Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sensory Evaluation

In the course of a regular gershgoods week, we talk to and meet the most interesting and inspired food-people, and have the every-day pleasure of learning so much from each other. However some days, some exchanges, and some people are extra, extra special. A few weeks ago, two of our most esteemed food-friends treated us to a more formal exchange of knowledge.

Renowned cheese expert, judge & sensory evaluator Russell Smith and his partner Sally, encouraged the whole gershgoods team to close the warehouse for the afternoon, get out from behind our desks, behind the wheel and behind the packing benches, and participate in a Sensory Evaluation - a revealing educational afternoon in the field of sensory perception - How and Why we Taste.

From our personal relationship with Russell, we know he really tastes his food and wine, and meals with him and Sally are always fascinating and especially enjoyable. However, in this educational we came to truly understand where he is coming from, and the importance of knowing our palates and our own taste thresholds. So, what we thought would be a pretty interesting afternoon turned out to be totally revolutionary!

Russell explained that the existing simplistic theory of palate break-down - the idea of sweet, salty, sour and bitter tastebuds is actually incorrect. In fact there is a lot more to understand about taste than this simplistic theory. To outline this Russell explained flavour perception and taste thresholds.

Through tasting, we analysed our own taste thresholds and compared them to studies conducted across Australia. We were tested to find out at what strength could we detect a particular flavour. The results were exciting and revealing - we each found out if we on, above or below the average level of detection.

Following this exercise we were presented with a cheese judging experiment where we applied our new knowledge. We tasted and compared our detection of five key taste components across a range of cheeses - Cheddar, Brie, Camembert and Blue from various producers around Australia.

As this theory is now shaping the understanding of producers and chefs around Australia, understanding these principles and having a sensory experience of it was vital for us as a food-team. It was also a pretty fantastic way to spend the afternoon, and has left us all inspired, informed and excited about tasting every little sip and new bite.

To find out more about Russell Smith and his Sensory Evaluations, take a look at the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence website.

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