About UsI never fail to be excited by the arrival of a jiffy bag or parcel, and the promise each book offers of excitement, satisfaction, entertainment and education. Over the next months the books are read, and cooked from.
One satisfaction for me is that we give the every entry serious consideration. Nowadays a book gets scant attention. If an author is lucky enough to get a listing, then there's every chance his/her work will be displayed spine out. Even face out it can be easily passed over; it has only a matter of seconds to grab consumers' attention. At the André Simon, by contrast, entries are given all the time it takes.
Each year the Trustees select two assessors to works with them: a wine expert and a food expert. The assessors bring authority and a different voice to the two rounds of judging.
Our first judging meeting is in mid-November. This is a long session to create the shortlist, going through each books and its merits one by one. The first 50 per cent of the books is weeded out pretty quickly. That still leaves 50 per cent. Judging slows, until we reach some 16 books. At this point the judging grinds almost to a halt as each book is reconsidered and argued for. 16 is whittled down to 10 and with the greatest difficulty to 6. For the wine books the process is the same.
Then until March we have three months to consider the shortlisted books afresh, and to read them and cook from them, where appropriate.
The final judging is held on the afternoon of the Awards themselves. This means the results, when the Chairman declares them, are hot of the press. Most years this is a very hard fought session. We are not necessarily judging like with like; we are judging each book on its intrinsic merits.
The award has a wide remit. We are not looking just for 'Cookery Book of the Year' or 'Food Book of the Year' or 'Wine Book of the Year'. So we consider in books of recipes, biographies, guides, polemical works, reference books. The list of past winners is testimony to the breadth of work that has been recognised by this award.
Every year, the Trustees call in books that have not been submitted. On occasion, these have gone on to win so if you are unsure whether your favourite newly published book or indeed your own work has been submitted by the publisher, email Katie Lander, the Secretary, with the details.
There are so many fantastic food and wine books published each year that it is a real pleasure for all the trustees to reward the months and years of hard work by the authors, and the creativity and care lavished on them by the publishers with these awards. They are in the spirit of André Simon who did so much to encourage the enjoyment of food and wine.Sarah Jane Evans MW
Trustee, André Simon Memorial Fund.