February.”

Olympic gold medallist and patron to the awards Sally Gunnell will host the ceremony with Danny Pike of BBC Sussex.

Paula said: “We are so excited about celebrating with our superb grand finalists as they are all heroes in our eyes.

“There are so many hidden treasures on our doorstep and we hope these awards help people to discover them. We want to spread the word and encourage everyone to try something deliciously new and local.”

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2018 grand finalists:

Sussex food producer of the year, sponsored by Southern Co-op

Bookham Harrison Farms, Rudgwick

Just Brownies, Shipley

Lighthouse Bakery and School, Robertsbridge

The Raw Chocolate Company, Henfield

The Real Pie Company, Crawley

Sussex drink producer of the year, sponsored by Natural PR

Brighton Gin, Brighton and Hove

Ridgeview Wine Estate, Ditchling Common

Wobblegate, Bolney

Sussex food shop of the year, sponsored by Wealden District Council

Plaw Hatch Farm Shop, Sharpthorne

Rushfields Farm Shop, Poynings

The Sussex Produce Company, Steyning

Sussex butcher of the year, co-sponsored by RP Meats Wholesale

Archers of Westfield, Westfield

Garlic Wood Butchery, Steyning

New Street Butchers and Deli, Horsham

Sussex farmers market of the year, sponsored by Harvey’s Brewery

Chichester Farmers Market

Shoreham Farmers Market

Steyning Farmers Market

Sussex eating experience of the year, sponsored by Blakes Foods

64 Degrees, Brighton and Hove

The Artisan Bakehouse, Ashurst

The Parsons Table, Arundel

Sussex newcomer of the year, co-sponsored by Kreston Reeves and Sussex Food and Drink Network

etch, Brighton and Hove

Greyhound Brewery, West Chiltington

The Parsons Table, Arundel

Young Sussex farmer of the year, sponsored by Plumpton College with Farmers Weekly

Christopher Appleton, Arlington

Luke Spalding, Ditchling Common

Jack Stilwell, Forestside

Sussex street food of the year, sponsored by Horsham Time Well Spent

Garlic Wood Farm, Steyning

Jah Jyot, Southwater

Pig and Jacket, Lewes

Sussex young chef of the year, sponsored by Sodexo Prestige

George Boarer from etch, Brighton and Hove

Michael Notman-Watt from 64 Degrees, Brighton and Hove

Michael Sutherland, The Star Inn, Alfriston