School caterers are often the unsung heroes of our industry, but this was certainly not the case on Monday evening as The Royal Garden Hotel played host to the annual EDUCatering Awards. The evening saw the great and the good of the school meals industry gather to see who would walk away with these coveted awards.

With contract caterers – big and small, local authorities, individual schools, food and drink brands, and of course the leading foodservice agency represented, the night honoured every aspect of the sector, from primary to secondary, innovation to marketing, CSR to newcomers, and everything in between. The awards were judged by a panel of 21 industry professionals from the world of school catering with one notable exception – the Innovation Award, which was judged on the night by the audience via their key pads. But this wasn’t the only technological touch to the evening. At each end of the room was a Twitter wall screening tweets using the hashtag #EDUAwards and included a leader board of most influential accounts tweeting, helping to drive the social media amplification of the event (nice one!).

Brad Pearce of CATERed acted as compère for the evening joined by Jamie Robbins MD of H20 and of course representatives from the sponsoring brands to announce each award. As ever the night was a great success as guests mingled with contacts old and new and enjoyed a fabulous meal from Steve Munkley’s team at The Royal Garden (the soufflé starter was certainly a high point for me!). Sensibly the awards were split across the evening in-between courses and as is tradition with the EDUCatering Awards we were entertained by school children, although not just any school children, these talented young things were from the Sylvia Young Theatre School so we may well have been witnessing an early performance from tomorrow’s stars of stage and screen.

The evening culminated in the Lifetime Achievement Award which deservedly went to Neil Porter and was sponsored by our lovely client Fresh Montgomery, organisers of The Great Hospitality Show (23-25th Jan 2017 – be there or be square!). Having been inspired into the industry by his early experiences of the school dinner ladies handing out warm biscuits back in the day Neil has dedicated his career to the industry and was rightly greeted with a standing ovation from the room on presentation of his award.

You can see the full list of winners here but of course congratulations must go to all the nominees as well, who represent the very best of this hugely important industry sector. Praise must also go to Jamie and the team at H20 on another great event – we look forward to the FSM Awards in November!

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