Our judges

The independent panel of industry experts who will judge the awards

Richard Axford

Head of Faculty for Leisure and Service Industries at Kendal College

Richard has worked at Kendal College for 20 years and oversees training for 60 hospitality students and 30 apprentices each year.

He has helped launch significant developments at the college, including the Academy by Simon Rogan partnership, which provides a bespoke 18-month training course for future chefs.

A trained and experienced chef, Richard’s career took him all over the country and he worked at head chef level for more than 18 years.

Matt Bruno

Retail Development Manager for Booths

Born and bred in Cumbria, Matt is of Italian heritage. He learned how to cook Italian food at home in Cockermouth and from his nonna, during family holidays in Italy.

A lover of good food and dining out, Matt has extensive experience as a food buyer. He began his career at Morrisons and for the last 14 years has worked for the northern grocer, Booths, with a particular focus on sourcing local and regional products.

Matt recently launched a tapas and wine bar within the Booths store at Lytham and is a judge for the Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste awards.

Lorcan Byrne

Managing Director, Caterite Foodservice

Originally from Liverpool, Lorcan has been with Caterite since 2012, joining the business from retailer Aldi.

Married with three young sons, he studied history and theology at Leeds University.

Passionate about food, technology and travel, he has found a role that allows him to embrace all three. Caterite has enjoyed a period of growth in recent years and Lorcan attributes this to a focus on innovation, together with the best ingredients and people-led service.

MW Craven

bestselling novelist and award-winning crime writer

Sunday Times top 10 bestselling crime writer Mike is best known for the Cumbrian-set Washington Poe series. His new series, featuring ex-US Marshal Ben Koenig, has already been picked up by a major streamer.

A fan of real ale and dining out – with his wife Joanne – Mike’s Washington Poe novel Black Summer features a charming and psychopathic chef to the stars.

A winner of the prestigious Gold and Steel Dagger awards, The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year prize and other awards, Mike lives at Carlisle.

Martin Frickel

Chef and Business Owner

Cumbrian born and raised, Martin has 18 years’ experience as a chef. He was senior sous chef for the launch of The Forest Side at Grasmere, which quickly won a Michelin star.

Awards and recognition include reaching the finals for The National Chef of the Year and winning an Acorn Award, for the brightest prospects in the hospitality industry.

Martin now works as a private chef covering mainly Cumbria, Scotland and the North West, using the best of Cumbrian produce.

His other business, Sweet Treats by Martin Frickel, was established in the middle of the pandemic in 2021. The model of selling cakes and bakes via postal boxes quickly became a success and Martin expanded to take in local artisan markets and events, where customers can find the team most weekends.

Sweet Treats by Martin Frickel won the Pop-Up/Street Food Seller of the Year award at the 2023 Cumbria Food Awards.

Roopa Gulati

Journalist and Author

Brought up in Dalston, near Carlisle, Roopa lived in India for two decades, working as a chef at the Taj Hotel and as a writer and broadcaster. On her return to the UK, she was food editor at UKTV’s Good Food Channel and spent 15 years reviewing restaurants for Time Out.

As a freelance journalist, Roopa researches material for TV shows and contributes recipe features to national food magazines. Her latest book is India: The World Vegetarian (Bloomsbury Absolute). She is currently writing a new book for the same publisher.

Jacqueline Jackson

Business Consultant

Jacqueline is owning partner of fifth generation Thomas Jardine & Co, a consulting firm and operator of co-working space.

Thomas Jardine & Co has a strong heritage in food, moving from farming to grocery to c-store retailing. Jacqui was the lead facilitator for Lancaster University’s Eco-I innovation catalyst which focused on achieving net zero across the food sector in Cumbria, an initiative which is now rolling out to the food and drink sector.

Jacqui works closely with food businesses offering support from mentoring, coaching and strategic planning as well as acting as non-exec for family and food sector businesses.

Keith Jackson

Business Consultant

Keith works closely with food businesses and the food sector and has been a judge for the Great Taste awards. Where possible Keith brings the voice of the food and drink sector into the public domain.

He is part of the Food Cumberland Partnership, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership Rural Sector Panel and DEFRA’s Agri Food Chain SME Forum.

Keith’s former business – owned with his partner Jacqui Jackson – won Scottish Grocer of the Year and Neighbourhood UK Retailer of the year.

Lynne Mallinson

Food Safety Management Systems Consultant

Lynne has been actively involved in the food and drink sector for the past 20 years and gained vast amounts of experience with her pudding company, Country Puddings.

She now assists other businesses with food safety management systems, helps on the family dairy and sheep farm and is a director of H&H Group at Carlisle.

Jennifer Middleton

Communications Consultant

Jennifer is the founder of Lemon Zest, a Northern PR consultancy which works with leading food producers and retailers.

Her clients include northern grocer Booths and Westmorland Family, the Cumbrian family business which owns and runs Tebay Services.

Jennifer has led local food strategies for Deliciouslyorkshire, Taste Cumbria and Taste Lancashire in the past decade and is a champion of small producers.

She was associate producer of the ITV documentary Prince Charles: Inside the Duchy and was instrumental in the production of the popular Channel 4 documentary series, A Cotswold Farmshop and A Lake District Farm Shop, featuring Gloucester and Tebay Services and their local producers.

Patrick Moore

Founder and owner of More? The Artisan Bakery

Patrick is a chef and founder of More? The Artisan Bakery at Staveley near Kendal.

Holder of multiple awards, More? is known for its sourdough bread and Muddee chocolate brownies, voted best in the country. Patrick, who is a bread expert with consumer organisation Which?, is a champion of additive-free, flavourful baking, using the best ingredients.

Both Patrick and the bakery starred in the Channel 4 documentary, A Lake District Farm Shop, which focused on suppliers to Tebay Services.

Patrick was the winner of the 2023 Cumbria Food Awards Outstanding Contribution Award.

Jonathan Robb

Managing Director of Hawkshead Relish Company

Jonathan brought a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry when he joined Hawkshead in 2015.

He now leads a 30-strong team making a range of more than 100 preserves, relishes, and sauces from the firm’s production centre on the shores of Esthwaite Water, one mile from Hawkshead village.

Jonathan is an export champion with the Department of International Trade, sharing knowledge with new exporters across the Northern Powerhouse.

Jane Silburn

Business Development Director Cranstons Butcher and Maker

Jane grew up on an Eden Valley livestock farm where she learnt the passion and hard work that goes into creating great food.

She started her career at Morrisons Supermarkets PLC’s head office in Yorkshire, joining as a graduate trainee and progressing to fresh food buyer.

Jane returned to Cumbria to raise her family and a role at Cranstons, where she enjoys overseeing the brand and marketing, product development and business growth.

She recently managed the complete remodelling of Cranstons flagship Cumbrian Food Hall in Penrith which relaunched in October 2023 after 20 years of trading.

Lorraine Stanton

Hospitality Training and Consultancy

With 40 years’ industry experience, Lorraine works with hospitality businesses to provide training and share insights into how to offer the best possible customer service.

Lorraine was GM at Michaels Nook in Grasmere when it was awarded the first Michelin star in the north of England in 1996, plus the rare five Michelin Red Turrets. She was GM at The Punch Bowl in Crosthwaite for six years.

Lorraine has organised and managed the Food Theatre at Westmorland County Show for many years and now performs the same role at similar events nationally, where she’s always pleased to promote Cumbria. She is a long-term charity fundraiser.

Sam Ward

Managing Director, Simon Rogan Restaurants Worldwide

Sam grew up in Grange-over-Sands and began his career with Simon Rogan aged 22 as bar manager.

He moved to London to work as a sommelier at The Ritz and returned to Cumbria three years later when he became Mâitre d’ at L’Enclume.

He became the group’s operations director and then, with a total of nine years at the company under his belt, in 2020 Sam was appointed managing director of Simon Rogan restaurants worldwide.

Sam oversees every element of Simon’s ten-strong restaurant portfolio, which operates in the Lake District, London, Hong Kong, Malta and Thailand.