The ‘Super Bowl’ of cheese
By Kris Leonhardt
GREEN BAY – The Resch Expo center was the site of one of the most prestigious dairy industry contests in the country.
The 21st biennial United States Championship Cheese Contest was hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Feb. 21-22.
Judges from around the country evaluated about 2,250 samples of cheese, butter, yogurt and dry dairy ingredients to name award winners in 118 classes.
“This is the Super Bowl of cheese,” explained Tim Czmowski, assistant chief judge. “We have the best cheese sent in from all over the country – 35 states have entered – and we’re here as expert judges to evaluate each of those cheeses very intimately from a perspective of appearance, body, texture, flavor. We spend several minutes on every sample.”
The contest is done using blind entries, explained Rob Richter, of Great Lakes Cheese.
“We don’t know who produced them; this is blind packaging, so there is no favoritism,” he explained.
“For the most part, we are looking at the appearance, the texture, body packaging. And then, we look at flavor, mouth feel, and then attributes that are either beneficial, characteristic of the cheese or defects that you might pick up.”
“Two judges evaluate it together; their scores are averaged; and then, the average of those two scores becomes the official score,” added Czmowski.
“There will be a best-of-class out of every one of the classes.”
Those are then brought forward to determine the top 20, and then the top 20 are scored again by over 40 judges to determine the best cheese.
Czmowski has been judging the contest since 1995 and has been making cheese for over 40 years.
“And, it starts with the most basic food on Earth – milk,” Czmowski stated. “It was intended to bring us to nourish us from a child infant into adulthood. We get to fractionate that into a very nutritious various products over 1000s of different products that people consume morning noon and night and so, so to be the best at doing that, is really something to be proud of.”