Following on from the success of the award over the past two years, The Scotsman has once again teamed up with the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards in a bid to find the country’s next Food Pioneer.
The public vote on our Scotsman Food and Drink site resulted in more than 60 nominations with Edinburgh-based chefs Roy Brett, Ben Reade and Colin Hind singled out by our readers while businesses like Piggery Smokery, Clan Artisan and Campsie Glen Smoke House and entrepreneurs such as Mechelle Clark of Melt, Aberdeen, Giovanna Eusebi of Eusebi's Glasgow and Lisa Lawson of Dear Green Coffee Roasters, were also lauded for their excellent work.
After much deliberation, the judging panel, which was made up from members of the team from Scotland Food & Drink and The Scotsman’s editorial staff settled on a shortlist of four candidates that they believe perfectly embody the description of a Food Pioneer.
This year's chosen finalists are chef Nico Simone of Six By Nico, Bottle of Ginger - a social enterprise based in Glasgow's east end, Lorna Young of Dumfries and Galloway Food and Drink and Calum Richardson of the Bay Fish and Chips.
Each were praised for different reasons with particular attention paid to ties with their local community, altruistic intent, innovation and of course, use of Scottish ingredients.
The Food Pioneer award itself is designed to recognise an innovative company or person who has made a ground-breaking impact on Scottish food and/or drink and the judges felt the four candidates perfectly encapsulated the given criteria.
In 2017, Glasgow based entrepreneur Graham Suttle was selected by our panel of judges from more than 60 nominations (chosen by the public) to receive the award in only its second year.
This year, nominee Nico Simone proved popular with the public vote after his successful launch of the exciting Six By Nico restaurant concept in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The inventive chef was praised by the judges for pushing the boundaries of what is possible with Scottish cuisine and doing something that really stands out from the current culinary crowd.
Meanwhile, new social enterprise Bottle of Ginger impressed the judges with their attempts to "change the carbonated drink culture in the East End of Glasgow through community engagement", providing a platform for locals to learn about urban foraging and micro-farming derelict land.
Calum Richardson is already a well known face in the industry and his work with sustainability, education and Scottish sourcing proved that he was an all round package that heavily appealed to the judges.
Finally, also going up against these three will be Lorna Young, whose work with Dumfries and Galloway Food and Drink and the recent success of the launch of their ambitious new food and drink target has made her a true ambassador for the region's producers, something that the judges felt deserved recognition.
Lorna said: “I’m surprised and very humbled to have been nominated, never mind shortlisted for this award.
"Food and drink is critically important to Dumfries & Galloway’s economy and it’s immensely rewarding to support businesses and organisations to grow, and to work with the many inspirational people who are the driving force behind those businesses.”
Beverley Hart, communications & marketing director at Scotland Food & Drink, said: “We are delighted to have been working with The Scotsman on the Food Pioneer Excellence Award this year and once again we have an extremely strong shortlist.
"It was heartening to see so many nominations from across the food and drink supply chain and we feel our shortlist embodies the true meaning of a Food Pioneer. Good luck to all shortlisted!”
Celebrating innovation and quality in the food and drink scene from businesses across Scotland the Awards have become a highly acknowledged accreditation and offer an invaluable platform on which businesses can showcase their quality produce.
The winner will be announced at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards ceremony and dinner at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Thursday 7th June, the full finalist line-up for the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards can be found here.