Last month I went to Somerset to do some judging for the Great Taste Awards, organised by The Guild of Fine Food. Described as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world, this year almost 6,000 items from over 1,000 producers have been rigorously tested by foodies such as fine food retailers, chefs and food critics. And the results have just been announced. I only did a morning session, as I needed to get back to London in the afternoon, but it was brilliant – an amazingly interesting experience and a great chance to see how something like this works.
Along with 3 others around a table, we worked our way through 17 items, as well as confirming various others when there were queries raised by any of the 3 other tables of 4 judges, or when any of the foods were awarded a 3-star Gold. A Gold comes either with 1, 2 or 3 stars – 3 stars being exceptional.
Between all 4 tables, we found 3 items which were exceptional and were awarded the coveted 3 stars. One was a divine quince liqueur – with true flavours of quince, another was a superb chorizo – bursting with gutsy flavours and a great texture, and the other was a cheese (which I didn’t taste!) And on our table we also discovered another delicious chorizo, and a beautiful raspberry and cassis preserve, filled with the tastes of summer – for both of these we awarded 2 stars.
Last year, the gluten-free products were tested separately, but this year, on the various Producers’ request, they were all integrated so that they would be judged on their merits as a fine food, rather than just a fine gluten-free food. Unfortunately none of them had come through into my slot, so I didn’t get a chance to taste any. But hey.
I was utterly impressed by the quality of judging at the Awards. The people I was working with could tell the difference between using fresh fruit or concentrate in a sorbet, for example, when frozen fruit had been used for a jam, or when a cheese wouldn’t be able to withstand enough ripening. And the judges consciously supported careful, skillful food production. When tastes exploded in your mouth, and textures were dreamy; when aromas drew you in, and mouthfuls brought rapture, it confirmed for me the passion and integrity that Producers of truly fine foods bring to their craft.