A COUPLE who set up a smoked food business in Worcestershire three years ago have landed one of the top culinary awards in the country.

Tony Macneil, a former chef, and his wife Bee run Macneil’s Smokehouse at Rushock near Hartlebury and were awarded a Great Taste Golden Fork for their “moist, juicy and sweet” and “perfectly executed” smoked mackerel.

The product had already received three Great Taste stars and was then listed in the top 50 Great Taste products nationally this year.

According to Nick Crosley, from the Guild of Fine Foods which run the Great Taste awards, there were 12,366 entries for awards this year and just 165 of those warranted three stars.

The three-star products were then recalled and put in front of a new panel of judges who selected the top 50 and then the last 16. Just a handful of those received a Golden Fork, presented at a special evening in London.

In true Oscars style, Tony and Bee were presented with the Great Taste Golden Fork for the best food and drink from the Midlands for their smoked mackerel.

Bee, who comes from Bishop’s Frome originally, said they were thrilled but never expected to receive the accolade. “We knew we had three stars and to have three stars is fantastic. Then we found out we were in the top 50. On the day were found out who we were up against and they were amazing.

“It was such a lovely evening and we did not expect to win. We were blown away by the other products,” she said.

The couple set up the business after returning to the UK from Norway, where Tony worked for the country’s largest salmon farmer. He brought back with him a vintage Norwegian smoker and went from there.

Macneil’s Smokehouse produces a number of different products including smoked duck, which also won a Great Taste award and Bee said Tony is always looking for new things to smoke. “If it stands still, he will smoke it. He can’t stop,” she joked.

The business supplies independent restaurants, hotels, caterers and retailers and products can be bought through their online shop too. For more information visit http://www.macneilssmokehouse.co.uk/

• Great Taste, founded in 1994 and organised by The Guild of Fine Food, has judged over 122,000 products in the past 23 years. Each one has been blind-tasted by a team of judges who are dedicated to finding the most exquisite tasting food and drink regardless of branding or packaging.

• The panel of judges this year included; chef, food writer and author, Gill Meller, BBC MasterChef judge and restaurant critic, Charles Campion, author and Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen chef, Zoe Adjonyoh, baker, Tom Herbert, and food writer and baking columnist, Martha Collison, as well as food buyers from Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols.

• Above all the judges are looking for truly great taste. They take into account texture, appearance and of course quality ingredients. They like a good aroma, a decent bite to a sausage, a smooth lemon curd, crunchy rich pastry, but everything comes back to the taste. Is it really, truly great?