Earlier this month, Cathy Strange, the global cheese buyer for Whole Foods Markets, broke new ground among the cheese elite when she became not only the first American, but the first non-Italian to win the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano’s prestigious Coltellino d’oro (golden knife), which is given for dedication to preserving the fine craft of the DOP-protected cheese. Besides this honor, she was also made the Consortium’s U.S. ambassador for her mission to spread word of the cheese all over North America. Although these are just a few more accolades to add to her already extensive list–including a place in the International Association of Culinary Professionals and her role as New World President for the Guilde des Fromagers de Saint-Uguzon–it’s certainly one to be proud of, especially with how protective Italians are of their “king.”
According to Whole Foods’ press release, Strange’s efforts in the “Crack Heard Around the World” event caught the eye of Parmigiano Reggiano’s governing body, which noted Strange for “her expert selection of Parmigiano Reggiano wheels which she makes by personally visiting the region yearly to meet the cheesemakers and hand select the cheese.” During the event, Whole Foods’ “Certified Cheese Professionals” crack one wheel of the cheese in every store, offering samples, recipes, and ideas for incorporating it in customers’ everyday cooking.
Whole Foods Market works actively to spread the word about Parmigiano Reggiano to shoppers by hosting a ‘Crack Heard Around the World’ each year where stores simultaneously crack wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano. Additionally, the grocer’s cheesemongers and Certified Cheese Professionals™ are trained on all aspects of Parmigiano Reggiano to ensure the cheese’s integrity and educate shoppers on the best ways to enjoy it.
Strange was awarded the golden knife on June 9 at the 41st Modena Dairy Festival, Parmigiano Reggiano’s major event for producers and professional exposure. The event also celebrated the Consortium’s 80th anniversary and its long history of protecting, facilitating, and exposing Parmigiano Reggiano’s storied life. In addition to Strange, another Whole Foods partner, importing company Forever Cheese, was recognized for its hard work in bringing the cheese to American consumers.
Photo Credit: Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano