Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Great Taste Awards

Now in their 21st year the Great Taste Awards, organised by The Guild of Fine Food, have not only come of age, but are THE benchmark of a great product.

Thousands of products are tasted and tested,  from Anchovies to Zabaglione and all to ensure that the consumer gets the finest of product.

A volunteer collective of Chefs, Producers, Retailers, Food Writers and Food Critics do the tastings in sessions held across the UK - all seeking the perfect food that will earn a 3 Star rating.

Waiting to taste

Several sessions are held at Guild Headquarters in Gillingham, Dorset but the tastings take place in several cities which have included Belfast and Dublin and, for the first time this year, Cardiff.

Welsh producers have always taken the awards seriously, and with the Welsh Government behind them through its Bwyd a Diod Cymru (Food and Drink Wales) arm, a Cardiff heat was a chance to show the best of Wales. See what previous Great Taste Award winners from Wales had to say about the effect that winning had for them here

So, in early June I was invited to three days of tasting.

I have judged various competitions before, both here and in Ireland, but they have usually been of the complete dish, such as in The Celtic Cook Off, rather than single ingredients so there was a degree of uncertainty in the days leading up to the tastings.

I should not have worried, helpful notes for new judges were sent out in plenty of time and I was assured that you work in teams of 4 or 5 with a very experienced co-ordinator to collate your views and record them.

Experienced Coordinators

Each tasting session will have up to 10 tables of judges who will work their way through the list of foods presented for them. All foods are tasted blind with the tasting sheet having little more than a simple description, for example “Gluten Free Welsh Cake”. I did actually recognise one item from the description and obviously declared an interest and took no part in that tasting.

 After tasting, and discussing, each plate the team give a rating from 0 to 3 Stars. A 3 Star item is nigh perfection and they are limited in being awarded.  Getting a 1 Star award is a major triumph.

Once graded the items are collected, and passed to another set of judges for a second opinion.  If needed, third or fourth panels are involved to ensure that the ratings are fair and accurate. To get a 3 Star rating at least five tables of judges must agree that it deserves that accolade.

The upshot of this for judges is that you start a session with a list of around 15 tastings but with second tastings you wind up with 30 plus!
Session commences
As the aim of the Guild is to support producers every item has the judges comments sent to the producer. Judges are required to make positive comments, as well as criticism, so that products can be improved and a 1 star become 2 etc. All entries have positive aspects, even those which will not be awarded Stars, and the comments and advice given in tastings can lift the product to Star level, or raise it to the next one.l.

Food production and service is a major contributor to the Welsh economy so it was hardly surprising that on Wednesday morning we came under close scrutiny as both BBC and ITV sent camera crews to see us at work. (Confidentiality was maintained at all times.)

ITV interview the Deputy Minister

BBC Wales Economics Correspondent Sarah Dickins at work

It is the rigorous tasting and the experienced judges who ensure that the Great Taste Awards really do find great foods, and deserve the high regard in which they are held. Often called the Oscars of the Food World, they are much more like the Olympic Games of Food where getting a medal (Star) confirms you are at the top of your game.

Tastings will continue for some weeks and the results will all be collated and the final decisions revealed later this summer. How many 3 Star Awards will be given? I don’t know but we found some in Cardiff!

Did I enjoy myself, ABSOLUTELY!

Even though, as a Rookie Judge, seeing Charles Campion get his game face on and settle for some serious tasting was a little disconcerting at first, I had lots of help, advice and encouragement from fellow judges and would love to judge again next year.

Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs

No comments:

Post a Comment