Under the watchful eye of Chef Valentina Harris, I was delighted to join fellow judges Mary McNeal and Phillip Lowery, at the weekend.  together we worked our way through some of the best ingredients and artisan goods that the the South West, Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands offers.

We sipped gins that had been infused with juniper berries gathered from Salisbury plain, licked a bowl of clotted cream clean and marvelled at the story of an 87 year old grandmother who still crimps pasties at 87.  Despite the searing heat, tempers remained calm and Valentina, awards ambassador, even commented that as a group of judges we were very well behaved!

This regional event took place at a Dorset food festival and was just one of a series of roadshows in collaboration with Fisher & Paykell Appliances for the delicious. magazine Produce Awards 2018.

Obviously each entry has to taste great but the story behind each producer, grower, fisher or farmer is just as important too.

A great deal of research takes place before the event.  The judges scrutinise each company website, whether that may be a large factory that has grown over many years but still retains excellent ethics or a one person concern is irrelevant.  It is the tale behind the label that counts.  Every entrant submits a detailed application and completes a list of questions.

We also consider how their waste is managed?  How much care do they take with sourcing?  What is their relationship with their community and team?  We look at their marketing, presentation, price point and packaging.

It is a huge privilege to be asked to judge and I take the responsibility very seriously.  Of course I always  enjoy the opportunity too.  I feel that great food always has something new to teach us every day.  Of course anyone who loves feeding everyone as much as I do, would jump at the chance to spend a day in the company of Valentina to watch her cook and listen to her wonderful stories.

Lisa Osman

(that’s me in the picture beside Phillip and Mary who is dressed in pink! Jane from delicious. magazine is standing next to Valentina) – July 2018