Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Judging the Curry Chef of the Year .. .Heaven !

Several months ago I got a phone call from Anna Murby from Rachel Mallows asking if I should like to be one of the judges at the Northamptonshire Food and Drink Curry Chef of the a Year Award. These awards have been devised by Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd and are aimed at celebrating all that is great about Northamptonshire’s produce and drink.

Now whereas most young people choose their universities based on academic performance, and the syllabus, I chose to go to University in Leicester because it is one of the best curry capitals in England. I am the original curry monster, so this was my idea of heaven. I accepted the invitation before Anna had finished her sentence.

This morning four curry chefs from across Northamptonshire, who had been selected from the many entrants, were invited to cook a curry meal for two people with a main course, a vegetarian dish, an accompaniment, and one complementary dessert. There was no restriction on the type of curry so I was anticipating a wide selection.

I was particularly excited to be seeing one of the other judges Richard Curtis, my lecturer from many years ago as the venue for the Curry cook off was my training ground Northampton College. The first week I spent at catering college was spent in the same room the competition was being held in. I had memories of the hours and hours I considered a waste of time, as I had stood in the kitchen chopping vegetables into matchstick size batons. Now I know and appreciate the relatively average knife skills I now have, when I watch other people using a knife. His standards were legend even then.

Even as I arrived the atmosphere was electric. With a Northamptonshire Television camera Crew and the other judges arriving, the contestants were already standing by their stations arranging pots of fresh herbs and exotic spices.

Initially all four contestants looked a little nervous. It was understandable, after all what could be more nerve wracking that having someone with a clip board and a set of criteria to judge your cooking on? After just a few minutes nerves seemed to dissipate as they set to. Within a short time the air was filled with layers of spice, fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, pepper, saffron chilli, all overlaid with sizzling onion and roasting meat. The rooms hummed along, with the judges examining, the camera crew filming and the chefs creating their master pieces. We were looking at range of things, not just the taste, including hygiene, skills, presentation, innovation and organisation.

By the time the clock stopped all the chefs had completed the task. The food was brought into a private room to be tasted. There was not a dish there that I wouldn’t have been delighted to have eaten out in a restarant. The spice blends were wonderful, the presentation was stunning and the various textures were delightful. There was a good mix of Indian, Bengal, Nepalese and Vietnamese curries. I had been initially worried that despite my many years of eating curries, I would find it difficult to differentiate the various flavours, especially when being presented with so much choice. Not so. The dished were all so individual there was no problem in discerning between them at all. I felt very privileged to be judging alongside a delightful chap, Ian Kellan, from British Pepper and Spice and as we compared notes we seemed to have exactly the same taste.

In the end someone has to win. It was really one of the most honestly judged events. I could not image how it could be any fairer. We were all given the opportunity to give our scores and it was totally impartial. The results stay secret until the announcement at the awards dinner in October, but I can tell you now that the winner was ......

Isn’t suspense delicious?


  1. I can imagine you were in curry heaven. I bet you learned a few tricks too to add to your already quite extensive repertoire!

  2. It was fabulous ! The food was amazing and it was a privilege to have been asked to judge. I did learn about using saffron in curry .. So I may come back to that idea.


If you are reading my blog I must warn you that I am not impartial. I want to influence you. I want to make you stop for just a moment and consider the effect of a lifetime of seemingly insignificant decisions and how making small delicious choices can change the world.

I believe that we can change the world one bite at a time.

It's a delicious revolution.