Recently I attended the NEXT "Woman Of The Year" awards in Auckland with Rachel Jenkinson (left) from Operation Sugar. Rachel was a nominee in the community category.
Rachel hadn't been to Auckland before, so it was a pleasure to be her chauffeur and guide for her whirlwind trip. I collected Rachel and her sister Tracey from Auckland airport just before noon and we headed straight to Little & Friday in Newmarket for lunch, where we'd arranged to meet some of the Auckland based Operation Sugar bakers that Rachel is in regular contact with. It's funny how I only thought to photograph our dessert at lunchtime, but we did eat mains I promise and they were really tasty. I've only ever had great food at Little & Friday.
We had a military tight schedule during Rachel's stay, before we knew it lunch was over and I was whisking Rachel off to get checked in at the Stamford Plaza, where NEXT had arranged accommodation for the out of town nominees. From there Rachel and I walked around the corner to the hair salon Vivo where we were looked after exceptionally well and got the chance to catch our breath, have a glass of wine and get our hair made over for the evening ahead.
NEXT sent taxis to the Stamford Plaza to transport us to the Orakei Bay function centre where the awards were held. When we arrived we were greeted with Bollinger champagne (one of the sponsors for the evening) and photos were taken by NEXT's official photographers (you can see them here on NEXT magazines facebook page). Thankfully NEXT had produced the brochure above, so we were able to double check the other nominees names and their nomination categories as when presented with a room full of women, it was hard to keep everyone straight.
We were seated at large tables of 10 that were beautifully decorated. Shown here in the background is NEXT editor Sarah Henry and judge Theresa Gattung.
Former NEXT Woman of the Year winner 2012 Julie Bartlett from StarJam gave a lovely speech.
We were treated to a lovely meal. And lovely wines from Kim Crawford with champagne from Bollinger.
Seated at our table (amongst others) were Debra Chantry (far right - business nominee) and Juliette Haigh (centre left - Sports nominee) with her husband Mahe Drysdale.
Debra was seated next to me throughout the evening. We had a real blast, I'm glad I had such a fun dinner companion.
The tables were decorated with these lovely Ecoya candles which were a gift for us to take home.
As we were leaving we were given a goody bag bursting with beauty products, vouchers and other goodies.
As well as a copy of the latest NEXT magazine showing Julie Chapman from KidsCan who was the supreme winner.
Each NEXT nominee received a silver Pandora charm bracelet as they arrived. Knowing this, I had arranged two special charms for Rachel a cupcake and a panda bear (the panda is Operation Sugars mascot/logo). I had the great pleasure of presenting Rachel with these two charms and a card with messages from many Operation Sugar bakers who'd wanted to show their support for all that Rachel does. It was terribly sweet, poor Rachel was just about in tears.
I managed to steal Rachel's bracelet for just a minute to take a photo - the Royal crown charm was presented to each nominee along with the bracelet.
We had an awesome evening and although Rachel didn't win, she told me she felt like a winner simply being a nominee.
The following day Rachel and I went along to Chelsea's sugar factory in Birkenhead to meet with their product manager Sam. Chelsea is also a sponsor of Operation Sugar.
Chelsea is an amazing company that is approaching 130 years in business in New Zealand. It was apparent to me after my visit just how well Chelsea looks after not only their staff but their community as well.
Chelsea's factory is set in amazing park like grounds, which are open to the public for walking. You can pick up a free sugar cube map at reception that points out many of the highlights in the area. Whilst we were there, we saw people kayaking, walking their dogs and enjoying the views.
We were treated to some Chelsea goodness before we left (to see what I made with my pink berry icing sugar click here)
I adore this photo of Rachel and Sam next to a giant sugar bag. I wonder how many cakes could be made with this? Sam has very kindly given me a ton of Chelsea recipe cards, many of which I'll be sharing with you online and in your Kiwicakes orders over the coming months.
Rachel was back on a plane to Balclutha on the second day, but not before we made a whistle stop at Delish Cupcakes and Petal Cupcakes so Rachel could take home some Auckland sweetness for her family.
Auckland misses you Rachel and Tracey - come back soon!