It's not too often that this gal gets the opportunity to put on a cocktail frock and high heels before hightailing it to the big smoke for a photo opportunity on the red carpet at the entrance to an awards ceremony.
But that's what happened last week, when Peter and I attended a gala function at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art, at which Sydney Markets revealed the winners of the 2016 Fresh Awards.
Featuring Chris Bath as Master of Ceremonies, and entertainment by David Campbell, the inaugural event was an industry first, filled with flourish and truly stunning displays of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers.
We mingled with celebrities and industry folks from all walks of life at the soirée, including the rather beautiful flower headed people (pictured above), who are known as 'Freshies'. The menu for the evening, presented by the Culinary Edge, featured the best of winter produce and edible flowers.
From the 60 finalists vying for the Fresh Awards, fifteen businesses and individuals under the categories of greengrocer, florist, grower and blogger, walked away with an impressive package of prizes and the honour of holding the winning titles for the next 12 months.
With representation from various sectors, the event was a whole-of-industry affair celebrating the achievements of small and medium businesses in NSW and the ACT.
I had the honour and privilege of being one of the judges and award presenters, along with my long-time friend in food, Lyndey Milan, OAM.
Launched in 2015, the Fresh Awards program recognises excellence and innovation in fresh produce and flower retailing, growing and blogging. The program represents Sydney Markets’ commitment to supporting the independent retailers and local growers who are an integral part of the Markets and the industry. Having long acknowledged the efforts of those groups through separate Greengrocer, Florist and Grower of the Year Awards, for the first time they were brought together under the Fresh Awards.
Over 500 independent retailers and growers participated in the program, with retailers being evaluated through an intensive mystery shopping program and industry assessment. In another first, the program also included a new award category for bloggers, extending the accolades outside of the immediate industry to recognise the contributions of the blogging community in drawing attention to, and encouraging support of independent fresh produce and flower retailers.
Greengrocer of the Year Award winner Ken Irvine from Ziggy’s Fresh in Fyshwick ACT said, 'We are really proud to be going home with this prize. I have worked in fruit and vegetable retailing for 45 years and we as a family are passionate about our business and our industry, so to be awarded Greengrocer of the Year means a great deal. It certainly made the trip up from Canberra all the more worthwhile!'
Brad Latham, Sydney Markets Limited CEO said, 'I was honoured to present the winning local businesses with their awards. The award entries are a testament to the high calibre of talent and excellence in the fresh produce industry of NSW and ACT. Sydney Markets has a long history of working to develop and grow the fresh produce industry. Recognising and celebrating retail excellence is an essential part of this growth.'
'As Australia’s largest produce market, Sydney Markets has become the benchmark for quality and operational service. Over 20,000 Australian growers supply fresh fruit and vegetables to over two thirds of the entire Australian population. We strive to educate and nurture our growers, greengrocers, florists and customers,' he concluded.
Personally, I would like to take this opportunity to say congratulations to all of the 2016 Fresh Awards winners and finalists. And a huge thank you to Sydney Markets for giving me the opportunity to play a small part in this initiative.
Postcards and morsels from the 2016 Fresh Awards...
Our lovely MC for the evening - journalist and television personality, Chris Bath.
Ziggy's Fyshwick in the ACT - Best Medium Business winner AND Greengrocer of the Year - Toni (rear right) and Ken Irvine front left) with son Todd (rear right) and his wife, Susie (front right.
Greengrocer - Knowledge in Action winner - Martelli's FruitMarket - (Cherrybrook) Frank and Maria Martelli.
Greengrocer - Best Large Business winner - Fruitezy Marketplace (Miranda) (L-R front) Abilio and Alzira Pavia, Lisa Perstrelo. (L-R back row) Clinton Maynard, Lyndey Milan and Max Filipe.
Produce Grower of the Year winner - Goldenfield Growers (Wallacia) Nickie Ung (left) and Billy Lee.
Florist of the Year winner - Jodie McGregor Flowers (L-R) Jodie McGregor and Stu White.
Flower Grower of the Year winner - S & P Dominello (L-R) Phil, Sam, Michael and Vicki Dominello.
And now for my 'I was there too!' moment...
With my long time friends in food, Sue Dodd (left), Retail Support Manager, Sydney Markets; and fellow judge - renowned Australian food, wine and lifestyle personality, Lyndey Milan OAM, (right).
As part of the Fresh Awards, Sydney Markets presented two Blog Awards, recognising bloggers who created insightful or interesting stories about an independent greengrocer and/or florist, highlighting seasonal fresh produce or flowers. If you are interested, you can read the entries for the Blog Awards here.
Winner of the best blog story about a florist - We are Scout by Lisa Tilse (centre) with judges, Robyn Foyster (left) and Edwina Bartholomew (right)
Winner of the best blog story about a greengrocer - ShenANNAgans by Anna Johnston (centre) with judges Lyndey Milan (left) OAM and me (on the right).
Australian singer, David Campbell, (son of legendary singer, Jimmy Barnes) rocked the house.
The flower people a.k.a. 'The Freshies' cut up the dance floor as well.
The 2016 Fresh Awards - with the stunning display of lettuces, roses, capsicums, orchids and bananas.
Images and words appear courtesy of Sydney Markets. Peter and I attended the Fresh Awards gala and stayed overnight in Sydney as guests of the Sydney Markets.
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.