Fruit Magpie has been up and running for three years now and this year I finally felt ready to try my luck at the Great Taste Awards. So back in February, after a lot of dithering about which flavours to send, I finally packed up the four I produce the most of and hand-delivered them (taking no chances!) to the Guild of Fine Foods offices in London. Then there was nothing to do but sit back and wait for the process to unfold. But announcement day is 1st August so now I have some news to share! Before I do, though, here’s a bit of background to the awards:
The Great Taste Awards are organised by the Guild of Fine Food and have been described as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world. Over the 24 years they have been running they have become, in the words of the Guild, the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink and the world’s largest and most trusted food and drinks awards. Customers have come to trust that if they buy a product with one or more of the coveted stars it has been thoroughly tested and independently judged to be of quality. What they probably don’t know, however, is just how thorough this testing process actually is!
This year over 500 judges working in small teams judged over 12,500 food and drink products over 65 judging days, from March through to early July. Products are blind-tasted by selected chefs, buyers, fine food retailers, restaurateurs, food critics and writers who are told to look for “truly great flavour, regardless of branding or packaging”.
Each product starts by being evaluated by a table of three or four experts and is then referred on for further tastings by others. By the time the process is complete and the award (or not) finalised, the product has been tasted by at least six (and up to 24!) judges. Each of these makes notes on the tastings which will be given as feedback to the entrant. There are a maximum of three stars to be gained but, with only around a third of entries gaining any kind of award, one or two stars are very respectable indeed! The Guild uses the following guide to their star system:
one star “simply delicious”
two stars “outstanding”
three stars “exquisite. wow! taste that”
OK, now to the reveal! The products I entered, and their awards, were:
Apple chilli fruit cheese: one star “A good colour and good set… the chilli delivers a gentle, yet evident, heat, without being overpowering. Could pair beautifully with a game terrine.”
Damson fruit cheese: two stars “Damson flavour is stunning. Good texture and flavour.”
Medlar fruit cheese: two stars “Wonderful to see this use of the traditional fruit.. The product has a wonderful sheen and a great depth of flavour – a must for any cheese board. This product is hard to improve.”
Quince cheese; three stars “It really packs a punch of flavour and would be a must on any cheese board. We can’t find fault in this product, it is the best we have tried.”
Just… wow. My first year and everything I entered has received an award – eight stars in total for four products. I’m utterly gobsmacked, proud as punch and plan to go round grinning like an idiot for some while to come. I don’t know what this means for the future but I can’t wait to find out!