Last Sunday, Rory Stamp of Dedalus Wine Shop in Vermont was crowned champion at the Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco. This was Stamp’s second time competing, after placing fourth at the last Invitational this past summer in New York. “I put so much into this, but never really expected this outcome,” says Stamp, “it feels pretty unbelievable.” In addition to his title of best cheesemonger in the country, Stamp will also travel to London where he’ll stage at Neal’s Yard Dairy, one of the most famous cheese shops.
The Vermont-native began his cheese career 6 years ago milking cows at The Grey Barn and Farm in Martha’s Vineyard. After dabbling in both cheesemaking and sales, Stamp became a monger at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After that, he returned to Vermont to develop the cheese program at Dedalus. “Our goal is to lower all barriers to entry at the cheese counter,” says Stamp, “we’re really trying to create a cheese consumption culture.” Despite the huge culture of artisan food production in Vermont, Stamp explains that there actually aren’t a lot of cheese shops in the area. Dedalus was the first cut-to-order cheese counter in Burlington.
At the Cheesemonger Invitational, contestants are each assigned different cheeses and tasked with creating a perfect beverage pairing, cheese plate, and “bite”, among other challenges. For his beverage pairing, Stamp paired Cremont from Vermont Creamery with a Yuzu Vesper, a balanced mix of Hendrick’s Gin, Lillet Blanc, and a preserved yuzu simple syrup, garnished with candied preserved yuzu and served with a rosé “bubbleback.” Stamp also wowed the judges with his perfect cheese plate, which also featured Cremont. The platter had three separate and equally complex presentations, all inspired by the traditional cuisine of Nice in France.
His perfect bite was perhaps his most impressive feat: pink peppercorn macarons, dusted with edible gold and filled with Meyer lemon curd and a buttercream made with Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt Tam. Stamp describes his artistic process as a result of obsessively watching The Great British Baking Show and making somewhere between 400-600 macarons.
The Cheesemonger Invitational is both the only competition for cheesemongers in the country and an incredible educational experience. Contestants spend the two days before the competition undergoing intensive classes and educational seminars to prepare them for the Invitational—and their careers. “What’s great about the Invitational is that we are all getting together and establishing the standard for mongers everywhere,” says Stamp, “we’re committed to knowing about producers, flavors, and pairings for our customers. Ultimately, it’s the consumer who will shape the industry.”
It’s impossible to miss the sense of comradery and excitement among the all of the competitors at the Invitational. Whether you’re a cheesemonger or just a cheese lover, witnessing this event is a wonderful experience. If you’re interested in attending the next competition, follow The Cheesemonger Invitational on Instagram for information about this summer’s event in New York City. We’ll see you there!