The Scotsman Food Pioneer, a new category created for the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards in 2016, was designed to recognise an innovative company or person who has made an impact on Scottish food and drink.
In 2016, Edinburgh chef Fred Berkmiller was picked from more than 140 nominees (chosen by the public) to receive the award in its first year.
This year, Graham Suttle, co-owner of Kained Holdings, was chosen from a list of finalists that included Rachel Hammond of Hammond Charcuterie in the Borders, Tony Reeman-Clark, of Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire and Edinburgh-based chef Colin Hinds, who runs the Kilted Lobster and Rib Aye restaurants, to become our Food Pioneer for 2017.
The restaurateur, who said he was “over the moon” to receive the award in only its second year, explained that it was important for him to see that innovation within the food and drink industry was being celebrated.
Suttle, who along with business partners Mo Clark and Scott Arnot, runs venues such as the popular Lebowski’s bars and The Finnieston, was recognised for his hard work within the industry, both in education and charity, but also in how the company champions Scottish produce. He said that he was “blown away” by the sheer depth and range of categories, finalists and winners at the awards.
He added: “I know, as much as many of my colleagues do in the industry, what it’s like to have passion and pride in a product, and I just saw so many people with amazing products.
“I’ve harped on about this for ten years, I’ve said that Scotland has the best larder in the world, and the fact that these small, artisan producers are making world class unbeatable products is fantastic and more people need to shout about it.”
It’s his support of the industry itself which was an important factor in him being picked as our winner and his work with The 100 particularly impressed the judges.
Suttle said: “The 100 is a collective of the top 100 hospitality professionals in the industry. Every year we inaugurate 100 more into the group, we then focus on them and look to develop them within the industry and we aim to learn from them too.”
He explained that the idea came about following what he described as constant attacks on the hospitality industry, and the need to move away from the “doom and gloom” image peddled by external agencies and to focus on the important role it plays within Scotland.
He said: “People seem to forget that we are the biggest employer in the country and the shop window for Scotland.
“When people go away with a great feeling about Scotland and its culture, a lot has to do with the hostelries they’ve been in, the food they’ve eaten, and the people they’ve met within the hospitality industry, even if that’s just a bar tender or a waitress telling them a cool place to go or something to do.
“As an industry, hospitality has a massive impact on tourism. So, instead of being negative about it, we know where the passion comes from and as The 100, we want to celebrate that and continue and develop within our industry to ensure we are world class, if not world leading.”
Charity plays a big part in the Kained ethos and this was another reason that Suttle was considered to be a suitable candidate to become this year’s Food Pioneer, after his work with Action for Children’s Yes Chef! Programme.
He said: “Giving back is very important for Kained. When the three of us started the company, making tons of money was never the ultimate goal, creating something special was. We want to make things better within the industry and make things better around us. Whether it’s supporting a kids football team from Largs or the Yes Chef! programme, we just want to give back.”