Yes, we have gone international!! Well, strictly speaking we are hanging on the coat tails of the Allergy + FreeFrom Show which ran its first show in Berlin last year. So successful was it that they decided to go back this year and the show’s director, David McAllister, asked us whether we would-be up for joining them in running German FreeFrom Food Awards. As though we would refuse!!
None of us were really sure how this was going to work out as the German freefrom world is very different from the British one, but we reckoned that if we managed to get 50 entries it would be a reasonable start. Fifty! We finally ended up with nearly 150 entries, mainly from German companies but a few from UK countries looking to expand their horizons.
This was very exciting – but also distinctly challenging as David (seen here in full chef’s rig) had only booked judges for two days. Since none of their Berlin team had done this before, fitting 150 products into two days was going to be quite an ask. Which is why it was all hands to the plough – or in this case, all hands to the mixing bowl…
Here is normally dapper MD, Austen. getting stuck into the bread mixes – and a fine job he made of them too!
I joined them for Day 1 to chair the judging panels – and number plates, collate judging forms and generally make myself useful! Joining us were 15 German judges – chefs, bloggers, cookery writers, manufacturers – a very similar demographic to our own UK FreeFrom Food awards judges. And very charming they were too. And, encouragingly for us all, very interested in the whole concept – and just as disputatious as our English judges!
As it was when we started the UK awards, the cakes and sweet snack section was the largest with, as you can see, some very attractive entries – although most of them I did find very sweet. Yesterday we also judged dairy alternatives (coconut has found its way to Berlin too!), meat-free products and breads.
However, probably the most interesting category for me was the breads – because it was so different to the UK. In the UK bread mixes have really struggled to hold their own against manufactured breads and rarely do well in the UK awards. But yesterday the mixes were out-performing the breads on every front – despite the fact that they had been made up by far from expert bread makers!
I was amazed – but the Germans could not understand why I was so surprised. To them it seemed entirely obvious that a bread mix, fresh and straight from the oven, would out perform a manufactured bread, packed in a plastic bag and designed to last for two weeks! The explanation lies maybe in the fact that Germans really love their breads – ‘real’ breads – chunky, filling, tasty. The ‘lightness’ that is so prized in English supermarket breads leaves them cold – and hungry! So fresh, chunky loaves made from chunky, tasty mixes are way out ahead in there view.
However, I was amused that the breads also caused a good FreeFrom Food Awards judge argument over whether the waffles (seen on the left) and the raisin bread (seen on the right) should have been included in a bread category. The argument centred round breakfast: if they were a breakfast food then they were acceptable; if not then they weren’t. The waffles were tricky as they could not decide whether the fact that they were a breakfast food in America gave them any right to be a breakfast food in Germany. As far as the raisin bread went, that got in on the basis that in Northern Germany it would be acceptable (and we were in Berlin, which is sort of northern) whereas if we had been in southern Germany it definitely would not have been!
So bravo to the German FFFood Awards team – Anne, Nadine, Doreen and chefs-for-the day, David and Austen! I was not there on Day 2 – but I am sure they managed splendidly. Now we look forward to the shortlist – and then to the presentation on 15th April at the show. We’ll be there…. will you?
PS 16th March – The lovely Sabine (the judge who has her head down over those cakes in the image above) runs an allergy information website, Mein Allergie Portal not dissimilar to FoodsMatter. She did an interview with me when I was in Berlin and it is now up on her site, if you are interested. If you speak German you might want to take look at the rest of her site here.