Good Afternoon Cheesy1’s,
Today I’m recapping my first time experience of the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich, Cheshire. On Tuesday 25th July 2017 over 250 cheese aficionados from across the country & Globe gather for the worlds largest cheese awards and for two days live in cheesy heaven. The show had its 120th year in 2017 but it was my first year at this particular show, I really hope I get invited again next year because it was incredible. I was in awe of the size and scale of the marquee which is the largest free-standing marquee in Europe! It was filled to the brim with cheese and enough enthusiasm & passion to fill the space twice over. I arrived early so I could take in all the atmosphere I could and headed to the Judge’s coffee area to meet with some familiar faces Ros Windsor from Paxton & Whitfield, Paul Thomas from the Academy Of Cheese, Justin Tunstall, Richard Paul from Bradbury’s and a surprise visit from Juliet Harbutt. I was asked to take a photo for a group of Gentlemen with the Guilde des Fromagers hats on and it turned out to be for Roland Barthelemy the Chairman of the Guilde. It was a pleasure to meet him and of course I expressed my aspiration to one day be nominated to join the Guilde. It is always brilliant to catch up with everyone and share unique stories & ideas from our last meet.
Finishing my conversations & catch up with everyone I decided to go for a wander around the marquee where I then met Bruce & Catherine Macdonald at the Guild Of Cheese Graders stall and looked at the official accreditation which Bruce was recently awarded for his course.
I then bumped into the wonderful folks over at Belton Farm and expressed my love for the new packaging & branding they have on offer this year. After a lovely catch up I moved on to the cheese tables to have a look at all the wondrous cheeses that the awards had in-store for the eager Judges.
The call was then announced for the Judges to head back to the coffee area for the morning briefing; where the expectation to finish Judging by midday was said so that results could be announced at the Trade Day Lunch. When you start after 9am you think you have plenty of time, but don’t underestimate the enormity of the task! With the class of DP203 which was Hard Pressed Non UK there were 52 cheeses to meticulously work through. The stand out cheese in the category was VON MÜHLENEN PREMIER CRU GRUYÈRE which was awarded Gold in the class. It was rich, nutty, well-balanced and was a superb example of a Gruyère cheese. Having worked through the class and finishing at just after 11.15am it was within the allotted time but with lunching moving closer it was the last thing on the Judges mind after a morning full of cheese but couldn’t be turned down.
After the photo I headed back round the marquee to take a closer look at the retail category to see all the hard-work that goes into collecting all the cheeses together to form what would be if it was a separate entity the largest cheese show in the country. I then made my way over to the Bradbury’s stand where I had a sample of Old Amsterdam and Keens cheddar just because I could. The procession of the Guilde Des Fromagers was next where they parade through the marquee but also induct new Members into the chapter where they sign the book to join and receive their medallion in front of the Trade show crowd one of the inductees this year was Sean Wilson who was a Coronation Street actor turned Chef & Celebrated Cheese Maker.
Once the Guilde De Fromagers chapter induction had finished I headed to the lunch where I took my seat in another huge marquee where they were hosting 1,300 people from across several industries for lunch. I opted for a light ham & beef salad but don’t tell anyone because I may have had two desserts. The Chairman of the International Cheese Awards Chris Chisnell stepped up onto the plinth to announce that this year’s Supreme Champion and winner of the Westminster Cup for 2017 was Bradbury’s Cheese for their Roquefort Papillon available from Waitrose and Reserve Supreme Champion was awarded to Arla Food’s Tuxford and Tebbutt for their blue Stilton. With the winners announced and food eaten I decided that it was time for me to make an exit but I must add reluctantly because I could have stayed until it closed, but Shropshire was calling. It was a wonderful day and awards and It is my aim to be back for the 2018 show because it is just too good to miss the cheese and the networking opportunities. I want to thank everyone involved at the show & who I met and look forward to seeing you all again soon. I went back to the car park to find my car then made my hour & a half journey to Shropshire for my visit to Ludlow Food Centre which will be reviewed on my blog next week. Thank you for reading and I hope my passion and excitement for the show comes through and if you want to check all the results from ICA 2017 then just click here.