The eleventh edition of Cheese, Slow food’s signature event, kicked-off in Bra, Italy this Friday. According to Slow Food, Cheese is a celebration of those “remaining cheesemakers and herders who, with their passion and commitment, are resisting standardization and the homogenization of taste.”
And the inauguration saw the presentation of the Slow Cheese Award to six such committed producers from USA, Georgia, Cape Verde and Italy.
In its fifth installment now, Slow Cheese Awards honors the passion of shepherds and craftsmen who reject shortcuts and continue to produce cheese and other food products while preserving naturalness, traditions, and flavors. Such small-scale producers continue to resist, irrespective of the hard work, risks and isolation involved, keeping alive an extraordinary living heritage of biodiversity and human skill.
The award ceremony, which took place on the opening day of the four-day event, was attended by the president of Slow Food International Carlo Petrini, and other leading local authorities.
Here’s a look at this year’s Slow Cheese Award winners:
Andy Hatch – Wisconsin (United States) of the American Raw Milk Cheese Presidium
Andy Hatch received the award not only for the sensory qualities of his cheese but also for his work in raising American public awareness about the importance of raw milk and his daily efforts to protect the biodiversity of artisan dairy products. Andy Hatch fights every day to assert a model of livestock farming and cheese production with a low impact on the planet’s ecosystems, respectful of the rhythms of nature and animal welfare, and capable of producing authentic, complex flavors that are a pleasure for the palate.
Kakha Abulidze – Alaznistavi Agricultural Cooperative (Georgia)
Kakha Abulidze received the award on behalf of the producers of the Alaznistavi Cooperative for the latter’s work in protecting a local area with an ancient culture. The Cooperative’s producers ‘resist’ in extremely tough conditions at high altitudes on the plateaus of the Caucasus Mountains, where they protect highly endangered local animal breeds. They preserve and hand down traditional production methods to prevent cheeses such as Tushuri Guda—boarded on the Slow Food Ark of Taste—from being lost. It is thanks to their everyday commitment that the culture of the local Tusheti people has survived to this day.
Roberto Logias – Slow Food Shepherds’ Fiore Sardo Presidium (Sardinia, Italy)
Roberto Logias received the award on behalf of the Sardinian breeders and producers who work to preserve a tradition, an uncontaminated environment, and a culture. More specifically, the award acknowledged Roberto’s personal refusal to use selected enzymes. It is vital, in fact, to save not only animal and plant biodiversity but also the biodiversity of microbial flora, endangered by the rampant use, even by artisan producers, of industrial enzymes, the new protagonists of a standardized market of homogenized, simple, uniform flavors.
Irineu Eusebio da Luz – President of the Criadores das Montanhas Cooperative Slow Food Pianalto Norte Goat’s Cheese Presidium (Cape Verde)
Irineu Eusebio da Luz received the award on behalf of all the producers of the Criadores das Montanhas Cooperative, a Slow Food Presidium, for the latter’s contribution to the preservation of cheese production in a difficult, hot and arid area, virtually bereft of the most elementary services. With their presence they allow an entire community to survive. Their cheese, promoted by a Slow Food Presidium, is also testimony to the integration, over the course of the centuries, of the souls of the people of Cape Verde and Europe, particularly Portugal.
Luigi De Carolis of Civita di Cascia (Umbria) and Paola Capanna of Amatrice (Lazio)
Luigi De Carolis and Paola Capanna received the award on behalf of all the producers of the regions of Central Italy hit by the 2016 earthquake who, despite the tragedy their communities have suffered, are nonetheless resisting and beginning to rebuild their homes, villages, and workshops. Thanks to them, the area will not be depopulated and abandoned but will rise again and continue to preserve its traditions and biodiversity.