The finals of the BITE Sussex Rising Stars Awards were hosted at Brighton Beach House on Monday 28 November, writes Nick Mosley.
Presented by BBC Sussex’s Allison Ferns, the awards are an annual celebration of the contribution young people make to the food, drink and hospitality industry of the county.
The public – including friends, colleagues and customers – were invited to nominate their favourite rising stars via the Bite Sussex website across the summer, with the top two nominees in each category going through to final interviews with a panel of respected industry experts.
This year there were seven award categories recognising both front-of-house and behind-the-scenes talent. To be eligible for the final, nominees had to be aged 26 or under at the end of November 2022.
“I can hand-on-heart say that the Rising Stars interview process never gets any easier”, said Sir Peter Field, chair of the judges.
“Nominees have all had very different journeys to get to where they are today, so it’s a tough job for our judges to delve deep into career progression, commitment and aspirations”.
“There’s usually little more than a hairs breadth between the two finalists; to get to the finals is a huge achievement. It really is a pleasure for us to be able to recognise the efforts and talents of young people who are the future of the industry”.
The big winners of the night included Lyndon Roper of Loading Brighton on Madeira Drive who scooped both Bar Rising Star and Sussex Champion Rising Star.
“Although the standards were high this year, there was one clear winner”, said Zoe Cunliffe of Mixology Group who co-judged the bar category with Argus editor Arron Hendy.
“Lyndon shows great potential. He’s invested in himself with training, worked his way to assistant manager in just three months and has a clear plan in place to be running his own bar by the age of 30. We expect to be seeing him around for many years to come”.
For a second year, the team from Isaac At also had a strong showing with head chef Caspian Armani taking Kitchen Rising Star and front of house manager Connor Harris receiving Up Front Rising Star.
“Connor’s commitment to creating a positive change within the industry whilst championing young people who are coming through was exemplary”, said judge Gavin Stewart of Brilliant Brighton.
“Add to that his aspiration to open up a hospitality business of his own in the future, employing local people and continuing to serve the community made him the ideal choice”.
In addition to finalists and judges, around 100 guests from the wider Sussex food and drink industry were in attendance making the evening one of the most important networking events of the calendar year. Hosted at Brighton Beach House on Madeira Drive, guests enjoyed complimentary canapés alongside welcome drinks from Arbikie Estate, Stopham Wine Estate, Bedlam Brewery and Double Dutch premium mixers.
“It has been a pleasure to host the Bite Sussex Rising Star Awards at Brighton Beach House in our first year of opening”, said Julie Grout from Brighton Beach House.
“Soho House is a place where creativity flourishes and to have so much emerging talent in local hospitality is really exciting. We were proud to celebrate that on the evening”.
Local winemaker, Marie Davis of award-winning Stopham Estate winery near Pulborough agreed.
"We were delighted to attend the Rising Star Awards this week at Brighton Beach House and sponsor the welcome drink with our Stopham Brut Prestige sparkling wine”, said Marie..
“It was great to chat and network with industry friends and colleagues and very exciting to see so many energetic, talented young people coming into the hospitality trade. These individuals are already proving themselves to be inspirational high achievers in their respective careers."
Bite Sussex Rising Star 2022 winners in full
Bar Rising Star
Winner: Lyndon Roper (Loading Brighton)
Highly Commended: Darius Gilby (Twisted Lemon)
Category judges: Zoe Cunliffe (Mixology Group) and Arron Hendy (The Argus)
Kitchen Rising Star
Winner: Caspian Armani (Issac At)
Highly Commended: Antonio Pio Iassogna (Hilton Brighton Metropole)
Category judges: Jeremy Ashpool and Simon Mckenzie
Upfront Rising Star
Winner: Connor Harris (Isaac At)
Highly Commended: Amy Davis (Pizzaface)
Category judges: Anne Ackord (Brighton Palace Pier) and Gavin Stewart (Brilliant Brighton)
Wine Rising Star
Joint Winner: Jonny Driscoll (Butlers Wine Cellar and Ridgeview Wine Estate)
Joint Winner: Jack Evans (The Pig in the South Downs)
Category judges: Andrew Kay (Latest) and Julia Trustram-Eve (Wine GB)
Hidden Hero Rising Star
Winner: Rachel Blake (Brighton Gin)
Highly Commended: Katie Randall (Pizzaface)
Category judges: Tom Flint (Bottle and Jug Dept) and Olivia Reid (Sessions Markets)
Production Rising Star
Winner: Rob Smith (Arrowtown Drinks)
Highly Commended: Olivia Zen-Aloush (Saffron Farm)
Category judges: Kier Foster (Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales) and Ed Johnstone (The Sussex Peasant)
Sussex Champion Rising Star
Winner: Lyndon Roper (Loading Bar)
Highly Commended: Guy Christie-Miller (Isaac At)
Category judges; Allison Ferns (BBC Sussex) and Molly Raftery (Soho House)