CoVa Culinary Awards Tasting Panel

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Coastal Virginia Culinary Awards?

The Coastal Virginia Culinary Awards (CoVa Culinary Awards for short) is a new formal dining awards program created by Coastal Virginia Magazine to select and honor the top 50 restaurants in the Coastal Virginia region according to the CoVa Culinary Awards Selection Committee and based, in part, on evaluations submitted by the CoVa Culinary Awards Tasting Panel. The top 50 restaurants selected by this process will be featured in the November-December issue of Coastal Virginia Magazine in 2024.

What Is the CoVa Culinary Awards Tasting Panel?

The CoVa Culinary Awards Tasting Panel is an invitation-only group of dedicated foodies, frequent diners, current and former food and beverage service professionals, business owners, writers, influencers, and others with a passion for Coastal Virginia cuisine and our local restaurant scene. Tasting Panel members have been invited or selected by the Coastal Virginia Magazine editorial staff to submit evaluations of restaurants for consideration for the CoVa Culinary Awards.

As a member of the Tasting Panel, what am I expected to do?

Tasting Panel members are asked to complete a minimum of 10 online restaurant evaluations (form link headed to your inbox soon) of 10 different locally owned Coastal Virginia restaurants personally visited by the panel member within the last three years. Each evaluation should take an estimated 20 minutes to complete. There are no in-person obligations or meetings for Tasting Panel members.

How do I select which restaurants to evaluate?

The evaluation form includes a curated list of qualifying restaurants to choose from as well as a write-in option. Tasting Panel members evaluate one restaurant at time, returning to the form each time they wish to evaluate a new restaurant. Tasting Panel members can complete as many evaluations as they wish as long as their evaluations are based on first-hand experience. But we ask for a minimum of 10 evaluations.

What if there is a restaurant I feel should be considered, but I do not see it on the list?

First, verify the restaurant meets the basic qualifications for consideration (see below). If the restaurant qualifies, feel free to use the write-in option to evaluate that restaurant. That said, keep in mind our ultimate goal is to select the 50 best restaurants in the entire region. So, if the restaurant in question does not have a realistic shot at making that list considering the other restaurants on the list, take that into consideration before investing time into completing an evaluation.

Am I required to visit the restaurants I am evaluating?

Tasting Panel members are not required to visit any restaurants during the evaluation process itself, but, as mentioned above, evaluations MUST be based on past visits within the last three years. If a panelist chooses to visit a restaurant they have not visited previously for the purposes for completing a new evaluation during the evaluation process, they are free to do so at their own cost.

Is there any monetary compensation or requirements for membership on the CoVa Culinary Awards Tasting Panel?

No. Participation on the CoVa Culinary Awards Tasting Panel is entirely voluntary. Other than the opportunity to receive complimentary tickets to upcoming Coastal Virginia Magazine events (see below) as a courtesy to our panelists, there is no monetary or other compensation being offered to the Tasting Panel members and no cost to participate. Remember, Tasting Panel members must pay for their own meals when visiting restaurants and should never request comped meals or free or reduced items from restaurants. Doing so will result in disqualification from the Tasting Panel.

Is membership on the CoVa Culinary Awards Tasting Panel a secret?

While membership on the Tasting Panel is not “secret,” panelists should not boast to restaurants or anyone else, for that matter, about being panel members for the purposes of preferential treatment at a restaurant. As mentioned above, most evaluations should be based on past visits. But, if a Tasting Panel member dines at restaurant with the specific intent of entering an evaluation for that restaurant, they should do so as they normally would like a regular customer.

Who will have access to the Tasting Panel’s evaluations?

Restaurant evaluations will be received by Coastal Virginia Magazine editorial staff only and will be shared with a small Selection Committee consisting of 5-10 experts selected by the magazine’s editor for the purposes of making final selections for the top 50 restaurants only. This information will not be made available to restaurants, and Tasting Panel members are asked not to share their individual evaluations with restaurants.

How will the information be used to make final selections for the CoVa Culinary Awards?

The Selection Committee will consider all evaluation information provided by the Tasting Panel but will give priority to evaluations based on the most recent visits. The Selection Committee will gather additional information or perform in-person visits as needed for individual restaurants in order to make an informed decision about each.

COVA CULINARY AWARDS RESTAURANT QUALIFICATIONS

To qualify for consideration for the Coastal Virginia Culinary Awards, RESTAURANTS MUST:

1. Be located within the Coastal Virginia region. This does NOT include Richmond or surroundings areas, the Outer Banks or anywhere else not within the state of Virginia, or points further west than Suffolk, Smithfield or Franklin. It DOES include the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Williamsburg, Gloucester and the Northern Neck.

2. Be local and independently owned with no more than six locations and offer a locally designed menu.

3. Have been fully operational and open to the general public since at least Dec. 31, 2021.

4. Function and be known primarily as a working restaurant, offer a full table service, sit-down dinner at least three nights per week.

*Tasting Panel members will be offered two complimentary tickets to a 2025 Coastal Virginia Magazine event of their choice (CoVa WineFest, CoVa Battle of the Burgers or CoVa Best Of Party) and a one-year subscription to the magazine.

Leona Baker

Leona Baker is the Editor-in-Chief of Coastal Virginia Magazine, a writer, creative, communications professional, food freak, news junkie, nature and travel lover and mom. She holds a degree in English from James Madison University and a degree in Dance & Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. She previously served as Senior Copywriter for Spark 451, Director of Marketing & Communications at Virginia Wesleyan University, and Senior Editor of Port Folio Weekly.

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