The finest gems in Hawke's Bay's hospitality crown were recognised for their dedication to excellence, with an announcement of finalists for this year's awards.
More than 100 people gathered at The Old Church to celebrate with an official launch last night.
Industry insiders voted for their peers to find worthy nominees for all 15 categories of the annual Hawke's Bay Hospitality Awards.
"The criteria around nominating changed slightly this year, with people and establishments not being able to nominate themselves," event organiser Vicky Rope from Food Hawke's Bay said. "This was very well received - comment from the industry was that it took the pressure off having to choose one or two parts of their own businesses to promote and gave flexibility to nominate other great establishments in the region."
The industry will now vote for one finalist in each category, with winners announced during a ceremony at the Napier Municipal Theatre on Monday, May 20.
Two categories - Supporting Chef and Outstanding Front of House Personality - feature five nominees instead of the usual four.
"We had a tie when the nominations came in. We have to review this as a committee and we just couldn't narrow some of them down," Ms Rope said.
"I think it's the first time this has happened - it just goes to show there are a lot of great people in the industry."
The competition was even hotter for colleagues at two establishments - Napier's Mr D and Deliciosa Tapas & Wine Room in Havelock North - who must compete for the same title.
"There are two people from two places who will go head-to-head in Outstanding Front of House Personality. We were a bit concerned about that at first, but we felt it showed they had two strong people on the floor."
In another interesting twist, young chefs from throughout the region were given an opportunity to promote themselves, for the honour of best Supporting Chef.
"They had to go through an application process where they filled out a form and sent in a video of themselves. It can be hard for those in the industry to know about the younger chefs coming up.
"They know Paulo from Milk & Honey or Jeremy from Pacifica, but they may not know the team behind them."
Ben Bailey, from The Grove Restaurant in Auckland, will judge the category and organisers hoped he would be available to hand out the award at the event in May.
For additional information, go to: www.hbhospoawards.co.nz