Small businesses shine at Royal Australian Food Awards

The judges of the 2023 Melbourne Royal Australian Food Awards have tasted their way through a record number of entries to deliver their verdict on the sweet and savoury preserves that have earned champion status.

High-profile chefs and industry stalwarts including Rosa Mitchell, Jerry Mai, Adam D’Sylva and Damian Snell made up the 12-strong judging panel that conducted blind tastings across a dozen categories in early July at Melbourne Showgrounds. The Awards are open to commercial food producers of all sizes, from boutique operators to large-scale manufacturers.

“Not only were we impressed by the sheer volume of entries, but the quality across all classes was exceptional,” Melbourne Royal Award Programs Manager, Damian Nieuwesteeg, said. “The record entries are on the back of new category changes implemented by Melbourne Royal Australian Food Awards to ensure they remain aligned with industry trends, production techniques and importantly, consumer interest.

“The judges assessed and scored each entry on a set of six criteria – colour, flavour, texture and body, aroma, trueness to description and finish of product,” Nieuwesteeg added. “Competition rules stipulate that entries must be 100 per cent produced in Australia and commercially available for retail, which means that the gourmet gems we uncover can be bought and enjoyed by food-lovers across the country.”

The sweet and savoury preserves category major trophy winners are:

  • Champion Sweet Preserve: Cunliffe & Waters ‘Raspberry Jelly for Cheese’ (Victoria). Made in Coldstream in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, the jelly accompanies softcheeses, charcuterie, duck and lamb, and was described by the judges as “delicious” and having “pretty colour”, a “shiny appearance”, “bright raspberry flavour” and “beautiful balance and aroma”.
  • Champion Savoury Preserve (tied winners): Turban Chopsticks (WA) ‘Satay Peanuts’ and Gamila at Beechworth (Victoria) ‘Pickled Blueberries with Saffron’. The judges were unable to split the two submissions, describing Turban Chopsticks’ creamy peanut sauce as “amazing” with “quality ingredients” and “superb colour, texture and flavour”. They praised Gamila at Beechworth’s pickled fruit for its simple ingredients, “perfect texture” and versatility.
  • Champion Victorian Preserve Producer: Emelia’s the Saucy Australian (Victoria). The Kyneton-based producer – who’s owner, Emelia Prendergast, is pictured – claimed four gold, two silver and three bronze medals in the Savoury Preserves category. The successful products were Emelia’s French Orange Dressing, Worcestershire Sauce, Harissa and Epicurean Salad (pickled vegetables).

“These four passionate producers represent the best of the best in this category – some are relative newcomers to the industry, while others are established family businesses with decades of trade behind them,” Nieuwesteeg said. “We encourage everyone to seek out these tasty, high-quality products in their supermarket, local farmers’ market or via the businesses’ online stores,” he added.

“When consumers support local manufacturers and producers, it opens the door to business expansion and creation of new jobs throughout the supply chain. It’s good for everyone and Melbourne Royal is proud to shine a light on Australia’s finest,” Nieuwesteeg concluded.