COMES THE JUDGE
can't complain. No, I mean I really can't complain.
Being a professional food writer is a dream job for
any foodie. Moaning about what a hard life it is just
isn't on. But the work has its downsides, just like
any profession. Punishing deadlines, long hours and
weekends chained to the desk being a few. At times it
can be a lonely existence with just an accusingly blank
Word document and some old punk tunes on Last.fm for
the odd extraordinary day makes impending RSI and terminal
middle aged paunch seem worthwhile. Take Thursday for
example. Things started out mundanely enough with urgent
emails still unanswered and a dull, repetitive writing
task to complete. There was no time for lunch before
a dash for a midday train from Brighton to Kensington
Olympia for the Great Taste awards.
to my surprise and delight, I had been asked to be one
of sixteen judges who would decide which British food
product out of 4,500 contenders would be named supreme
champion 2007. Luckily, the field had been narrowed
down by several thousand in prior judging sessions to
just thirty three finalists. And that's how I found
myself tasting pork pies with a rock star.
bass player turned farmer and cheese maker was among
my fellow judges, who also included restaurant critic
Charles Campion, editor of Delicious magazine Matthew
Drennan and Journalist Lydia Slater. I'll happily admit
to feeling somewhat out of my league. The fact that
it was the first time I had ever been asked to judge
anything only added to my nerves.
as soon as we got down to the job in hand, my confidence
was restored. I sniffed, chewed, appraised and decided.
Like so much in life, balance was the key. We were looking
for products that weren't too salty, oily, sweet or
sour. We didn't want over powering flavours, but they
had to be intense and focused enough to make a lingering
impression. We wanted an accurate hand with the spices,
a sophisticated palate when it came to blending and
a skilled and deft pair of hands in the kitchen for
the cooked products.
didn't agree with all the decisions made, but in the
end, the winners virtually chose themselves. You could
almost taste in them the care, attention and innate
understanding that the producers had put into them.
Judging one product against another was a serious business,
but it was also hugely pleasurable. I can't remember
the last time I laughed so much on a Thursday afternoon.
probably wondering what the winner was. I've avoided
making any specific references to any of the products
we tasted because that has to remain a secret until
all the one, two and three star winners along with the
supreme champion are revealed at the Great Taste Awards
showcase at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair London,
from 2 - 4 September. Watch this space.