THE search is on for a Cheshire food lover to become a food expert for a day.

The winner will be invited to join a panel of food specialists, led by North West celebrity chef Nigel Haworth, to help judge the prestigious Fine Food Northwest Awards 2010, tasting some of the finest foods the region has to offer.

The Fine Food Northwest Awards 2010, organised by Food Northwest, recognise the best fine foods produced across the Northwest, from fresh fruit and vegetables to cakes and confectionery.

Following the success of its ‘Search for a Foodie’ campaign, launched in 2009, Food Northwest is once again recruiting a Cheshire ‘foodie’ to join four other food enthusiasts from Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside, at a special judging event at Ewood Park in Blackburn on June 2.

They will enjoy a day of tasting as part of a team of hand-picked judges, led by Nigel Haworth, chef patron of Northcote in Lancashire. Judges will include some of the region’s top chefs, as well as speciality food retailers, food journalists and supermarket buyers.

The five food connoisseurs, who will be selected from a shortlist by the Food Northwest team, will taste and judge in the region of 400 foods, marking them on their quality, taste, texture and appearance.

They will find the 50 ‘best’ products to go forward for final judging in ten categories, the winners of which will receive their awards on the evening of June 2.

The Northwest is home to some of the country’s most passionate and talented food and drink producers, and many of its finest and most famous foods, from cheeses and sausages, to real ales, chutneys, ice creams and cakes.

Pat Foreman, chief executive of Food Northwest, said: “We are recruiting our panel of experts to judge the Fine Food Northwest Awards, but once again, we want to involve ordinary people who have a real passion and enthusiasm for good food, and represent the seven million consumers who live within the region. We want to hear from anyone in Cheshire over the age of 18, who would like to join our panel, spend the day tasting some of the Northwest’s finest food and help to raise the awareness of the wealth of fantastic foods the region has to offer.”

Last year’s Cheshire ‘foodie’, Lucinda Bryant, who hails from Nantwich, said: “Taking part in last year’s judging was a great opportunity and experience for someone like me, with a passion and enthusiasm for food - particularly locally produced food - and to get involved in tasting the best of the Northwest.”

Nigel Haworth, chef patron of Northcote and chair of the Fine Food Northwest Awards judges, said: “It is important that the region acknowledges the quality of our food producers, and the awards are ideal to profile the best of the region's farmers, growers and producers.

“For me, it is a great opportunity to recognise how the food producers are developing their products. It's always an interesting day and I look forward to seeing and tasting what this year has to offer.”

The ten winners of the Fine Food Northwest Awards 2010 will form the shortlist for two fine food categories, in the prestigious Food Northwest Awards. These annual awards which are now in their fifth year, acknowledge business excellence in companies from all areas of the industry, from farm to fork, including food retail and service, catering, wholesale, distribution, food processing and agriculture.

Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said: “The Fine Food Northwest Awards are a valuable opportunity to showcase the finest food in the Northwest and the people and companies behind it.

“The food and drink sector in the Northwest employs approximately 450,000 people and accounts for around ten per cent of our regional economic wealth, more than any other region in the UK, and is a key driver of our £120 billion regional economy.”

This year’s awards will focus on the theme ‘Fabulous Food’ and will highlight the diversity, energy, enthusiasm and sheer hard work of companies excelling in their sector, across the Northwest.

The winners will be announced at a Gala Awards dinner, hosted by Lucy Meacock of ITN and Granada TV, on Thursday, June 24, at Manchester’s Midland Hotel.

Individuals over the age of 18, who are interested in joining the Fine Food Northwest Awards 2010 judging panel, can apply by completing an application form at Entries must be submitted by April 7, 2010.

Food companies wishing to enter either the Fine Food Northwest Awards or the Food Northwest Awards 2010, can also download an application form and find more information at the same address. Entry is free and the closing date for entries is April 30, 2010.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available for a number of awards. For further information contact Darren Hill on 01928 511011.