“Cheesemongers are the Obi-Wan Kenobi for consumers.”
Adam Moskowitz tells this to me as we dive into the irreplaceable role these cheese educators play in the supply chain. The Chief Executive Officer of Larkin Cold Storage recently held his bi-annual Cheesemonger Invitational (CMI), which invites cheesemongers from some of the finest cheese shops around the country to challenge each other in a test of their expertise.
“The ambition of the CMI is to shed light on and celebrate cheesemongers,” he begins. “I operate a warehouse business and a cheese import company, and after becoming experienced with trade shows, I came up with the idea for the event. I spent a considerable amount of time as a cheesemonger prior to coming to the warehouse business, and my hope was to celebrate this shared passion with the cheese community.”
The challenge begins with a written test, taste test, and aroma test, before moving on to what Adam calls “the cut wrap wrap,” where challengers cut a quarter pound to the exact, wrap that quarter pound in cheese paper, and then wrap a quarter and half wheel using Saran Wrap. This is followed by the salesmanship round and the foodservice round—otherwise known as the perfect beverage pairing, the perfect plate, and the perfect bite. While they’re creating those perfect bites, CMI opens its doors to the public to partake in a festival of cheese sampling.
“Once everybody’s there, I announce the finalists and welcome them on stage,” Adam says. “They must answer the one question we all hate to answer, which is: What is your favorite cheese? Next comes cheese trivia, and then the speed-cut round, where I give them a gigantic wedge of cheese to cut as many quarter pounds as possible in under a minute. They speed wrap those same pieces and then cut me a perfect half pound. And then they have to do the perfect wrap, where we give them five of the strangest shapes of cheese to wrap in under a minute.”
Sound exciting? Imagine all of this happening while Adam MC’s the event in his iconic cow costume getting the audience to chant "Moo Baa Maa."
This round, the event took place at the Brooklyn Expo Center in New York on Friday, October 1, and crowned Tommy Amorim from Di Bruno Brothers as its champion. Di Bruno Brothers is the bellwether cheese shop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, according to Adam, and this is the first time a cheesemonger from the store came out victorious.
Not only does the winner get a trophy, cash prize, trip to visit Wisconsin cheesemakers, and gift bag, but they take home an invaluable folder of feedback from the judges, all of whom are past winners of the challenge.
The Cheesemonger Invitational will be kicking off in 2022 with the West Coast event, which will take place January 16 at The Midway in San Francisco, California. Adam and I will be diving into the upcoming event in our next interview, so stay tuned.