STAFF at Dorchester food producers are celebrating after winning honours at the Taste of the West awards.

Sister companies The Wasabi Company, based near Dorchester, and Poundbury-based Brace of Butchers were awarded the Champion Product Award for Sauces and Accompaniments and the Champion Award Winner for Best South West Butcher 2018 respectively at the University of Exeter-held awards.

Tom Amery, managing director for both businesses said: “We are obviously absolutely delighted. The two businesses are relatively young; The Wasabi Company was set up just under 10 years ago while the Brace of Butchers was established in 2014.

"It’s quite an achievement for both to have won these highly respected awards and gained recognition for expertise in their different fields in such a short space of time.

"Much of their success is owed to the wonderful and dedicated staff we have working at both businesses.”

Traditionally Tom and his team are watercress farmers, growing watercress in Dorset and Hampshire and it was watercress that led them to become the first and only UK producers of wasabi.

A chef visiting the watercress beds in 2010 remarked how the only other crop he had seen growing in similar conditions was wasabi in Japan. Never one to refuse a challenge, Tom and team researched just how similar the conditions were and eight years on supply restaurants and shops locally and around the world, (although predominantly Europe) with fresh wasabi and wasabi-based products.

The Wasabi Company received their award for their mouth-watering (and often eye-watering!) Fresh Wasabi Starter Pack which provides the raw wasabi, a grater and brush.

The judges for Taste of the West said of the pack: “A wonderfully natural product, quirky and original with an unexpected subtle, clean, fresh flavour. Beautifully presented with a degree of ceremony to its preparation. A magical product”

Brace of Butchers, which opened in October 2014, has previously won National Butchers Shop of the Year New Butchery Business within 12 months of opening, and also Newcomer of the Year 2017 at the national Farm Shop & Deli Awards. However, to have been awarded the title of Best Butcher in the South West by the Taste of the West is especially pleasing.

Unlike other butchers and supermarkets which purchase separate cuts from several sources, The Brace of Butchers procure entire animals from local farmers which they believe to be respectful and responsible purchasing. The meat is then skilfully and carefully cured and aged in-house to improve the texture and flavour. In this way the shop offers more than 64 cuts of meat providing unrivalled choice and variety while many of their in-house prepared products are also gluten free.

The judges said of the Brace of Butchers: “The quality of the produce is excellent across the board and there is a real commitment that seems to reverberate amongst the staff – the shop really does cry out quality local and regional sourcing.”