Taking a quick break to report in from day 1 of the sofi Awards judging for the 38th sofi Awards for the outstanding specialty foods of 2010.

By Louise Kramer, NASFT Communications Manager

I am so thrilled that it has all come together today: Chef David Ward is whipping up baked goods, sous Chef Alistair Smith has started cutting up cheese, and the sofi support team is humming.

Our panel of nine judges arrived here at our new offices on Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan at 9 a.m. today. We were a little nervous behind the scenes because we’ve never done the sofis here and it is quite an operation! In the past week we received 1,570 entries, all great food products vying for the coveted sofi Gold Award.

We’ll present the Gold Awards at our Summer Fancy Food Show on June 28 in a red-carpet ceremony hosted by Dan Barber, a leading light of the artisanal and local food movement.

The judges come from across the US. We have a specialty retailer from Southern California from a family-owned business, a Dallas-based grocer whose company has dozens of stores, a big regional supermarket chain in the Southeast, a fab New York City retailer with several stores brimming with specialty and natural products from the members of our trade association. Oh, and the food editor of a fabulous major magazine, a chef instructor from a great cooking school, and the owner of a great store in Vermont, and the owner of a lovely shop in New York’s Westchester Country. To cap it off, we have an executive chef from a prominent New York restaurant company that has a branch in LA.

When we assembled the panel, our aim was to have a range of expertise and opinions represented.  It is there tough job – someone has to do it! — to select finalists across 31 awards categories this week, from Outstanding Appetizer, Antipasto, Salsa or Dip to Outstanding Vinegar.

In early June, we’ll have a panel come to our offices to judge the last two batches of entries, for the coveted sofi Gold Award for the Outstanding New Product of the Year, and Outstanding Product Line. They’ll pick finalists for those two awards. Sort of like coming up with the list of Oscar nominees.

So far today the judges have completed judging one category to pick the nominees/finalists, and are about to finish the second. The sofi team, lead by Marilyn O’Hara, the project manager, and Nicole Denis, the culinary manager, are running around quite a bit to make sure all entries are set out just right, that the fact sheets are there, that the judges have plenty of water and tasting spoons and napkins, etc.

This is my third year working on the sofi Awards, and I am very relieved that it has all come together. And I am especially relieved that our new oven is working! We weren’t quite sure it would be.

Here’s to a great sofi 2010. The finalists for the first 31 of the 33 Awards will be announced the week of April 19. The finalists for those last two Awards will be announced the week of June 7.

The sofi Gold winners for each of the 33 Awards will be selected by attendees at the Summer Fancy Food Show. All the finalists picked this week will be set out on long tables in a private room for retailers and buyers to taste and evaluate in order to make their picks. It will all be monitored by an outside accounting firm. They’ll tally the results right there so we can announce them at the show just a few hours after the judging of the finalists ends.

But I’m racing ahead of myself. We need to have a list of finalists first. And that’s what’s starting to happen today with the judges sampling about 500 products today. They’ll be here tomorrow, Thurs., April 15, and Friday, April 16. No doubt they will eat light this weekend.

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One Response to Taking a quick break to report in from day 1 of the sofi Awards judging for the 38th sofi Awards for the outstanding specialty foods of 2010.

  1. Anthony M. says:

    Wow so much involved. Kudos to all the organizers and judges of the awards. This really is the “Oscars” of the food industry.

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