Judging the Great Taste Awards

Great Taste Award 2009 super-cropped

I was a judge at the recent Great Taste Awards at the Real Food Festival in London last weekend. It was a salutary experience.

That is putting it politely.

Some of the entries had an ersatz look and taste. Lemonliness, for example? Think pungent-smelling disinfectant.

The Great Taste marquee seated about 100 judges at different tables.  The judges at mine included three other food writers and one buyer from a posh department store.  She had all the technical words whereas I was going: “Yak, I can’t eat this.”

Our brief? To taste seven olive oils as well as confectionary, cakes and biscuits. Cruel combination, but we were game. We discussed each item thoroughly, making copious notes including constructive suggestions.

My fellow judges allowed only one item, a fresh and intriguing amaretto chocolate, on to the next stage.

It is good to know judging is discerning so a Great Taste Award is worth its…salt.

But where was the taste? I felt commercial concerns with clout and confidence were the ones putting their products up for judging.

Back on the showfloor, there was real food galore.

For example the Nibchoc stall with its Raw Cocoa Bar with Ginger Nibs was a sumptuous ginger taste-sensation and healthy to boot.

My message is: if there are any artisan or small organic food producers out there, thinking:

“Do I dare put my product in front of the Great Taste judges?”

I would say: Do It.

Get out there, real food makers, and strut your stuff for the 2010 awards!

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13 responses to “Judging the Great Taste Awards

  1. Hi E
    I was at the Real Food Festival too and in many ways I was a bit disappointed as I thought that quite a lot of what I saw was overpriced and pretty ordinary.
    There was a great session on DOP products on a stand used to promote the DOP concept. I got to learn a lot as well as tasting some great products, particularly the two year old Parma Ham which was an experience. They’re coming to Bristol soon apparently. I tasted the Nibchoc bar you mentioned, on the way home. It’s intense – a little goes a long way! Not too sweet either. Keep up the good work!


  2. Elisabeth, glad to read your response to your judging experience. Speaking as one who both worked and judged for Bob Farrand for years, I’ve always encountered 100% behind-the-scenes integrity. Ironically, Bob once pulled out of judging at another taste award when a top rating was taken away from an entry when it turned out to have been submitted by a supermarket chain. When you’re judging quality and nothing else, political correctness has no more place than economic capitulation.


  3. I was at the Real Food Festival too. I am going to trial meat hampers but it is depressing to be offered topside as a roasting joint. I did go away very happy from the DOP (Protected Origen) product stand. It reminded me of the simple joy to be had from an excellent ham or cheese with the right wine. That is normal not precious eating in Italy…

    The nib choc is intense.


  4. realfoodlover

    Geraldine, you sure liked that ginger nib choc, eh?!

    Quality food is not sneered at in Italy as it is here in the UK. Good food in Italy just…IS.

    And thanks for explaining what DOP stands for, Gee.

    Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (Italian: Protected Designation of Origin) according to http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/

    Thanks, Paul. I’d like to know when the DOP food stand comes to Bristol. Is that the Organic Food Festival in Sep, I wonder?

    John, many thanks for your informed comment born of years of thoughtful study and experience.

    It is also heartening and inspiring to hear of Bob’s integrity. I agree – a blind tasting is a blind tasting.


  5. I am now craving a nibchoc bar! Looks and sounds delicious.

    Am glad to hear that the judging standards are so stringent. Restores my faith in these dark, cynical times!


  6. Fantastic! Great for you being a judge. Sounds like me ideal job!


  7. realfoodlover

    Another great find was The Chocolate Alchemist organic dark drinking chocolate…

    I am sipping some now. Just pure chocolate – it’s something else.


  8. realfoodlover

    Happy dicovery! I have found a place in Bristol that sells Raw Cocoa Bar Ginger Nibs.

    Cafe Kino, 3 Ninetree Hill, BS1 3SB

    The bars are £2.50 so a treat. But as it says on the label: this is “more than chocolate.”


  9. We are indeed the makers of ‘sumptuous’ nibchoc and are thrilled to have a mention on your blog! We had an amazing Real Food Festival – great to meet so many enthusiatic people! We are a very new, small business and the feedback has really given us the motivation to go on and on – Thak you! Check out our website and our retail outlets are growing all the time. If you are in Oxford come and see us. All good things!


  10. We’re deeply in love with NibChoc – and much to our delight they’re experimenting with our Sweet Freedom natural sweetener (100% from fruit)!

    We were at Real Food too, and it was a fantastic show for us (our first time as we’re brand new) – as well as meeting Rachel and Eloise again and talking all things sweet and chocolatey, we also tried lots of delicious products and talked collaboration with quite a few other innovative small producers. As if that wasnt enough to satisfy, we also received a wonderful response from the public who attended – actually we sold out!

    We have answered your challenge, Elisabeth, and put Sweet Freedom up for judging – all crossed!


  11. realfoodlover

    I like the sound of your natural sweetener, Deborah – I am going to look out for Sweet Freedom in my local food shops. So glad you heard my challenge – let me know how you get on in the 2010 Great Taste Awards!


  12. Hi Elisabeth –

    We’re delighted to announce that Sweet Freedom won FOUR Gold Great Taste Awards – both flavours (the Natural Sweetener which is milder, and the Natural Syrup which is richer) and in both the categories that we entered!

    We are bouncing off the walls! Having taken those first tentative steps just in time to get into the Awards earlier this year and bolstered on by your call to arms too … it’s very exciting.

    We have always known Sweet Freedom tastes great, however as so many of you will understand it is a wonderful endorsement when the panel vote with their collective tastebuds and award a much coveted Gold!

    Many thanks again Elisabeth for the encouragement, and for inviting us to announce the happy news here on your Blog.

    :o) Deborah & Tina, co-founders


  13. Pingback: Food judge dread | Sentinel Weekly News

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