A Volunteer’s Dream Come True!
If you love cheese, this is the volunteer opportunity you have been waiting for. Of course, you might have to wait a little longer than you wish because the word is out – you work hard for the day of the competition, but then you leave with a LOT of cheese. It’s October now and the competition was in August, but I still have cheese in my freezer, and I eat a LOT of cheese!
Elena Hovagimian runs the show and she does a fabulous job. As you might already know, organizing a cheese competition is no small task. There are all kinds of regulations where dairy products are involved. That’s probably why there are so few competitions in this country. Elaine has been directing this one since she started it in 2010, and it’s one of the most popular events at the Big E (Eastern States Exposition).
The judging takes place in the Wine & Cheese Barn, located outside the Mallory Complex, a month before the actual fair opens.
Team of Volunteers
There were a lot of volunteers whose names I didn’t get, but these are a few of the ones I did:
We arrived early in the morning to get the room ready for the judges.
Table 1. Lassa Skinner and Shawn Hockert
Shawn works in sourcing, purchasing and sales for Seacrest Foods International and he is an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional.
Table 2 – Stephanie Skinner and Carlos Yescas
Carlos directs the Cheese of Choice Coalition. His book, “Quesos Mexicanos” was published in 2013 by Larousse, and was awarded second place for best cheese book at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in 2014.
3. John Miller and Kim Johnson
Kim worked at Whole Foods for over 10 years and now she is a salesperson at Seacrest Foods International.
John is a 10th generation dairy farmer and award winning master cheese maker. He is currently working as a consultant in the cheese business and in Jersey cattle management.
4. Kate Feuer and John Greeley
Kate is a former ballerina who is now the very graceful manager of Rubiners Cheesemongers & Grocers in Great Barrington, MA.
John is a world-renowned authority on cheese and was, in fact, the American Cheese Society Competition and Judging Chairman for 15 years. He received the ACS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Cheese was everywhere!
Behind the Scenes
The front room was quiet so the judges could concentrate on their work, but, in back, the activity was non-stop the whole day. Volunteers cut, wrapped and labeled hundreds of pounds of cheese.
When all the cheeses had been rated, the numbers were crunched and the semi-finalists were brought to the center table. The judges gathered around and tasted each one.
The winners were announced and the judging was officially closed. Best in Show went to Mad River Blue, a raw milk organic natural rind blue by Von Trapp Farmstead in Waitsfield, Vermont. For the list of winners, click here.
End of the Day
If you think you might want to volunteer next year, contact Elena at AG1@thebige.com.