Cheese Extravaganza!

I joined the American Cheese Society upon moving to WA because I heard they were having their annual conference in downtown Seattle. The Society consists of cheese lovers, cheesemakers, retailers, mongers, distributors, you name it if cheese is involved so are they people. What an amazing bunch of people! Every year the conference is held in a different city. Cheese seminars, tastings & competitions are held for about a week. Cheesemakers from the across North America submit their cheese to be judged and critiqued for consideration in the Best of Show competition. This year 1,462 cheeses were submitted, the largest ever!! It’s a great opportunity for the cheesemakers to get feedback from experts (i.e retail specialists, mongers, food scientists, aesthetic and technical feedback) on what’s working or what’s not and how to improve the cheese.

I decided to volunteer for the event so I could meet other people in the industry and get behind the scenes of this conference of cheese. I love behind the scenes stuff like this, I helped receive all 3, ooo boxes of cheese, organize, tray up, cut & present, assist with the judges, be a cheese steward if you will (empty spit buckets, paperwork, taste cheese, all the fun & dirty details!) seminar monitor, mingle, observe and attend the parties! I had the time of my life! I really felt at home with these people, from goat farmers to cheese shop owners. It was an eye opening experience. I think I met everyone in the industry and they all welcomed me with open arms. I met & worked with Cowgirl Creamery’s Debra (Sales) who offered me a job in San Francisco! My new best friend Holly who owns Savour Specialty Foods right down the street from where I live, Seattle Art Museum’s culinary team, the most amazing judges from all walks of cheese life, Whole Foods’s Global cheese buyer, Culture Magazine’s owners, bloggers, enthusiasts and so many more! It’s hard to write it all down but it was the beginning of something big for me, I can just feel it. So with my new contacts I’m bound to work in an exciting new field in a prospering cheese city!

We did get to see Michael Pollan author of Omnivore’s Dilemma & Food Rules to name a few, speak as the keynote.  He is a brilliant and entertaining speaker who insists we must start taking care of ourselves, our nation, our farms and what we eat. More plants, less boxed goods. It was ironic to see him speak about nutrition and obesity at a cheese conference considering this product throws nutrition out the window, but I think everyone enjoyed his point of view and I have  truly learned from him & his books.  I highly recommend reading his books!

James attended the Festival of Cheese with me on Saturday the final night of the conference. He was in cheese heaven. After they announced all the winners, we were able to sample all 1400 cheeses with local beers and wines. Of course we did NOT eat that many cheeses, we were good and only ate 1/4 of the 100 winners! It was fun to share what I had been immersed in the last couple of weeks with James and the other 2000 people in attendance. Who knew that cheese had such a following!

Cheers! I of course will keep you posted on my new cheesy adventures!


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