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Eat, drink and be... in Surrey

This month we are launching Time & Leisure’s 2014 Food & Drink Awards and seems an appropriate time to highlight the many dedicated and skilled food producers, chefs, retail outlets and restaurants we have in Surrey.

Our county is a source of everything wholesome and good, from home-made cheeses, breads, sauces, meat, vegetables and charcuterie to spring water. Why should we buy foods loaded with air miles when we can be perfectly self-sufficient, supporting our local food industry, right here in the green garden of south east England? Of course, we need our restaurants - and the visionary chefs who run them - to turn fine produce into quality cuisine. We have no shortage of these, but we have more; we have chefs whose vision extends far beyond the preparation of the next breakfast or dinner. Take Al Crisci, for example. His conviction that the training of prisoners to prepare them for a career in the catering industry, once they had been released back in to society would reduce re-offending rates and give them a new start in life was inspirational. He started working with prisoners in The Clink restaurant, in HMP High Down, Banstead; since then he has opened two new Clinks – at Cardiff and Brixton – and promised more to come in the next few years.

It is also good to see those with a genuine entrepreneurial talent growing the ideas that first brought them success. James Bailey, for example, launched his delicatessen and café in Carshalton Beeches, sourcing produce from a range of artisan producers. He won a Commended in the Best Coffee & Tea House category in the 2013 T&L Food & Drink Awards. He opened The Pantry in Cheam in January, for those wanting quality sandwiches, paninis and coffee on the go and it’s already getting nominations for awards.

Malcolm John has brought quality London dining to Sutton High Street with his Brasserie Vacherin – sourcing all of his produce from Sutton Community Farm... He and many, many more imaginative chefs and restaurateurs are all helping make Surrey synonymous with fine cuisine. We wish them well for the future. Now, vote for them!

Chris Wood is resident composer with Guest House Opera and editor of Epsom, Sutton and Cheam Time & Leisure.