So, what's the deal with the World Cheese Championship Contest? Here's the thing. This is a competition based on technicality. Every entry starts with a perfect score of 100. Doing this guarantees that you will have a winner in every category. Points are deducted and at the end of the day winners are chosen based on the highest score.
Compare this to the way the ACS judges cheeses. Every cheese starts on a level playing field-zero-and is awarded points based on merit. There are minimum scores that must be reached in order to have a winner declared. Every year when the winners are announced at the conference (being held in Seattle this year) there are categories where there are no winners, or maybe there's a third and second place winner, but no one in first place.
So how does the judging at the WCCC affect cheesemakers? Here's the big thing: industrial-and even to some extent specialty-cheeses are often going to fare better than their artisan counterparts. Why? Artisan cheese often has more variation to it. Polly-O mozzarella-which won first place in its category-tastes the same. Every time. Every state. Every day of the year. It will never change, unless they change the recipe. Artisan cheese by nature will have a variation, and while I am certainly not saying that artisan cheese is automatically better, someone who produces on an industrial scale is going to have a bit of a leg up in my opinion.
Although there were quite a few specialty and artisan cheeses that won awards, I felt that this was a competition that awarded industrial cheeses a bit more. It also looked like there were a lot more winners from the U.S.A. this year compared to last. Are we really kicking everyone else's butt?
The bottom line for me is this: if cheeses from every cheesemaking country were entered in this contest, and K***T really does make the best Mozzarella and cream cheese, so be it. After all, what I really want in the long run is for American cheeses to be highlighted and recognized around the world for their fabulous deliciousness. But really, Sarge**o makes the best ricotta? In the world? Really?*
So what did I learn during my trip to WI?
1. Madison likes to party on St. Patrick's Day
2. Matt & Clare can boogie down
3. Willi can yodel
4. Bradbury's has the best morning crepe in the world
5. If I were to leave Chicago but stay in the midwest I would move to Madison
6. The capital building is gorgeous
7. The people at Fromagination are a bit odd-like most people involved in cheese-but are very friendly and love their cheese
8. Apparently, based on my morning after I also like to boogie down on St. Patrick's Day
9. You can make a lot of tasty product with two burners and a campstove AKA To make ridiculously tasty food what is importatnt is not the size of the kitchen, but the passion for your product.
10. I need a car so I can make more trips to Wisconsin
*You should take a look at the winners list for yourself. There are definitely artisan producers in the winners circle, but I wonder if the judging started at zero and went up if we would see different cheeses at the top.
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