Sam Rollins (above) will be headed to France as part of Team USA at the 2023 Mondial du Fromage.
When it comes to cheese, the US has proven itself to be a powerhouse. We produce the most cheese of any country in the world (after the EU), have held the title of “Best Cheese in the World,” and are home to the cheese capital of the world (it’s Plymouth, Wisconsin, in case you didn’t know).
But there is one accolade that has proven elusive, the title of Best Cheesemonger in the World, and Adam Moskowitz is on a mission to bring home the gold. CEO of Larkin Cold Storage and Columbia Cheese, Moskowitz has been organizing domestic cheesemonger competitions for years. The Cheesemonger Invitational (CMI) has long been a opportunity for the cheese industry to congregate for a rowdy and celebratory competition.
Over the years the competition has become more serious, and this past Sunday marked a new evolution of the longstanding tradition as Moskowitz hosted the second-ever CMI Masters at Larkin Cold Storage in Queens, New York. The first CMI Masters was in 2018, with winners Rory Stamp and Jordan Edwards going on to compete in the 2019 Mondial du Fromage.
CMI Masters brought together 13 of the country’s best cheese professionals and put them through an expert-level cheesemonger competition. In addition to oral and written exams, they competed in five practical exams: 1) composing a cheese plate 2) creating a combination of tastes 3) transforming a cheese into a new cheese 4) building a gigantic cheese catering presentation 5) sculpting an artistic presentation only using cheese.
The public was invited to observe the practical exams, all the while indulging in an expertly crafted 50-foot grazing board filled with artisan cheeses from Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, England, Germany, California, Wisconsin, and Vermont.
The competition was stiff as competitors raced against the clock to create larger-than-life displays of cheese and meticulously crafted bites. While everyone’s creations were inspired, there were a few that really stuck out. Alex Armstrong paired Gruyere with garlic breadcrumbs and a French onion soup aspic for a striking small bite. Tommy Amorim used maple sugar cotton candy to build an ethereal set for his gigantic cheese catering presentation, which doubled as a delicious accompaniment to Vermont Creamery Bijou.
Another innovative display came from Sam Rollins, who used various powders to create a visually striking presentation for his cheese plate (pictured below).
At the end of the event, Rollins and Courtney Johnson were announced the winners, with Armstrong selected as an alternate. They will travel to Tours, France this September to compete as Team USA in the Mondial du Fromage and hope to bring home the title of World’s Best Cheesemonger.
Rollins is a monger at Cowbell Fine Cheese. Johnson is executive director of the WA Cheesemakers Association, owner of the mobile cheese shop, Street Cheese, and a culinary instructor. Armstrong is a cheese evaluator and educator at Jasper Hill Farm.