ICE Chef Instructor Lorrie Reynoso was called upon as a culinary expert to represent ICE at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s Special Outstanding Food Innovation Awards (sofi Awards) last week. Chef Lorrie and 12 other judges tasted 1, 570 specialty gourmet and hand-made foods to select 125 finalists in 31 categories.
The judging criteria included: taste, quality, innovativeness, ingredient profile and pricing, but all the judges brought their own areas of expertise to the table. Chef Lorrie brought her knowledge of taste, texture and flavor to the judging panel, while the other judges taught her about packaging, pricing and marketability. The different experts included representatives from specialty stores such as Garden of Eden Gourmet Market, chefs from Patina Restaurant Group and editors from O, The Oprah Magazine. Chef Lorrie compared the judging panel to a jury, noting that the panel was well-balanced and everyone brought something different to the table. While Chef Lorrie judged the entries’ culinary qualities, she also saw the foods through the other judges’ perspectives. In one instance, a judge mentioned to her that The Original Pup-Pie Happy Birthday, a celebratory pie for dogs, would make a perfect hostess gift. (And yes, some judges did taste it.)
Chef Lorrie said the experience was well worth it, “Everything was top-notch. There was not one run-of-the-mill product.” There were so many things I had never seen before. In the diet and lifestyle category, I didn’t realize that gluten free cooking could be so delicious. Or that there were fat-free or sugar-free ice creams that are as good as the real thing.” For example, the Blood Orange Sorbetto from G.S. Gelato And Desserts was selected as a finalist in the Diet and Lifestyle category.
The finalists from the first 31 categories were announced last week. Retailers will taste them at Summer Fancy Food Show and the final results will be announced on June 28 in a ceremony hosted by Dan Barber.
The judging panel isn’t done tasting yet! There will be a second round of tasting in early June for the last two Awards, the Gold Award for the Outstanding New Product of the Year and Outstanding Product Line. Chef Lorrie can’t wait put her skill to use tasting more gourmet foods.