A ROSS-SHIRE businessman who was determined to pursue his dream of returning to his roots and starting a produce venture has just scooped a "food Oscar".
Robert Mackenzie (29), of Cullisse Farm near Nigg in Easter Ross, was recognised in the 2012 Scotland Food and Drink Awards held in Dunblane.
Cullisse, which is also the brand name of Robert’s company, won the Soups, Preserves and Accompaniments category of the awards with its Mixed Pepper and Spice Marinade and Highland Rapeseed Oil.
From a long line of Easter Ross farmers, Robert qualified as a solicitor in Edinburgh in 2010. But he returned to his native county to pursue his ambition of creating a fine food collection using quality produce grown on the family farm.
Inspired by a visit to Kenya and after a lot of research, Robert began cold pressing his oilseed rape in summer 2011. Within a few months his cold pressed Highland Rapeseed Oil was selected for a listing in top department store Selfridges and was being used by Nigel Slater in his 2011 autumn series, Simple Cooking.
Cullisse was one of five ambitious companies from the Highlands and Islands which won awards at the event.
Head of food, drink and tourism at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Chris Taylor, said: "This event, which is the Oscars in terms of Scottish food and drink, really brings home the quality of products we have in the Highlands and Islands.
"This is a fantastic success for the region and our congratulations go to all the winners and nominees."
Congratulations also came from Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MSP Rob Gibson.
"It is no mean feat to win at these awards and shows that Cullisse’s product has true excellence," he said.
"The idea of using oil seed rape as an alternative to olive oil is one that is ganing momentum and places like Easter Ross are in a prime location to capitalise on this trend. Robert Mackenzie is pioneering this use of oil see rape."