In the second of the new-look, new-size British Baker we celebrate the industry’s premier annual awards night and the worthy winners (pgs 20-27). The night itself was fun and I’d like to say a big "well done" to all the winners and finalists and a huge "thank you" to all the sponsors that support the industry, as well as the independent judges who gave their time voluntarily.

In the coming weeks and months, we shall be looking at what makes a winner and asking some of the independent judges just what makes some entries stand out. Why? Because excellence and innovation drive any business.

About three years ago, I remember that some of us were quite staggered at the level of loan patissier and chocolatier John Slattery, aged over 50, had taken out on a completely derelict Victorian pub. But excellence and innovation have turned it into a fabulous, thriving, profitable business that is a "destination" for those in the Manchester area. And it is now turning out the next generation of award winners, as we saw last week with Slattery’s young Karen Bowden winning celebration Cake Maker of the Year, sponsored by Renshaw.

It was also good to see a new award for the plant sector, sponsored by Zeelandia. Many bread and cake plants will be supplying Asda with a number of their new ranges (pg 4) and Asda’s level of innovation sounds phenomenal. Recently, I was speaking with two craft bakers, who agreed with each other that they made some slow-selling favourites "because we have always made them". But it is worth keeping a close eye on the supermarkets. They positively drive innovation for one reason only: they know it creates sales.

Excellence and innovation were also two things close to the heart of Chris Parr, Warburtons’ technical director, who died two weeks ago. I enjoyed debate with Chris over salt levels and saw him at many conferences. His enthusiasm rubbed off on everyone. He was passionate, dedicated and thoroughly professional. Chris’ wife sadly died about three years ago, but I hope his children, friends and colleagues will take comfort from the tributes on pages 14-15.

Finally, if you are wondering what more you personally might give to the world of baking, do read Kevin Barke’s fine example of working in a war zone bakery (pgs 16-18). It sounds a trip to remember!