Quantifying Taste Through Objective Evaluation
At ChefsBest, tasting is a science. Identifying high-quality and best-tasting foods is an objective process rooted in the expertise of executive-level chefs who have undergone months of training in sensory acuity and our proprietary methodology. Using this methodology, which we call Sensory Attribute Quality Analysis™, our Certified Master Tasters® organize the sensory experience of eating into an objective sense of dimensions, attributes and anchors. We also take great care to uphold Sensory Testing Methods created by ASTM International to ensure any resulting ad claims are substantiated and usable in market.
Long before any samples are plated for the judging panel, ChefsBest conducts market research to determine which food, beverage and culinary product categories have high consumer demand. Products that fall into each of those categories are then explored further to ensure they are broadly available to consumers. The final decision regarding which products are evaluated is based on national grocery store sales data and other industry research identifying the top brands.
In order to ensure each of the samples tested are of the highest quality, products chosen in the market research phase are either purchased from nearby retailers or shipped to the ChefsBest Center for Taste® in San Francisco. After their delivery to our facility, they are kept in secure, climate-controlled environments in accordance with manufacturer instructions. Our expert team ensures that all representative samples are of similar age, and are never near their "expiration" or "best buy" dates.
On the day of judging, samples are prepared at ChefsBest Center for Taste in San Francisco with strict adherence to instructions provided on each package. Products are then placed in number-coded containers to prevent any knowledge by the judges regarding which brands are being evaluated at any given time. Products are served as prepared and in specific application. For example, cereal is tasted both dry and with milk.
In this phase, ChefsBest Master Tasters sample products on their own, without any discussion with other chefs or the moderator. They take note of qualities like aroma, appearance, texture and the presence of specific flavor notes. Throughout this phase, they employ the SAQA™ methodology, which helps the sensory experiencing of eating into the order of experience. For example, chefs may take note that a tomato sauce has an initial note of tomato followed by notes of garlic, onion, truffle, vegetals and herbs.
Discussion and Scorecard Development
In this phase, ChefsBest Master Tasters identify with the group their perceptions, agree on terms to represent those perceptions and, together, measure the perceived intensity of those attributes. This process is led by an impartial, trained moderator who holds knowledge of the product category but not of the products being tested. To start the discussion, the moderator asks the chefs about five specific characteristics: aroma, appearance, texture, taste and flavor. Although chefs oftentimes share similar observations during evaluations, any debate that occurs will take place in this phase. The goal is to reach a general consensus about the attributes of each product.
Once the ChefsBest Master Tasters complete the discussion phase and their second tasting, they proceed by collectively determining what constitutes a quality product from that specific category. If the tasting included green tea, for example, they discuss what attributes of aroma, appearance, texture and taste a high-quality green tea should possess. Chefs may define a high-quality tomato sauce, as another example, as one that leads with a rich tomato flavor, followed by notes of garlic, onion or vegetables; one that appears thick in nature and coats noodles or other paired foods generously.
Once chefs have reached a consensus about the attributes of each product, those attributes are measured. The goal is to identify where specific attributes of each product register on a low-to-high scale. For example, if the judges agreed a vanilla flavor is prominent in a particular vanilla ice cream, this phase allows them to register how intense that flavor is in each of the products tested. They are also paying special attention to the presence of additional flavor notes that product may possess.
Chefs may engage in one more independent tasting before their data is recorded using proprietary software and analyzed using a variety of multivariate statistical techniques. Products earn awards based on this analysis.
The ChefsBest Best Taste Award is granted only if a particular national product receives the highest overall score by a statistically significant margin. In such a case, that product may take the “America’s Best,” “Best Tasting,” and “Highest Quality” ad claims to market. If a significant margin is not achieved, no winner is declared.
Products may also be granted the ChefsBest Excellence Award, given to brands that surpass quality standards established by the chefs. Those products may take “Endorsed by Professional Chefs,” “Award-Winning Taste” and “Highly Ranked” ad claims to market. Second or third place awards are not granted.
The Quality in Craft Award is presented to boutique, regional brands operating on a small scale that meet or exceed quality standards established by ChefsBest Master Tasters. After meeting eligibility requirements and being evaluated on their own merits, Quality in Craft Award winners are products that meet benchmark standards within their respective product categories. Products identified with this distinction may identify themselves to consumers with claims including "Endorsed by Professional Chefs," "Award-Winning Taste," "Highly Ranked."
The Chef Tested Award is conferred to store brand products that surpass quality standards established by ChefsBest Master Tasters. After being judged and rated on their own merits, Chef Tested Award winners are brands that meet benchmark standards within their respective product categories. Brands identified with this distinction may identify themselves to consumers with claims including "Endorsed by Professional Chefs," "Award-Winning Taste," "Highly Ranked."