I recently had the great privilege of being one of the judge

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Related tags: Pub food, Cooking

You'd think one cookery competition would be much the same as another, and in a way you'd be right. Generally they consist of a selection of...

You'd think one cookery competition would be much the same as another, and in a way you'd be right. Generally they consist of a selection of finalists who perform a signature dish in front of an audience, cameras and judges, on equipment they've never cooked on before, in a limited time, without the assistance of a kitchen brigade. It's a wonder they manage to turn out anything edible at all. Anyone who puts themselves forward to compete in a competition gets my utmost respect. This year's competition was no exception. Whilst some seemed more at ease than others, all did pretty well, and a few were truly outstanding. What was so different about this competition however, was it became clear there were two very distinct schools of pub cooking; each convinced that their version is what pub food is all about. There are those, including me, who believe gastropubs are the future of popular eating in this country; in other words, restaurant-quality food in a pub environment. Let's face it, most of us yearn for a culture where every village or community has a charming little bistro, trattoria, café or tapas bar, welcoming you day or night, with good-quality, good-value local food and drink. It is, as the Americans would say, a no-brainer that this country should use itsneighbourhood pubs for the same purpose. There is clearly another school who are equally committed to "country home cooking"­ traditional home-style comfort food served as if you were a guest in someone's house. In a way it can be argued that this is the purer form of pub cooking, an extension of bygone times where wearytravellers really did sup from the pot on the hearth of the publican's hostelry. Is this less good? Absolutely not, provided it is done with skill, attention to detail and utilises good-quality local produce. Truth be told, I suspect this is truly what pub food should be about, and I found myself wondering if we've all allowed ourselves to become a little sidetracked in our pursuit of excellence. It is all easier said than done of course, but, as was evidenced at Food & Drink, there is much passion and talent out there in our nation's pubs. All you have to do is go out and enjoy it.

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