I’m Passing Judgment

I judged The Evening on the Riviera’s food competition last Friday. A writeup appears here:

from today’s Frederick News-Post

I learned a lot from a professional standpoint from this, which was my first opportunity to judge an event. (I’ve been asked to judge before, but due to scheduling or health issues I couldn’t make it.) I know to fry food immediately before serving, and I felt bad for some of the vendors who didn’t think through their selections and brought fried things anyway. A fried food reheated in a microwave or oven just isn’t as good as hot food fresh from the fryer. If you’re making something as simple as a piece of fish, it’s best to bring the freshest specimen you can find instead of just buying whatever’s on sale from your fish supplier. Fresh wins out over inventive every time in my book, especially when it comes to fish. Attention to plating will flatter your food; just dumping it out on a plate with no care makes people feel like they’re at a covered-dish supper. And finally, participation in multiple categories increases your chance of a win if you have the wherewithal to provide multiple items. There were very few desserts in the competition, meaning it was easier to place if you offered a well-executed pastry of some sort.

We didn’t see the booths until we were done tasting the food, but it was notable how different the level of effort was among participants. Dramatic lighting and a few props can go a long way towards making a display of food look inviting. It doesn’t have to be expensive to look great.

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