THOUSANDS of votes have been cast in the online search for Chester’s food heroes.

Last year Chronicle readers helped seal the fate of competing restaurants and bars in the Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle Festival.

The Chronicle Gala Dinner Awards, one of the highlights of the festival, attracted the most talented restaurateurs, business owners, chefs, barmen, waiters and food and drink producers that Chester and Cheshire has to offer.

Last year’s big winners included Phil Dougherty, of Chester Racecourse restaurant 1539; Jonathan Slater, managing director of The Chester Grosvenor Hotel and Spa; Abdun Noor, of Cafe Naj and Iain James and Tom Morris, of Upstairs at The Grill.

But who are this year’s winners going to be? Again, this year you can decide by visiting www.chesterchronicle. homepage and clicking on to the Chester Gala Dinner Awards panel.

The categories for the 2011 Gala Dinner Awards are:

Best Small Restaurant

Best Large Restaurant

Best Sandwich Bar

Best Bar

Best Pub

Family Friendly Award

Best Newcomer

Local Produce Shop

Excellence in Customer Care

Best Use of Local Produce in a Menu

Best Chester Sausage of the Festival

Best Cheese

Best Cafe

Outstanding Achievement Award.

Eric Langton, editor-in-chief of Trinity Mirror Cheshire, believes this year’s Gala Dinner Awards will again showcase the fine talent on tap in Chester.

He said: “The ever improving quality of food and drink in our restaurants and bars is one of Chester’s great success stories of the decade.

“The Food, Drink and Lifestyle Festival has enhanced Chester’s reputation as one of the UK’s best cities for dining out and the Chronicle is delighted to be the media sponsor of this year’s Gala Dinner Awards.”

For more information, visit www.chesterfood