A chef whose culinary creations include haggis made from horsemeat has been named the country’s leading food innovator at an annual celebration of Scotland’s food and drink sector.

Fred Berkmiller, who runs the restaurants L’escargot bleu and L’escargot blanc and the wine bar bar à vin in Edinbrugh, was among the winners at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards 2016.

Mr Berkmiller, who started his apprenticeship in his hometown of Tours in the Loire valley, won the inaugural Food Pioneer category sponsored by The Scotsman, which drew an initial 146 nominations.

The chef was recognised for his skill and use of Scottish produce as well as his work nurturing young talent.

Fred, who has been a keen ambassador for not only Scottish produce, but also the producers and people who make the industry what it is, was delighted to win the award, he said: “Food Pioneer is indeed a very big title to receive, and one I am so happy to be associated with.

“Scotland’s larder is huge and I am yet to have used, cooked and eaten all that is available, but I can safely say that I am now probably more Scottish than French! I am extremely proud and happy to have received such a prestigious reward and feel extremely privileged to live and cook in Scotland. ”

He was also quick to highlight the importance of the people who were not only part of the awards, but also all of those working in the food and drink industry across Scotland, adding: “Of course this wouldn’t have been possible without all those that are as passionate as me and are working extremely hard to make Scotland one of the best larder’s in the world.

“I would like to personally thank them all for breeding, growing and fishing their produce and for supplying a premium service driven by an extreme willingness to supply first class produce.”

Twenty businesses, among them producers of seaweed flakes, macarons and buffalo steak, picked up awards after being selected from a total of 245 entries.

Other award-winning products included apple juice, muesli and piccalilli.

Businesses of all sizes were recognised, from established firms like Graham’s the Family Dairy and Aldi to smaller producers like Macamoon, Millers Larder and Cuddybridge Apple Juice.

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said: “There has been a revolution in food and drink in Scotland and the awards show why that is.

“We have an amazing mix of established world-class businesses and a new generation of entrepreneurs coming through.

“Crucially, there is now a culture of collaboration in Scotland – industry bodies and companies working together to build our reputation and our sales. Challenges are never far away, but the opportunities for growth and innovation over the next few years are hugely exciting.”

Other winners at last night’s ceremony in Edinburgh included Jim Walker of shortbread firm Walkers, who was recognised for his outstanding contribution to the food and drink industry.

Willie Gill, chairman of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS), said: “Tonight we were reminded why this industry is soon going to be worth £16.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

“There is a wealth of talent in those shortlists but, most importantly, they all have bags of enthusiasm for our natural larder, grown in Scotland’s rich and fertile earth and seas and nurtured by our primary producers, who we are proud to represent.”

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