We've been following cheese expert, Carlos Yesecas' adventures on Twitter and through his Oldways Cheese Coalition newsletter, and have determined one thing: Carlos is passionate about cheese! (Check out the photo gallery at the bottom of this article) So, we asked him, "what were your takeaways from the American Cheese Awards this year?" Here is what he told us:
For this year’s ACS, my goal was to try cheeses I didn’t know before. Living in the vicinity of really amazing cheese stores spoils me with the wide selection available. So trying new cheeses was really exciting. The top 5 cheeses I picked are amongst cheeses I tried for the first time. Here is the list, in no particular order.
The annual conference is an opportunity to be with folks in the cheese industry and not feel like you need to meet your quotas for sales. The conference opens a possibility for interaction other food shows do not have. It is a moment to learn and also to teach. The change of location is also important, because it allows people from different regions of the U.S. to attend.
I think the Meet the Cheesemaker event is one of the most successful events of any of the conferences and competitions that I attend every year. This time, I think the best display was the Meadowood Farms stand during the Meet the Cheesemaker. Veronica Pedraza, the Head Cheesemaker, was there to answer questions and presented her cheeses along pictures painted by Mike Geno. The portraits that Mike Geno does of cheese are now famous and this was a great collaboration. The cheese industry is, right now, all about collaborations, and this one was one of the most successful this year.
Medals and trophies in food are important to inform novice consumers on quality and value. Many times, people without much knowledge of a food product will choose something with a medal or awards, because they are trusting that a panel of experts is recommending it. Medals and awards take a bit of the anxiety away from consumers, however, not all awards are created equal. They differ on the caliber of judges, and also on the number of awards given. The ACS award is an important one, because it is focused on only American cheeses.
The best surprise was the city of Des Moines. I was pleasantly surprised with the public spaces, public art, the museum of art in the city—it's a place worth visiting. Another surprise was the number of international cheese folks who are now part of the ACS. There were cheesemongers, makers, and representatives from Canada, Colombia, India, England, Ireland, France, Italy, and Japan. I hope this trend continues and we can use the expertise of a diverse group people to better the cheese production in the U.S.
On the other hand, I was really disappointed with the food provided by the Convention Center. It was just not good and there were hardly any vegetarian options. I say this, because we are all in the food industry. We know what good food is, and we should serve as ambassadors for these types of venues. We could request better food and demostrate to convention center managers, and others, that there is a value in serving good food. Here at Oldways, we have made this request an important part of our programming in the various conferences we host. We oughta do what we preach.
I was happy to hear Dr. Beru, Director of the Office of Food Safety in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He declared that the FDA is looking at the current 60-day aging rule to “understand what (if any) aspects of the current regulatory framework for the production of cheese manufactured from unpasteurized milk act as an impediment to efficient and effective control measures to significantly minimize pathogens that may be present in unpasteurized milk.”
This confirms that the FDA may eliminate the 60-day aging rule and transition to a new framework that will allow younger cheeses to be imported and sold in the United States. We are optimistic that in the spirit of cooperation, the FDA will engage with cheesemakers, scientists, and consumers to define any new rules. The Oldways Cheese Coalition is engaged and active to ensure consumer voices are heard. To find out more about our actions promoting and protecting raw milk cheese, people can visit our website: www.oldwayscheese.org
Thank you, Carlos for sharing your experience with us.
For the latest on Oldways and the ACS, point your internet device to Deli Market News.