Post Challenge: The Cheesemonger Invitational competitors tell all
The Cheesemonger Invitational of July 8th was a resounding success, with much beer and cheese ingested, and much merriment had amongst the competing mongers. We interviewed them on their way into the competition, so we thought we'd get a quick post-competition update from some of the cheesemongers who threw down in the Larkin warehouse that fateful night. Here's what they have to say.
Top l-r: Matt Rubiner, Rubiner's Cheesemongers, MA; Doralice Handal, The Cheese Shop of Healdsburg, CA; Ezekial Ferguson, Di Bruno Bros., PA; Tim Gaddis, Star Provisions, GA.
Culture: What was the hardest challenge for you?
Tim Gaddis, of Star Provisions, Georgia: I was eliminated in the cut & wrap so apparently that was the hardest. I felt like the tasting challenge was the most stressful. The organizers did a great job bringing in lesser known cheeses.
Zeke Ferguson, of Di Bruno Bros., Pennsylvania: probably the 6 beer chug before the introduction or the tasting round, ovin sardo?!!! that moskowitz guy is out of his mind!!
Doralice Handal, of the Cheese Shop of Healdsburg, California: Getting on and off the stage
Matt Rubiner, of Rubiner's Cheesemongers, Massachusetts: Cheese plate, historically my strongest suit. "Composite" plate threw me.
Nick Tsioros Olympic Cheese, Toronto: Balancing the Six Point Beers in between rounds. I love pairing beer with cheese and enjoy beers that come from microbreweries. They make a fine product, we're talking world class beer here. I liked it so much I was sure to bring some back to Canada with me!
Culture: Which cheese did you pick for your intro speech and why?
Doralice Handal Fiore Sardo because it tastes like bacon and I LOVE bacon.
Tim Gaddis: Montgomery's Cheddar. It was after tasting this cheese that I knew I wanted to be a cheesemonger. Montgomery's exemplifies every thing I think cheese should be.
Matt Rubiner: The Pecorini of central and southern Italy. My affection for pecorino is well documented, notably in the pages of your fine magazine.
Zeke Ferguson: Montgomery's Cheddar. As to why, you should check out the most recent issue of culture to find out. Also there are some funny pictures out there of the Montgomery's cheesemaker holding my leg with the Montgomery's tattoo. Find them!!
Nick Tsioros: My favorite cheese comes from the Netherlands. Beemster Cheese, an aged gouda-cheese with a great bite and smooth tones of butterscotch and pecans. It's a versatile cheese that is only limited to your culinary creativity. It's also lactose-free.
Culture: On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your experience, and why?
Nick Tsioros: 9. I had an amazing experience meeting cheesemongers from all over the world, learning new pairing ideas, being able to discuss industry issues, and being in a fun atmosphere! Carlos Yescas of Lactography.com told me about this crazy event so I want to thank him for putting me in contact with Adam Jay Moskowitz of Larkin. Adam did a great job of organizing this memorable event and made me feel very welcomed.
Matt Rubiner: A 10 without glory is, of course, impossible. Subtract one point for each place by which I failed to win. Add back one for making it to the final round. Add two more for the pleasure of being defeated by cheesemongers I respect. Call it 9.
Zeke Ferguson: Absolutely a ten, the whole vibe of the event is fun and positive. You have 700 people in a room celebrating a delicious food that has been a part of the human diet for the last 5,000 years, how could you go wrong? And i finished in the top 5, that helped the overall experience too.
Tim Gaddis: 10! Being around so many people that feel the same way as I do about cheese is invigorating. I may not have won the competition but I found several new cheeses and made many new contacts.
Doralice Handal It was a blast just to be in a room full of my peers
Culture: What time did you go to bed that night?
Doralice Handal: 5am.
Zeke Ferguson: The Di Bruno party bus got back to Philly at about 3:45, so just a little after that.
Tim Gaddis: Around 2am. I left before it was over but it was a late night.
Matt Rubiner: 2:07am.
Nick Tsioros: Ha! Me, Jana Werner (The Pasta Shop, California), Shane Wahlund (DeLorenti, Washington), and company stayed until the lights turned on. We ended up hanging out, crushing beers in a long island city apartment. I got back to the hotel around 5am.
Culture: Are you psyched for next year?
Tim Gaddis: Hell yes!
Matt Rubiner: Alas, I will retire. But the training of a new generation commences.
Zeke Ferguson: Totally psyched for next year, although I may have to turn the reigns over to a young buck to defend the Di Bruno name. Not to limit myself, but with competition like this it may be hard to place higher than 4th, so I might go out on this sort of high note.
Doralice Handal: Yup!
Nick Tsioros: Totally. It can only get bigger and better!!