A prominent Welsh chef has been named the first Wales Food and Drink Champion of the Year at new awards.

Colin Gray, managing director of Capital Cuisine, Caerphilly, received the special judges’ award, sponsored by the Culinary Association of Wales, at the inaugural Wales Food and Drink Awards held in Cardiff.

The award recognises consistent sourcing, use and promotion of Welsh food and drink products over a period of time.

Capital Cuisine is an artisan food producer, manufacturing bespoke, restaurant quality products, whilst also catering for high profile events with contemporary menus using locally sourced, ethical produce. The company employs 12 staff which increases to around 50 for major events.

“I was shocked and humbled to be given the honour,” was Gray’s reaction to the award. “Sourcing, using and promoting quality Welsh food and drink products is something that I have done naturally within my business since our first event, Hay Festival, in 2003.

“We have been proud to carry the torch ever since and it’s really nice to be recognised. However, we never buy Welsh products just for the sake of it; we utilise the best products as close to our business that we can find.”

Praising the Welsh Government for its promotion of Welsh food and drink products, he added: “Standards are improving continuously and new product innovation is remarkable, borne out by the phenomenal number of Great Taste awards achieved by Welsh producers.”

Arwyn Watkins, OBE, Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) president, who presented the award, said: “Colin has flown the flag for Wales at some of our country’s most prestigious events, from the Hay Festival, the National Eisteddfod and the Royal Welsh Show, for many years.

“Hopefully the award will be a welcome boost after a challenging two years, with events cancelled, as he continues to move on with his business which has continued to develop, take different directions and expand.”

Mr Watkins applauded chefs across Wales for championing Welsh food and drink and said an independent panel of judge had a difficult task picking a champion from all the quality nominations.

Gray is vice president of the CAW, which he helped to found 28 years ago, and represented Culinary Team Wales as a pastry chef for nine years until he retired from competition in 2003 as vice-captain.

He competed across the UK and Europe with the team and cooked for heads of state, royalty, senior politicians and celebrities at major events at home and abroad.

The Army-trained chef is now a Worldchefs accredited judge and continues to support Wales’ senior and junior teams as a mentor and advisor.

The Wales Food and Drink Awards were set up to celebrate and showcase the best food and drink producers in Wales, whatever their size. Founders are Liz Brookes, director of Grapevine Event Management and broadcaster, Sian Lloyd.

The judging panel was chaired by Robin Jones, managing director of Wrexham based, award-winning Village Bakery.

Picture caption:

Chef Colin Gray receives his award from Arwyn Watkins, OBE, Culinary Association of Wales president, watched by compere and awards co-founder Sian Lloyd.