Not not just anyone gets to be on the panel of FreeFrom Food Awards judging. Places are very sought after and only the lucky few get chosen – it’s certainly something I look forward to every year and it’s so much fun, but there are certain rules you MUST obey. To be a good FreeFrom Food Awards judge you must:
Love good food
That’s the easy bit. Judges come from very different backgrounds from chef’s, writers, bloggers and people with real allergies and we have different taste preferences and eating habits. One thing we did all have in common was a love for good, fresh, healthy and tasty food. It is daunting to be presented with 10 – 15 plant milks, you worry that you will lose track and not be able to taste the difference, but in the end they are different and despite many disagreements within the group about which should win we usually get a concensus in the end. Makes for an interesting session and there is never a dull moment at the FreeFrom Food judging sessions.
Be strong and don’t be daunted
Now the task begins and you have a wad of judging sheets for each entry and rows upon rows of numbered samples to test. Where do you begin? Choruses of “Who’s got number four?” were common and confusion was abundant but a FreeFrom Food judge is not daunted by a row of very similar looking plant milks. Oh no, dive in and remember to write copious comments and score each as you go along, returning to some to mark up or down if appropriate.
Can keep a secret
what goes on at the FreeFrom Food Awards Judging sessions, stays at the FreeFrom Food Awards judging sessions. You can never breathe a word about any of the exciting new stuff you’ve seen. It is Top Secret.
Can keep your mouth shut when tasting food that knocks your socks off!
Of course one has to open one’s to sample the food, but once the impartial tasting has commenced, comments should be kept to written notes and not shared out loud! Anyone who has allergies and has had to abstein from eating certain food stuffs will know the ridiculous joy that something really innovative, new, healthy AND tasty means. To the food allergic, finding something delicious that you CAN eat is like finding gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s like that five pound note you find in your purse and didn’t know you had. NOT descending into “ahhhhh, ummmmmm, ohmyom, yom… can I have another piece of that one?” is almost impossible but for the qualified FreeFrom judge a straight and serious face must be worn throughout. It is amazing how delirious a nice cracker or an ingredients list that does not contain any of my allergen triggers can make me!
Can keep your mouth shut when tasting food you don’t like!
We all have different tastes and preferences, hiding those is really hard. You are definitely NOT allowed to say ‘Yuck!’ or ‘Gross!’ at any time, even if you want to spit it out. On the whole entries are of a very high standard but some do need more work and we always aim to be constructive and give comments which help the producers understand what we like and what we don’t like.
Special thanks for Foods Matter, Michelle Berridale-Johnson, Alex Gazzola, Cressida and the team, without whom these awards would not be possible. The work that goes into advertising, promoting, managing and coordinating this process is awesome and all credit to their hard work and committment.
During the tasting the kitchen is a hub of secret activity as entries are prepared for tasting. Some need to cooked into a simple sponge and pasta needs to be cooked. You don’t have to swallow a mouthful of gluten free flour or chew on raw pasta!
Now to find out what my favourite discoveries were you’ll have to wait until after the Awards ceremony on 16th April but amongst them were, a new tasty wheat and dairy free cracker, dairy and soya free ice cream and spread that contains only ONE ingredient and some very interesting new pasta’s, cereals and not to mention the gluten free beer which was by far the most exciting session to judge. More on that later… but you can read Sue Cane’s FreeFrom Food Awards Gluten Free Beer tasting review here.
For the shortlist for the FreeFrom Food Awards visit http://www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk/shortlist_13.html. There were so many interesting new products it’s well worth a visit, even products that don’t win may be the very thing you’ve been searching for so have a look.