On the 25th April 2012 I had the honour of being a judge at British Pie Awards 2012 – http://www.britishpieawards.co.uk/index.php?pid=1, before I talk about my day as a judge I want to sum up the awards in numbers:
1 Supreme Champion – Dunkleys – Chicken, Ham, Mushroom, Buttered Leeks & Suet Pastry Pie
1 Special Award to recognise the small producer – Morecambe Football Club
1 Chairman of the Judges – Andrew Chisholm
1 Blessing of the pie – Rev Kevin Ashby
3 Class winners for 1 company – Morecambe Football Club
17 sponsors/companies supporting the awards
23 Number of pies I judged with my judging partner
75% of entries were from small businesses
98 Entries awarded a Gold award
100 Entries awarded a Silver award
116 Entries awarded a Bronze award
118 Most entries in 1 category (Chicken & any flavour combination)
900 Number of entries
As you can see these awards are taken very seriously so driving to Melton Mowbray on the morning of the awards I was feeling a mixture of excitement & nervousness of what the day will bring.
When I arrived, I signed in and found out what class I would be judging and who my judging partner was. I was allocated the class – chicken & any flavour combination and my judging partner was Rob Freck (Proprietor of The Cheese Shop Nottingham Ltd – http://www.cheeseshop-nottingham.co.uk/). I was pleased with this class mainly as I prefer hot eating pies to cold eating pie and having worked on the Brand Chicken Tonight for over 5 years in product development so I felt I was quite well qualified for this class.
I quickly looked through the programme to see how many pies were in this class to work out the size of the task ahead and was taken aback when the number staring back at me was 118!! Thankfully there were 5 sets of judging pairs to help us with the largest class entries of the day.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and we all assembled for a welcome to the day & judges briefing by Matthew O’Callaghan (Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association). We then all made our way to our tables to commence judging but before we tasted anything the Rev Kevin Ashby did the blessing of the pies.
The judging takes place at St Mary’s Church in Melton Mowbray and is open to the public, so through the day we had many visitors coming in to see what was happening. Some of the pie producers had driven to Melton Mowbray & brought their pies personally to the awards so were also present.
The staff and students of Loughborough College were responsible for heating up the pies ready for tasting and a steady stream of hot pies were brought to us. The way the judging works is that every pie starts with 100 points and points are deducted for faults. There are 6 elements to the judging of a pie:
- Appearance (Including Glaze/Finish)
- Baking (including excessive boil out)
- Pastry Thickness
- Pastry Taste & Texture
- Filling (Including Jelly/Gravy/Sauce)
- Filling Texture & Taste
So each pie was carefully dissected to ensure we were able to give it a fair score, not only did we score each pie but also wrote comments on how the pie could be improved & what impressed us most about the pie. We made sure comments were constructive to allow the business who entered the pie to improve for next year. We know that businesses put their heart and soul into the making of pies so wanted to reward them with positive comments.
The hours passed by and we were still judging, other classes had finished and were enjoying the buffet lunch that had been provided but with a record number of entries in our class we stuck at it until the end.
In total Rob and I judged 23 pies and by the last one we were a little stuffed & tired of chicken. The main flavour combinations we saw were chicken & mushroom, chicken & ham/gammon/bacon, chicken & leek, chicken curry and then some more unusual flavours such as chicken, Stilton & broccoli.
After around 3 hours all 900 pies had been judged!! We grabbed ourselves a drink and waited for the winners to be announced.
What a day it was, a pat on the back to the organisers for making the day run so smoothly but a massive round of an applause to all the businesses who submitted pies for us to judge, 314 entries received an award and the quality of the pies I tasted personally was outstanding, just makes you so proud to be British!!
So then I made my way back to the car, tummy slightly more rounded than normal but with a big smile on my face knowing that I’d been part of something so great. And also getting a picture with one of my favourite chef Phil Vickery! :0)
As soon as I got home, I put the date in my diary for next year’s awards: Wed 24th April 2013.
LONG LIVE THE BRITISH PIE – A world beater!!