Andy Lynes
 food journalist and writer



5 July 2007


I 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 for company.

But 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.

Much 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.

Blur 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.

But 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.

I 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.

You're 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.