I was approached earlier this year to be the Chief Judge at the Hobart Fine Food Awards. I was not quite sure what I was in for but I am always up for a new challenge. Lucky for me it turned out to be a brilliant week! 2018 was the 22nd year of the awards and it was amazing to see the workings of a mostly volunteer organisation, put together such a large event in such a professional way. It was a pleasure to be a part of it. The awards are organised by a committee comprising; chairman Annette Emmett, no relation by the way, Henry Burbury, who was a founding committee member and who had the monstrous job of running the pantry, Barry Stubbs, the chief Steward, and several dedicated committee members. Nearly 1200 products were entered, catalogued, stored, judged and then rated by a team of industry professionals.
I would (and will be) encouraging every small producer to enter. Yes, winning medals for your products is always great for business but also the feedback you can gain from the judges is excellent, they all want your product to reach gold medal standard. The calibre of the judges was outstanding: local business owners and bakers, Tafe teachers and chefs and CWA ladies, retired home ec teachers and cheese experts, international olive oil judges, tea judges and others many of which were flown in from the mainland.
Over the 4 days nearly 1200 products were judged. The standard was very high, very inspiring. Each category had 2-3 judges and one or 2 stewards, so 30-50 people were there each day judging to a strict criteria. Then on the final day the judging of the overall winner of the awards and a trophy presentation lunch was held.
On Sunday the The champion of each category was put back out on display for 5 judges including the committee chair Annette and myself to choose an overall champion. It was a hard decision between all those brilliant products including perfect honey, faultless olive oil, the best cheeses, delicious salmon, innovative kangaroo salami, beautiful preserves and more. We then left the 17 category champions and reserve champions on display for all the guests at lunch to try. This was a last minute but great decision, so I have put “styling the champion table” on my to-do list for next year. It was brilliant to see Tasmanian products doing so well and I heard first hand from international judges how impressed they were with the local produce and created products.
I need a few months off tasting food but I am looking forward to the 2019 Awards!