== Mich Turner, founder of Little Venice Cake Company, Marylebone, London ==
is author and celebration cake maker to the stars. Turner employs a team of patissiers, chocolatiers and sugar-crafters, making bespoke cakes and her own branded line of products
As a Supreme Judge in this year’s Great Taste Awards I have just returned from a morning session blind-tasting over 40 gold medal-winning foods. For me these have included smoked salmon, very berry jams, chocolate lime biscuits, Aberdeen Angus steak pie, Cajun mustards, lemongrass-flavoured oils, cheese biscuits and Clementine chocolates.
The Great Taste Awards are now seen as The Oscars of the speciality food industry, celebrating their 15th anniversary this year with some 4,500 entries from independent food producers. From small acorns these awards have grown, the first year being held in the dining room of Bob Farrand, managing director of the Guild of Fine Food, with fewer than 200 foods. Six years later, entries topped 1,000 and around 50 judges assembled to choose the Supreme Champion - Rannoch Smokery’s smoked venison.
The awards are now capped with 4,500 entries, judging takes place over several weeks and the winning entries are bestowed with one- two- or three-star golds. This was my role today, together with over 60 other judges in the food world, including journalists, home economists, the Women’s Institute, food buyers and chefs. All are foodies and all are keen to sample the wares and none too shy to proffer spoonfuls of a particularly outstanding Manchego cheese or blackcurrant sorbet they felt deserving of three gold stars.
I was impressed with the sheer scale of the event; over 4,000 foods have successfully made it to this round, divided into various food categories, including bread flours for which there were 12 contenders. Faced with the challenge of tasting 12 such flours, one of the Supreme Judges dutifully took the flours home and made a loaf of bread with each, following an identical recipe. This allowed the group to taste the breads and award their gold stars accordingly.
From soda breads to chocolates with alcohol, rich fruit cakes to frozen yoghurts, meat pies to biscuits, there are currently in the region of 300 classes of food.
Sharing the judging on my table were three other foodies awarding three gold stars to just one of our products, a flaky smoked salmon, which was quite exceptional - not too pink with a lovely skin, authentic flavour and firm, but not chewy texture.
Well, I have given my opinions and put forward my Supreme Champion. Many of the judges were staying for an afternoon session - I had a book to get off to repro and some Christmas cake samples to prepare. This year’s regional and national winners and the Supreme Champion will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on Monday, 8 September.