Nofima has developed a new quality test that uses renowned restaurant chefs to assess the quality of raw materials and products.
Nofima’s research kitchen, an autumn day in Stavanger: Five experienced chefs are at the ready by the kitchen counter. Five chopping boards are brought in, each with numbered raw salmon pieces and the verdict is now about to be passed: Which salmon do they prefer? The only equipment available to them is a knife. But the most important tool the chefs have are their own senses and years of experience.
What the chefs do not know is that the raw materials originate from salmon that has undergone different processing after slaughter. The objective of the test is to get the chefs’ assessment of the raw material with a view to restaurant preparation. Does the processing impact on the chefs preferences?
The new test is called “Veritaste” and was first put into use this autumn.
“With this test, we aim to provide food producers with an additional assessment of the quality of products intended for the restaurant market,” says chef and Nofima Consultant Stian Gjerstad Iversen.
Many will already be familiar with Nofima’s professional sensory panel, which consists of trained taste judges calibrated against one another and that provides an objective assessment of food products. The sensory panel is the only such panel in Norway and helps food producers describe food characteristics in an accurate and neutral manner.
Iversen explains that the new chef test is no substitute for this tool.
“Unlike the objective assessment of the sensory panel in which many nuances are presented, Veritaste provides the chefs’ subjective assessment. The two different ways of assessing food products cannot be compared, but they can complement one another,” says Iversen.
The chefs’ strong point is that they handle many different raw materials every day and have experience of preparing them in different ways. In this initial test of the method, both raw and lightly heat-treated varieties of salmon were assessed. Several other raw materials and products have been scheduled for testing in the future.
Senses and crafts
Both sensory assessors and chefs use their senses to assess a food product they are presented with. But where sensory assessors are trained to provide detailed descriptions of product characteristics, chefs apply a simpler point system when assessing raw materials. Additionally, the chefs are able to handle the product or raw material as they see fit and can touch, hold and cut it.
“It is not necessarily all that easy to express what a chef considers good quality but you can be fairly certain that a chef will have strong opinions,” says Stian Gjerstad Iversen, who has run several restaurants and food companies himself.
During the test premiere, the panel comprised Øyvind Nesheim, Frode Selvaag, Kjartan Skjelde, Roger A. Joya and Tommy Raanti, all of whom are experienced chefs.