Final countdown is on to enter Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards

Final countdown is on to enter Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards

THERE are just a few days left to enter the first Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards.

The new Foodie Awards 2021, in partnership with Warwickshire County Council and Visit Coventry, is a celebration of the best of the region’s food and drink scene as they re-emerge from the pandemic year.

Entrants will be showcasing their talents to a panel of judges made up of some of the top names in the industry, including chef Glynn Purnell, appearing alongside his former employer Andreas Antona, owner of The Cross in Kenilworth, and Russell Allen, managing director of Aubrey Allen.

Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards, Talk Business UK, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, Glynn Purnell, Andreas Antona, Aubrey Allen, Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council, The Fat Foodie

‘Yummy Brummie’ Glynn Purnell, pictured above, who regularly appears on TV’s Saturday Kitchen, said: “It’s been a tough year for all of us in hospitality but these awards will help boost local businesses and recognise some of the great talent in the area. I’m looking forward to being involved.”

Also on the judging panel will be Chris Hardy AKA ‘The Fat Foodie’ – a multi award-winning influencer and street food expert and fellow Stratford-based influencer Katie Matthews AKA ‘The Hangry Blonde’.

County Councillor Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Environment, Heritage and Culture at Warwickshire County Council, said: “We all know what a difficult year it has been for the Retail and Hospitality Industry so awards like this help to shine a spotlight on the fantastic, innovative and hard-working businesses we have across Warwickshire and beyond.

Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards, Talk Business UK, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, Glynn Purnell, Andreas Antona, Aubrey Allen, Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council, The Fat Foodie
County Councillor Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Environment, Heritage and Culture at Warwickshire County Council

“These awards complement the newly created ‘Visit Warwickshire‘ website as well as the Survive, Sustain & Grow businesses support programme created by the County Council this year to help businesses through the pandemic.

“I would encourage all foodie businesses out there to submit an entry and get involved to help increase visibility and promote their business. Good Luck everyone!”

There are only a few days remaining to enter the inaugural awards, which closes on December 31st. This will be followed by a finalists’ night on January 25th at Coventry’s new Telegraph Hotel and then a grand ceremony in the spring.

Categories for the awards include best artisan food and drink producers, best farm shop, best independent food and drink retailer, best newcomer, best street food trader and best chef or cook of the year, as well as best food/drink experience.

Three special awards will also recognise businesses and individuals who went above and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic – including a COVID-19 Resilience Award backed by Visit Coventry and The Godiva Award, sponsored by Coventry BID.

The Foodie Awards will be raising money for The Trussell Trust network of eight food banks in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Main organiser Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ”With just a few weeks to go we are delighted with the fantastic response to the Foodie Awards for Coventry and Warwickshire.

Foodie Awards 2021, Coventry BID, Visit Coventry, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith, Councillor Jim O’Boyle

“Now with over 150 entries across all the award categories the entry level is fantastic. By far the most entries are in the Newcomer category which just shows that the COVID pandemic has inspired so many to follow their dreams and start their own businesses. We too have been inspired by their stories, achievements and commitment to their businesses and communities.

There is still time to enter so please encourage all those you know to be part of this exciting new awards program.”

For more information on how to enter or to support the awards, visit

First COVID Resilience award-winners announced

First COVID Resilience award-winners announced

THREE local businesses that rose to the challenges of the pandemic have been recognised with a new special award.

The first COVID-Resilience Leamington Business Awards, organised by Talk Business UK, were held as part of a virtual ceremony hosted by local DJ Kirsty Leahy from Noisegate Media Studio in Leamington on Friday night.

Talk Business UK, COVID-19, Resilience, C J's Events, Heartbreak Productions, Baabzi Indian Takeaway, Leamington Business Awards, Matt Western MP

As well as a special performance from dance circus theatre company Motionhouse, the event featured a motivational message to businesses from Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western, pictured right.

He said: “It is really unpredictable how the pandemic is playing out and I appreciate just how hard it is hitting our businesses. If businesses can’t be open then we must have the financial support for them to see them through this incredibly difficult time, particularly the hospitality sector.

“I really want to thank all the businesses which have taken this seriously and have spent so much money to get COVID-safe and adhere to Government guidelines at a time when the revenue hasn’t been coming in.

“Huge thanks on behalf of the whole community to all the local businesses whose response to the pandemic has been extraordinary and I was very proud to see just how quickly businesses galvanized. It is a real measure of our community what has taken place over these last few months.

“It is so important for all of us that these businesses are around next year and the year after. We depend on the prosperity of our businesses for the vitality and the jobs and so on but they are such a core part of what makes Leamington so unique.”

2020 Business Resilience Award: This award went to a business that has demonstrated determination and resilience throughout the pandemic and tackled challenges head-on.

WINNER: CJ’s Events, Warwick
Talk Business UK, COVID-19, Resilience, C J's Events, Heartbreak Productions, Baabzi Indian Takeaway, Leamington Business Awards

CJ Events directors Carol Young and Jamie WalkerWhen the national lockdown hit in March, family-run business CJ’s Events Warwickshire took the decision to close its markets but, over a period of two months, the company worked hard on plans to return safely in line with Government advice, investing heavily in COVID barriers, signage and hand sanitiser stations and implementing policies and procedures, with the support of Warwick District Council.

And in June, CJ’s Events Warwickshire and Warwick Market were adopted by Central Government as a case study for how to implement a market’s safe return.

Their markets also continued to operate in line with the Government advice during the second lockdown.

Director and COVID-19 Compliance Officer Jamie Walker said: “We are absolutely ecstatic to have won the Business Resilience Award, this year has been a very tough one, one which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Warwick District Council, BID Leamington, our whole team, traders and customers.

“Our whole business turned upside down during the announcement of the first lockdown, with all our events being cancelled. We’re immensely proud of what we’ve achieved over the past nine months and our business has gone from strength to strength despite the times we’ve faced.

“Winning this award highlights the appreciation of our hard work and this has ended 2020 on a high for us, we can’t thank everyone enough.”

Judge Sarah Windrum, CEO Emerald Group and CWLEP Board member, said this of the winning entry: “For the judges, the company that shone through was one that acted quickly when faced with adversity and when their business as usual had been turned completely on its head. They helped us keep our town safe and open with new COVID measures and their proactive approach to training meant that we could have the first UK market to reopen after the initial lockdown.

“They worked with regional stakeholders, led by a young team and it’s really inspirational to see what they have done for us. They’re also keeping us in good Christmas cheer as we stay within the tier 3 restrictions.”

Business Pivot Award: This category was open to any business that could demonstrate how they have ‘pivoted’ their product or service during 2020..

WINNER: Heartbreak Productions, Leamington

CJ Events directors Carol Young and Jamie Walker
Peter Mimmack, Heartbreak Productions Artistic Director and Maddy Kerr, Executive Director pictured with Awards presenter Kirsty Leahy.

This outdoor theatre business of 30 years had to respond quickly to the realisation that their much-anticipated 2020 tour would not go ahead and so curated the following projects including sharing past performances for the small screen and launching a competition for young people to devise their own lockdown-themed story, some of which were adapted into short screenplays.

Emily Bennett, spokesperson for Heartbreak Productions, said: “Heartbreak is honoured to have received this award after one of our most challenging years to date. Every single finalist deserved to win and we are overwhelmed by the love and support we have received.

“We would be unable to continue to do what we love without the wonderful people behind us – thank you!”

Judge, Louise Richards of Motionhouse, said: “The theatre sector was truly decimated and everybody lost all of their work. Heartbreak Productions, which receives absolutely no regular funding, managed to turn on a pinhead.

“People underestimate the time and work that goes into the creations in the theatre world and to do all of that in such a short period of time and be so responsive and so opportunistic is the sign of a brilliant business.”

 Lockdown Hero Award: This award recognises the Leamington business that has gone ‘above and beyond’ during 2020. The business may have provided products to vulnerable groups free of charge, offered their services pro-bono to struggling local businesses or individuals, or spread positivity during challenging times.

WINNER: Baabzi Takeaway, Warwick

Talk Business UK, Heartbreak Productions, CJ's Events, Baabzi Takeaway, COVID-19 Resilience, Resilience, Leamington Business Awards
Baabzi owner Faruk Miah with his award

Baabzi have been actively involved in their local community throughout the year, including meal deliveries to Warwick and Birmingham Children’s Hospitals.

The team also supplied nutritious meals to Helping Hands charity as well as raising more than £10,000 for the NHS Charity through food nights, a charity bike ride and skydive.

At the same time the business found ways to fund and supply keyworkers with PPE.

Owner Faruk Miah said: “All the finalists have done amazing jobs and we are all winners in truth. Winning this tonight is much welcome recognition of the value of local businesses and their essential contributions to overall wellbeing.

“What we did, we did purely because it felt like the right thing to do and we are proud to be a part of the community spirit. Watch this space because we have only just begun.”

Judge, Roger Scott, Area Director South Midlands for Lloyds SME, said: “Baabzi did a fantastic job working with others in the community, supporting the NHS. And what we loved is that personal connection with the town of Leamington but also that they wanted to give something back and that really touched our hearts.”

The bespoke awards were specially designed by Warwickshire College students Spencer Bronckaerts and Kodie Wood.

Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ”What an amazing evening showing what 2020 has taught us that we can overcome the challenges of Tier 3 and lockdowns and host great events online to recognise and celebrate all the inspiring achievements of the individuals and businesses of the region.

“Seeing the responses from all the worthy winners in each of the categories was emotional as we could see what this recognition meant to them and that hosting these special ‘Resilience Awards’ was the right thing to do.”

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards, Jonathan Smith, Talk Business UK
Jonathan Smith of Talk Business UK

Nominations for the main Leamington Business Awards will open on January 21st 2021 when businesses have the opportunity to enter 12 categories: New Business of the Year; Business and Community Award; Customers Service Excellence Award; Young Person of the Year Award, Employer of the Year; South Warwickshire Achievement of the Year; Innovation of the Year; Outstanding Achievement of the Year; Independent Business of the Year; Property Business of the Year, Warwick District Charity of the Year and The People’s Choice Award.

A winner from all the categories will also be selected for the prestigious Judges’ Choice Award – Business of the Year.

Sponsors include HB&O, Lodders solicitors and The Box Factory but more are invited to get onboard by contacting Jonathan Smith at: or

Further details about the awards categories and how to nominate are available at:

Blood bikers appeal for Christmas toys

Blood bikers appeal for Christmas toys

By Tanya Aspinwall

WARWICKSHIRE and Solihull Blood Bikers are appealing to the public to help raise money to buy gifts for hospitalised over Christmas.

Blood Bikes is a registered charity that transports urgent samples of blood, COVID, human tissue and urgent medical supplies via their volunteers across Warwickshire’s network of hospitals. Around 80 volunteers including riders and drivers offer this service free of charge to the NHS providing a weekday out of hours service and 24/7 weekend and bank holiday cover.

Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes, toys appeal

Traditionally the team of volunteers have raised funds to buy toys and presents for children aged up to 18 years old.  This year, due to the pandemic, they have been restricted with fundraising and only this week been given permission to allow them to drop the presents at University Hospitals Coventry Warwickshire Walsgrave on Saturday, 19th December. With the efforts of Warwickshire Police, the hospital and committee members, the 50 volunteers are able to drop the presents at the main entrance of the hospital.

Blood Bikes is therefore asking for help in raising money to purchase the toys or for the public to donate toys which need to be brand new and unused due to COVID restrictions. The Toy Run, which has been running for the last 8 years, has seen the group raise thousands of pounds for children over the years.

Phil Evans, a Trustee and one of the volunteers said “Christmas is such a special time especially for children, but for some, their Christmases are spent on a hospital ward. By donating toys or money and enabling our volunteers to deliver presents, we hope to give these children a brighter Christmas and put a smile on their faces”.

Anyone wishing to donate toys can email Phil Evans at who will arrange collection. Alternatively, those that wish to donate money to be spent on presents can visit and click on donate.

Restaurateur cooks up a plan to help the homeless

Restaurateur cooks up a plan to help the homeless

A new Leamington restaurant is supporting its local community this Christmas by joining forces with a charity that helps the homeless.

We Love Pizza, in Regent Place, is supplying its leftover food at the end of the day to Helping Hands Community Project soup kitchen which provides hot food to hundreds of people a month.

It comes at a particularly welcome time for the volunteers, who are gearing themselves up for an increased demand over Christmas.

We Love Pizza, Jose Ribeiro, homeless, Helping Hands
Jose Ribeiro is greeted by some of the soup kitchen customers.

The soup kitchen was taken over by Helping Hands six years ago after originally being started by a Christian couple with a van outside Leamington Police station. But during COVID-19, they have instead had to adapt to providing takeaway meals from a van parked outside their Althorpe Street premises.

Sue Verne, who heads it up, said: “Before COVID-19 we used to serve food inside the premises, unfortunately we have to serve outside at the moment on a takeaway basis. Only four people are allowed to serve in the kitchen at any one time in order for us to keep a safe distance.

She added: “The pizza is a welcome treat and very much appreciated. We are so grateful for this vital support for the most vulnerable people in our area at this particularly challenging time.”

We Love Pizza, Jose Ribeiro, homeless, Helping Hands
Jose Ribeiro hands over some of the many pizzas during his latest delivery to Monique Khaira, a volunteer at the Helping Hands soup kitchen.

The soup kitchen van serves from Monday to Thursday 6:30-7:30pm as well as offering a takeaway breakfast on Tuesdays – and even the occasional birthday cake – but will not be able to hold its popular annual Christmas party this year.

The charity also provides sleeping bags, quilts, clothing, footwear and toiletries as well as additional seasonal support such as warm water for hot water bottles and waterproofs in winter and sun cream in summer.

Jose Ribeiro, owner of We Love Pizza, was determined to work with the community despite his business facing its own challenges against the backdrop of the pandemic. He was forced to close his restaurant throughout the second national lockdown and tier 3 restrictions, just weeks after first launching in September and is now operating a takeaway and click and collect service.

Jose Ribeiro hands over some of the many pizzas during his latest delivery to Monique Khaira, a volunteer at the Helping Hands soup kitchen.
We Love Pizza co-owner Jose Ribeiro.

But he said: “I always knew I wanted to create a social enterprise so there is a charitable element to what we do as well. We want to use our food to impact positively on society and people’s lives so decided to work with a charity which can benefit from our surplus food at the end of each day.

“Since we moved in just a few weeks ago, we have been warmly welcomed by our new community and it is a pleasure to be able to already start to give something back. We sincerely hope that by supporting the fantastic work of this local charity we’re actively able to do that.”

“My partner and I want to become positive members of the local community. We have that obligation to help people out that need us, especially right now.”

Jose and his team at the artisan pizza restaurant, pride themselves on delivering ‘affordable quality’ to customers by using only the best and most nutritious flour combinations and implementing exact temperature control and longer fermentation periods for the sourdough. Fresh ingredients, sourced directly from Italy as well as locally, are prepared by a team of five chefs from four corners of the globe.


Anyone interested in supporting, donating or volunteering at the soup kitchen, or wants to learn more about how to get involved with Helping Hands, is invited to visit:

New entrepreneurs hoping to become toast of the town

New entrepreneurs hoping to become toast of the town

A Warwickshire couple are toasting the success of their new wine business – despite overcoming two lockdowns, redundancy and a personal tragedy.

Paul Rowe and Lucy Scrivens, from Warwick, are enjoying a busy start for BRC Collective which they partly attribute to increasing demands driven by the pandemic.

The business signals a new direction and passion project for Kenilworth-born entrepreneur and self-taught wine connoisseur Paul, whose eyes were opened to new opportunities by lockdown.

BRC Collective, wine, Paul Rowe, Lucy Scrivens

He said: “Because of my love for wine I’ve also wanted to set up my own business. About 18 months ago friends of mine were having a do-it-yourself-style wedding on a farm and asked me to sort their wine for them. That went really well and gave me more of a push to explore it as a business opportunity.

“I was getting weary of the London commute, which I’d been doing for four years, and so when lockdown hit in March, it allowed me to take stock and realise that this wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

“It was a passion project to begin with but there was quickly a realisation that there is a demand for it out there. I’ve always been someone who has pushed other people to pursue their dreams or passions. If you have something you strongly want to do you should throw the kitchen sink at it.”

As well as more than 250 wines in stock from vineyards and wineries across the world, the business also works with some local ale and spirit producers including Windmill Hill, Radford Semele, Warwickshire Beer Company in Cubbington and Newbold Spirit, in Leamington Spa.

Paul, 34, and Lucy, 30, are proud that at the heart of BRC Collective is their desire to take customers on their own personal journey when it comes to selecting a vintage.

“Most people when they walk into a wine merchant’s are not sure what they want to buy. They like to be educated, that’s one of the most exciting things for me,” added Paul.

“Or if you want a specific wine it is very difficult to find that on the internet so we work with a number of importers and distributors at vineyards and wineries across Europe.”

But it has been a bitter-sweet ride for the couple who found themselves juggling the demands of a new business against the backdrop of a pandemic pregnancy, Lucy’s redundancy, in August and the recent sudden death of her mother.

She said: “I found out I was pregnant just before lockdown and we were over the moon. Then when lockdown hit, and as time went on, it did get quite hard, not being able to see people and the lack of understanding around how the virus might effect pregnancies or newborns with it being so new. It was quite a tough time.

“Paul wasn’t allowed to accompany me to my first 12-week scan because of COVID-19 rules at the hospital. It was extremely scary and I had no contact with a midwife throughout. All the worse case scenarios were going through my head.”

After complications following baby Callie’s birth on November 10th – and a spell in the Special Care Baby Unit – mum and daughter were eventually reunited and allowed to return home.

BRC Collective, wine, Paul Rowe, Lucy Scrivens

But the celebrations were tinged with sadness as Lucy is still coming to terms with her loss. Mum Dawn, from Rushden in Northamptonshire, died just six days after complaining of tummy pains and then being diagnosed with an acute leukaemia, aged 62 – and just one month before Callie’s arrival.

Lucy said: “It just all feels so surreal. The timing is incredibly sad because she never got to meet what would have been her fifth grandchild. There is so much I want to tell her.”

She added: “It’s also been incredibly hard for my dad who is grieving his wife and hasn’t even been able to meet his new grandchild yet because of lockdown.”

But, despite everything – and with a healthy pre-Christmas order book in front of them – the couple are looking ahead to the next chapter with optimism, even eyeing up plans to open their first retail unit by the end of 2021.

“Because of my roots – having lived most of my life in south Warwickshire – I would like that unit to be in either Kenilworth, Warwick or Leamington. I think there is definitely a space for us’” said Paul.

“Once this pandemic is out of the way we look forward to interacting more face to face with our customers,” said Paul.

In the meantime he hopes to bring back some festive cheer as part of home-grown lockdown celebrations this year – and believes it’s a trend that could set a future precedent for small businesses.

He said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully there are some positives around shopping local at the moment and I think that will continue because, after the strain that they’ve been under, people want to support them. It won’t be an easy ride in 2021.

“People have started to change their habits. The big corporates will still rule but I think there will be more consideration for shopping local.”