They'll be quietly campaigning, building alliances and displaying some of their best work as they look to scoop the top spots in the Hawke's Bay Hospitality Awards 2010.
About 50 of the region's hospitality industry turned out to the official media launch last night hosted by Food Hawke's Bay at the Taradale Town Hall.
Food Hawke's Bay general manager Jane Libby announced the top four finalists in each of the 14 categories.
There were familiar names such as Clearview Estate's Tim Turvey, up for one of the big awards, Hospitality Personality of the Year, for the third year in a row. Mr Turvey's three competitors, while new to the category, were hardly new on the local hospitality scene - Basil Diack of The Filter Room in Meeanee, Jarrod Lowe of the Loading Ramp in Havelock North and Chris Jarvis of Bay Espresso.
Mr Jarvis presented certificates to finalists in the Bay Espresso Outstanding Barista category and collected one as a finalist himself for the third year in a row.
Also in the top four is Ben Simcox, a former New Zealand barista champ.
There were no surprises in the coveted Top Chef category with all the same names seen in 2009, Andy Glover of Mission Estate Winery Restaurant in Taradale, and Paolo Pancotti of Milk and Honey in Ahuriri, joined by Terry Lowe of Black Barn Bistro and Jeremy Rameka of Pacifica in Napier, both of whom have won the top honour before.
Under the careful guidance of Mr Lowe, Sam Davies of Black Barn Bistro made the finals in Regal Marlborough Salmon Emerging cHef for the second year in a row. So too did Jackson Smith from Vidals Winery Restaurant who was previously with Terroir at Craggy Range.
The luxurious restaurant based just outside Havelock North is also up for the sought after Grande Gourmet Outstanding Restaurant category, alongside Pacifica, Mission Estate Winery Restaurant and Elephant Hill Estate Winery Restaurant in Te Awanga.
Elephant Hill was named in the finals for the Clearview Estate Winery best ambience and style award with Soda in Taradale, Clearview Estate in Te Awanga and the eclectic Pipi in Havelock North.
Another reason to head out to Te Awanga is Clifton Bay Cafe which secured a spot in the Restaurant Association Outstanding Cafe section with Opera Kitchen in Hastings, Bay Espresso on Karamu Rd in Hastings and Cafe Ujazi in the heart of Napier.
Up for Tui Outstanding Traditional Pub this year, the beloved and usual winner, Rose and Shamrock in Haveloock North, as well as Westshore Inn, the Union Hotel in Ahuriri and the Duke of Gloucester in Taradale.
Making another appearance in the finalists for Eftpos Specialists Outstanding Front of House personality was Ewald Jaritz from the Mission Estate Winery and Sue Wylam, the friendly face at Clifton Bay Cafe. Joining them this year was Marianne Poszeluk of JARKS in Waimarama and Sean Burns of Milk and Honey.
Just around the corner on West Quay in Ahuriri is Provedore, which made the finals for the Hancocks Outstanding Bar, along with Soda in Taradale, Diva Bar and Bistro and Deliciosa Tapas and Wine Bar, both in Havelock North.
Simon Kerr of Provedore will be defending his title for Hospitality Association Outstanding Bartender this year against two newcomers, Oliver Kettle of Diva and Alysha Bateman from The Gintrap in Ahuriri. It will be a toss-up for HSI Outstanding Waitperson this year as all four are new to the list of finalists. The list includes Cara Gittings of Milk and Honey, Imogen Throp of Deliciosa Tapas and Wine Bar, Tane Morunga from Pipi and Carolin Klauser of Black Barn Bistro.
Tough decisions will have to be made in the Food Hawke's Bay Outstanding Sales Rep which features local favourite Pip Harrison from Liquor King in Napier, Jane Lobb of Pernod Ricard, and Heather Knowles of Bidvest Foodservice again this year. The new kid on the block is Leighton Flanders from DB Breweries.
There are new names up for Sacred Hill Outstanding Supplier too, this year - Tangaroa Seafoods, Entice Gourmet Cakes, Onekawa Fruit Supply and Vetro Mediterranean Foods in Ahuriri.
Ms Libby thanked new sponsors Sacred Hill Wines, KiaOraMai, and Maimai Creek.
She urged the industry professionals, the only ones eligible to vote, to do so as soon as possible, as voting closes on May 10. The winners will be announced before an industry party on May 24.