The Cheese Olympics |

The Cheese Olympics

Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Joël Robuchon may be packing the stands at the Bocuse d’Or, the starring event of the Sirha conference, as the world watches promising young chefs battle for the coveted gold medal. But Sirha offers far more than just the Bocuse—like the International Caseus Award, or what one might call the “Cheese Olympics.”
Last weekend, before the official kickoff of Bocuse, two-person teams of professional cheesemongers went head-to-head in all manner of cheese-related events. In strictly judged rounds, competitors representing twelve countries participated in a wide variety of contests. Each team had to set up a cheese stall for the most effective and visually pleasing display, before recommending cheeses to time-pressured “buyers.” Competitors took a blind taste test to identify different cheeses, and completed a multiple-choice exam about cheeses of protected origin. One member cut a 22-kilo wheel into 250-gram portions, without the aid of a scale; and lastly, competitors delivered a presentation to the judges on the merits of a particular cheese—their efforts weighed for accuracy, passion, and persuasiveness.

Frank Meilak and Zoe Brickley were invited to represent the United States at the Caseus competition—the two are veteran cheesemongers from New York’s oldest cheese shop, Murray’s Cheese, supplier to many of the city’s finest restaurants and wine bars. As such, Meilak and Brickley were well-prepared to deliver the best the American cheese world had to offer. In the final standings, the heavily favored French team took first place, with Japan ranking second, and the United Kingdom, third. However, the American team finished a very respectable fourth place—far better than their last-place showing just two years ago. Though the French still dominate the world of fromage, the United States is moving up in the cheese ranks.

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