The Great Food Club is based in Melton Mowbray, a place which has quite rightly become known as the Rural Capital of Food. They list and celebrate the very best independent food and drink retailers, pubs, restaurants and producers across the East Midlands, helping their thousands of members find the very best places to eat and drink, all while supporting locally produced food.

Their annual awards saw them ask their members and readers to nominate “one independent food/drink business that has brought you most joy over the past 12 months”. More than 6,000 votes were cast throughout July and the top four vote winners made the shortlist. Judges then went to each nominee to anonymously sample their wares before selecting the winners. You can see the full list on the Great Food Club website

Shop of the Year – The Tiny Bakery, Leicester

The Tiny Bakery is a small independent patisserie and coffee shop in the stylish area of Clarendon Park. Chosen for their wide variety of fantastic cakes and bakes, this place is the very definition of small but perfectly formed. No bigger than your front room, it's hugely popular with the local community and it’s not unusual to see long queues forming outside early on a Saturday morning. The judges were impressed by the quality and variety of the cakes and pastries, by the shop’s simple but tempting display, and by the skill of the baking team.

Café of the Year – Six Hills Café, Bakery & Pizzeria, Six Hills, Leicestershire

When you think about a roadside café, you probably think full English, strong tea and no frills. What you certainly woulnd’t expect is a Sicilian bakery offering top-quality pastries alongside the more traditional fare. And at the weekend, it’s even more special, with Friday and Saturday seeing authentic Italian pizzas being served and Sicilian Sunday lunches and pasta nights. Chef and owner Melo hails from Sicily and arrived in Leicester in 1997 with £80 to his name. His skill in taking a humble café in an unremarkable location and turning it into something unique and vibrant has won him many loyal fans.

Street Food Producer of the Year – Chez Sebastien Artisan Pizza, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

Chez Sebastien was inspired by co-founder Seb’s childhood in the 1970s and his family’s pizzeria in Marseille. More than 40 years later, Seb and his wife Paula launched a pop-up takeaway and delivery pizza service, using local ingredients to create high quality products. Their hand-stretched dough is rested for 72 hours and topped with the very best British charcuterie, homemade tomato and BBQ sauce and seafood from the local fishmonger. The creative monthly specials often have a French twist and include Poulet d’Ete (slow-cooked free-range chicken, pesto, red onion, feta, fresh parsley and lemon juice) and ‘Tunworth’ (cream, mozzarella, Tunworth cheese, British oak-smoked chorizo and maple syrup).

Food Hero of the Year – JB Kitchen, Thurcaston, Leicestershire

This award recognises someone who has achieved something extra special, and this winner fits the bill. Founder of JB’s Kitchen Jordan was homeless and sleeping rough just 9 years ago, having left school aged 13. He was able to turn his life around by training as a chef. With the support of his family, including his partner Sarah, he founded JB’s kitchen during lockdown. He began by cooking and delivering restaurant-quality dishes to homes around the East Midlands, a fantastic response to the pandemic and a way to give back after overcoming his challenging past. Following the success of JB’s kitchen, Jordan and his team are now planning to open a restaurant in Birstall, Leicestershire.

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