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Judging Night

Some of Melbourne’s best chefs discovered that Nonna knows best.

Published on January 31st 2013 | by Carlo Mazzarella

Umberto Espresso Bar on a Monday night is usually silent and a small sign that says ‘Chiuso’ hangs in the front door. But seven days before the Melbourne Salami Festa there was an unusual buzz emanating from the place and although the sign still said ‘Chiuso’ the lights were well and truly on.

Marco Finanzio, the proprietor of Umberto and Chairman of the Salami Board was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the judges, three of them chefs so you can understand his keenness to impress. Linda Catalano and Olivier David along with Carla Barbieri, Marco’s wife were also on hand to help. Everybody was slightly nervous, the Salami Festa was slowly becoming a reality. The team had talked about it for months and planned judging rules and so on but now it was happening for the first time in such an official capacity in Melbourne. Last minute doubts were raised. Were the judging forms and criteria clear enough? Would the judges enjoy the experience or swear never to take part again? What if there’s a tie?!

One by one the judges strolled in. They introduced themselves and after the formalities were out of the way they got down to the business at hand. Linda talked them through the rules and judging criteria while Marco, Olivier and Carla busily prepared the tasting plates. Fifty-three entries was no easy feat and the team had prepared plenty of palate cleansers like lettuce, bread and canteloupe to help the judges distinguish one entry from the other.

Dom, Daniel and Chris the three chefs along with Martin from AusPork analysed each slice of salami with great attention, sniffing and observing the texture before placing it on their tongues. They discussed the different flavours they experienced with expertness. At the other end of the table and with her daughter as translator, Nonna Tommasina sat quietly and got through her slices as thouroughly as the rest although with a little less theatre. Her comments were short but to the point and most of the time she knew what each entry would taste like just by looking at it and her comments once translated pretty much equalled the seasoned chefs in the group.

One thing that amazed us as it did the judges was the quality of the entries. On more than one occasion the chefs of the group would remark, “I’d happily serve this in my restaurant” such was the high level of product in competition. It’s incredible to think that out there in the suburbs of Melbourne and beyond families and friends are making restaurant and artisan quality products in their garages and backyards. Some of you makers reading this might not be surprised such is the confidence you have in your salami but it must be said that as this festa grows and we receive more entries, we are genuinely excited by what flavours and tastes we will uncover. The Susan Boyle of salami makers where are you?


About the Author

Carlo Mazzarella



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