What stunned Maggie Beer at this year's delicious. Produce Awards

Maggie Beer is the ultimate symbol of all things culinary.

So, as patron of the delicious. Produce Awards we were keen to get her take on this year's contestants.

While it's no surprise that all the categories (dairy, earth, paddock and sea) are close to Maggie's heart, she admitted there was one that was just that little bit more special.

"Earth was particularly delightful this year," she says. "There were beautiful lettuces, and bunches of greens that were so beautiful they could be bunches of flowers."

The 2018 trophy winner for the Earth category went to Moonacres Farm Seasonal Fresh Produce.

Now in it's 14th year, Maggie reveals why these awards are so important, not just for the industry but for home cooks right across Australia.

"It gives a benchmark to producers, celebrates innovation, sustainability, and excellence, and provides inspiration," she explains.

The much-loved cook also loves how it touches people's lives at home, as many past winners have gone on to become household names.

Photography by Don Arnold.

"When the stories come out from the winners, mum and dads read them and realise how important these producers are - it's all about those great stories," she muses.

One of Maggie's all-time favourites is Holy Goat Cheese, which took out the dairy trophy this year for their Cheese Nectar Tomme.

"Now it's available to people any day and I love that my favourite cheese, La Luna, is so well known," Maggie says.

The other trophy winners that you may soon see in homes around the nation were Mayura Station Full-blood Wagyu ‘from the paddock’, and Mark Eather Iki-Jime Coral Trout ‘from the sea’.

So, what is it like being the judge of such prestigious awards? Well, lots of eating.

"I didn't keep count of what we ate but it was two full days of eating until all 10 of us couldn't eat anymore!" she laughs. "There were hundreds of different produce samples to try."

The South Australian gran also gives a handy tip for all those who want to choose amazing produce for themselves.

"Seek out farmer's markets where you can actually speak to the farmer and use your senses," she suggests. "Smell the food, study it and notice if it's vibrant in colour, and ask lots of questions - they're the things you can do at home to make a difference with the produce you're buying."

And if you were ever wondering what Maggie’s secret weapon in the kitchen is, it’s extra virgin olive oil.

“If I didn’t have it, I couldn’t cook like I do.”

For a complete list of all the delicious. Produce Awards winners click here.

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