Robert Ditty walked off with the accolade of Baker of the Year at the 24th Baking Industry Awards this week, in the Vandemoortele-sponsored category.

This year’s Brazilian carnival- themed event, at Park Lane Hilton, was hosted by well-known TV presenter Richard Madeley. In his after-dinner speech he said that, of all the awards evenings he had attended, this was "the warmest" of industries, adding that he admired the passion that came across in those he had spoken to about their businesses, and their craft. Guests also enjoyed entertainment from cabaret act Brazilian Fantasy, before either trying their luck in the Cereform-sponsored casino or dancing to music by The Real Thing.

Ditty, director of Ditty’s Home Bakery in Castledawson, said he felt "very humbled" to have been awarded the Baker of the Year gong. He began working at his parent’s original bakery in the 1970s, and now supplies a number of high-end retailers, hamper and gift companies and Cathay Pacific on the wholesale side, and has two retail shops. "It’s about a lifetime’s work, and a passion for the industry. There are no words," he said. "It’s a nice feeling to know that you have achieved what you set out to do, without really being aware of it."

Simon Solway, MD of Unifine Food & Bake Ingredients, winner of the Sainsbury’s-sponsored Bakery Supplier of the Year category, said: "It’s fantastic to win; it will really help give us a boost in the market."

Other winners included Terry Tang, of Terry Tang Designer Cakes, who won the Celebration Cake Maker of the Year category sponsored by Renshaw. Mellissa Morgan, aka Ms Cupcake, won the Rising Star Award, sponsored by David Powell, while Colin Hopper, bakery manager at Morrisons’ Tenperch Road store, took the prize for the In-Store Bakery of the Year award, sponsored by Dawn Foods.

Stefan Najduch, MD of Barbakan Delicatessen, which won The Craft Business Award, sponsored by ADM Milling, said he was elated. "It’s fantastic. The baking industry isn’t recognised enough, but events like this really highlight it," he said.

A special accolade was also awarded to former British Baker editor Sylvia Macdonald, to mark her contribution to the magazine and the industry.

l For a full list of winners and finalists see pages 15-27.

l To purchase photos from the night, visit

Freeman recognised for lifetime work

Christopher Freeman, owner of Dunn’s of Crouch End received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Richard Madeley and Ian Dobbie, MD of sponsor Délifrance. Freeman said he was "absolutely flabbergasted", to have been given the award. "Every year I try to see how quickly I can guess who it’s going to be... and this year I guessed pretty quickly!" he told British Baker. "I also want to accept it on behalf of all those I work with, at the National Association of Master Bakers, Worshipful Co of Bakers, the ABST, and through National Doughnut Week. To be a finalist in the Baker of the Year category was also lovely. There was tough competition, and Robert Ditty is a fine baker."