We are just about embark on the last week of preparations for the judging for the 2015 FreeFrom Food Awards. This may not sound like a lot but as anyone who has actually been a judge will know, it is a mammoth undertaking which needs to be planned with military precision.
This year we have 463 products to be judged in 19 different sessions by 63 different judges – and for every entry we need enough of the product for 10 judges to taste, re-taste and re-taste again if need be – and for the ‘final award’ judges to taste all over again should it happen to win its category. That makes for an awful lot of food!! It also makes for a horrendous amount of organisation, carried out almost single handedly, by Cressida.
I say almost single handedly but of course, during the two weeks of the judging, she does have able assistance of Katherine (with a K) who does all of the ‘prep’ (making up mixes, cooking pastas etc) and of Sue Cane, our gluten free beer judge who not only organises the beer tasting, but, as a coeliac, judges many of the the other categories and ‘mops up’ all other jobs that need doing! However, this year we have also recruited the help of Catherine (with a C) to ‘receive goods’ and then organise them onto endless shelves and into our banks of freezers and fridges. Here she is updating the vital master spreadsheet. Catherine (with a C) is otherwise known as Catherine Rose of Sweetcheeks and long time awards followers may remember that Sweetcheeks were joint winners of the cake category back in 2012.
We had hoped to persuade Catherine (with a C) to join us on a longer term basis but just as we put in our offer for her services, she got the opportunity to run her own café, something she has always wanted to do. So, reasonably enough, she is off to do that after the awards are over. And for those of you who fancy trying some of her stunning cakes – the café will be called the Printworks Kitchen in the the Rosebery Hotel in Rosebery Avenue, just round the corner from Exmouth Market, and they will be opening in early March.
Meanwhile we have just taken delivery of yet another gleaming fridge-freezer which is rapidly getting filled with dairy free ‘ice creams’ – I do hope the pudding and dessert judges like ice cream as they are going to have to taste about 20!!!
As regards other categories, I am not yet sure what we will have as the category lists are still being worked over by Cressida and Catherine. I will not see them until the night before when I am presented with the programme for the next day’s judging sessions.
Ah yes, and what is it that I do while everyone else is beavering round ‘prep’-ing and serving samples to judges? Well, I chair the judging sessions, which is a bit of a doddle as I do not do any actual tasting – unless there is a specific query. This is because I know who has made each product and one of the most important elements of our judging sessions is that they should be done ‘blind’ e.g. no judge has any idea who has made any of the products that they are tasting. However, I am not entirely idle as I do have to do some rather frantic maths at the end of each ‘blind’ session to work out which products should be shortlisted – and then I have to keep peace amongst the judges while they decide who should actually win – not always an easy task as we have such a diverse range of knowledgable, and opinionated, judges!!
Anyhow, it is hard work, but extremely interesting and actually very good fun, so we are all looking forward to it. I will try to keep you updated with the sessions as they roll out. I seem to remember that last year I managed a blog almost every night but given that entries, judges and sessions are all up nearly 30% on last year, I cannot promise every night. Let’s just say that I will keep you in the loop!