Judging around 250 presentations from the burgeoning airport food & beverage world is both an exhilarating and exhausting experience.
Yesterday and today I’m meeting in London with my fellow judges for our annual Airport Food & Beverage (FAB ) Awards. These awards, part of the annual Airport FAB Conference, form a fascinating annual snapshot of trends, tastes and best practice in the sector.
Airport dining ranges the whole spectrum from grab and go to (more rarely) fine dining; from chef-led restaurants to street food.
Over these two days our job is to sift through a mountain of words, images, menus and video to try to identify the best of the best.
In fact, it’s not a two-day job at all. Our amazingly dedicated convener of judges, travel retail and airport commercial revenues veteran David King, has been through every entry over recent weeks, making a preliminary assessment based on a 100-point scoring system.
Fellow judges, Alan Gluck (who has over two decades of experience in commercial and concession management in North America) and (ex-chef, former Copenhagen Airport F&B Category Manager and now CEO of Letz Sushi) Anders Barsøe, together with a certain Kiwi publisher, then review in words, images and film the merits of each entry.
If you are passionate about food and drink, and we all are, it’s a fascinating challenge. Each year the sector has moved on so much. New culinary trends have emerged, certain ethnic cuisines are on fire (and I’m not talking spice), and airports constantly refresh their offering.
Too much airport food is mediocre. Our job with FAB is to recognise and reward that which isn’t and in fact is excellent. We have to weigh up a multiplicity of factors, from creativity to cuisine quality, provenance to performance, sustainability to service. With four nationalities and diverse backgrounds and perspectives represented on the judging panel, there’s plenty of heat, lots of spice and even the occasional boilover in the judging kitchen. But the end dish, I promise you, will be absolutely FAB-ulous.