It's that time of year again. Thanks to Steven Doherty of the wonderful Lakeland Cafe, I got roped in to help with the judging of the Cumbria Life Food and Drink Awards this time last year.
Now it's time for a repeat performance. We're looking not just at the food, but also service, ambiance, cleanliness, and value for money. Everything you expect when you go out to eat.
We have a number of categories to judge, from fine dining restaurants to pubs and from tea shops to farm shops.
As I am one of the judges the restaurant at Linthwaite can't enter the competition. So how else does a restaurant get judged?
At the top level ambitious Chefs aim for a Michelin star. Linthwaite is listed by Michelin but doesn't have a star.
Some Chefs hanker after an AA Rosette or three; Linthwaite has two but they are irrelevant as they applied to the Chef who left last October. Our new Chef hasn't been inspected yet.
Chris, our Head Chef joined us in April. Last month the Good Food Guide came out. You can't buy your way into it. They accept no money, just like Michelin but unlike the AA, who charge a restaurant to go into their guide.
So we were delighted Chris got a high five (out of ten) in the new Good Food Guide. To put that into context, only Sharrow Bay, Gilpin Lodge and Holbeck Ghyll have a score of five in Cumbria. Over five only applies to the brilliant Simon Rogan's L'Enclume, which has a ten, one of only two restaurants in England to receive such the ultimate accolade.
The other one is the Fat Duck at Bray, Heston Blumenthals temple of food. In London a five applies to restaurants like Pierre Kauffman's, Galvin's Bistro Deluxe, Arbutus and Wild Honey, and yet Roux at Parliament Square and the Savoy Grill have a mere four!
So not bad for a new boy; well done Chris. The confusing thing though for you the reader is how to compare one restaurant with another. Sharrow and Holbeck each have a Michelin Star as does L'Enclume. Is it more difficult to get a Star than five in the Good Food Guide?
So think of me this Autumn as one of a small band of judges having to eat their way through a number of meals in Cumbria and helping to decide which restaurants, tea shops etc deserve the accolade of the Best of Cumbria. It's a tough life!