2nd November 2022: It wasn’t just the prospect of witnessing the unveiling of the World’s best cheese that brought the crowds to Newport, Wales. The World Cheese Awards also played host to the Young Cheesemonger of the Year finals: the only global competition to identify the brightest, freshest talent in the world of cheese retail. Industry leaders and talent spotters came to watch the six finalists battle it out over four rounds for a shot at winning this coveted title.
And the talented young cheesemongers did not disappoint: demonstrating their passion, skills and and immense wealth of cheese knowledge.
Record Number of Entrants
To reach this stage, the finalists had already demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of cheese: their applications not only required evidence of working within a specialist cheese retail environment, they were also asked to submit their ideal cheeseboards for a party of six, with consideration for budget, quantity and variety.
With the largest number of entrants in recent years, the quality of competition was high. The finalists were shortlisted and invited to attend the World Cheese Awards in Wales to compete against each other across four challenging rounds. With candidates hailing from across Europe, Asia and North America, it was gearing up to be a truly global contest!
A Fitting Backdrop
Set against the backdrop of the bustling World Cheese Market, the atmosphere was heady with fermentation and anticipation.
At 1.30pm, Justin Tunstall invited the first competitor, Julia Treloar from Toronto, Canada to the stage and so the finals were underway. All of the young cheesemongers confidently and passionately discussed their submitted cheeseboard selections with Justin, in front of the panel of judges and some of the most respected cheesemakers and mongers in the industry. One would be forgiven for thinking these “novices” were seasoned experts, the way they illustrated their chosen cheeses’ stories and profiles and stories.
They were then put through their paces with an adept demonstration of “cut and wrap” skills. 300g and 100g wedges of both a hard cheddar and soft brie were measured (without scales) and neatly wrapped with focus and deep concentration.
The penultimate “identification” round involved much ruminating, sniffing and tasting of four mystery cheeses. Despite its title, this round wasn’t so much about knowing the name of each cheese, but more an accurate observation of it’s appearance, texture, smell and taste, using the Academy’s Structured Approach to Tasting Cheese.
Specialist Subject: Cheese
With a tightly-fought competition approaching its climax, the title was still there for the taking, right up until the last round. “MasterRind” – a quiz compiled and compered by Justin, where everyone’s specialist subject is cheese, tested the contestants on their international cheese knowledge. This would be the round to decide who would be crowned Young Cheesemonger of the Year 2022.
The stakes were high, with the winner not only set to raise the trophy and cement their careers in the industry but they would also get to judge at the World Cheese Awards 2023 and secure a place on the Academy of Cheese Level Two certification course.
The competitors impressed the watching crowds with their quick-fire responses to Justin’s challenging questions and once the final round was done, a collective sigh of relief was heard resonating from the stage, as the judges congregated to tot-up the final scores.
The overriding consensus amongst the judges was just how impressive the six young cheesemongers were to listen to and watch; a testament to the talent and charisma that stands behind cheese counters up and down the country and across the globe.
The standard of the finalists this year was phenomenal. All six of these incredibly talented mongers have a bright future in the cheese world and the cheese world has a bright future with them as part of our community.
Dan Bliss, Buyer at Paxton & Whitfield
The contestants had to wait a nail-biting few hours to hear who would be crowned this year’s Young Cheesemonger of the Year. Hours that wouldn’t have been totally awful, I hasten to add, as their finalists’ invitation included a seat at the World Cheese Awards’ Judges’ Dinner. A celebratory event, which saw the great and good of the industry come together, and the platform for which the winner was to be announced. After the plates were cleared, Richard Newton-Jones, Commercial Director of sponsors Snowdonia Cheese Company, took to the stage and without further delay was delighted to award the trophy to Northern Irish cheesemonger, Aimée Rogers.
Aimée, aged 27 from County Down, has worked at Buchanans Cheesemonger in London since April 2021, where she is involved in many different areas of the business, including maturing the cheeses, hosting tasting events and managing the retail offering. It is this variety that Aimée loves, alongside the opportunities to learn, saying “Every day looks a little different…..there are always new cheeses to taste, new producers to meet and new pairings to discover.” And after today’s success, we reckon these opportunities are just the beginning of a wonderful new career.
To be named as Young Cheesemonger of the Year, in the presence of such talented competition, has blown my mind. I’m so grateful to the Academy of Cheese for the opportunity to take part and to Buchanans Cheesemonger for showing me the ropes and building my confidence in all things cheese. From cheesemakers through to cheesemongers, I’m proud to be part of such a vibrant industry that supports and champions the people behind the craft.
Congratulations Aimée! Take a look at Aimée’s recommended cheeseboard here.
(Aimée) conveyed her passion in a genuine, engaging and honest way and I could tell that she took her role in story telling the work of the producers very seriously. When we saw she also had the technical skills and knowledge to back it up then the winner was a clear choice.
Mathew Carver, Founder of The Cheese Bar
With thanks to…
We would like to thank Justin Tunstall for giving up his time to add sparkle to the occasion; Snowdonia Cheese for sponsoring the event; Mathew Carver of The Cheese Bar, cheese expert Tim Rowcliffe, Keith Kendrick from BBC Good Food, and Dan Bliss from Paxton & Whitfield, for their impartial judging skills and the Guild of Fine Food for providing the venue and vehicle to deliver the final competition.
RACHEL HOLDING – ACADEMY OF CHEESE WRITER
Rachel loves a good cheese and wine session. Her love of all cheeses, artisanal or otherwise, has grown from her early years of working on the cheese counter at Fortnum & Mason. She has a personal mission to taste as many cheeses as possible and to encourage this passion in others.