These 51 cheesemongers do a whole lot more than simply cut the cheese. They also weigh it, wrap it, plate it, study it, store it, and sell it on a daily basis. And in June 2013, they showed off these skills at the fourth annual Cheesemonger Invitational in New York, a competition that’s a bit like “Iron Chef,” “Jeopardy,” and “Survivor” all rolled into one and fueled by plenty of food and drinks. Held over a 14-hour day that included blind taste tests and a written exam, the competition is a chance to prove professional chops (and win $1,000 and a trip to salumi camp).
After allowing news of his victory to soak in, Justin Trosclair shared his thoughts on the event:
“Entering the 2013 Cheesemonger Invitational was kind of random for me this year. I came in second in 2012 and to be frank, I was happy enough getting second and calling it a day. The first year I competed was really nerve-wracking! So when Richard, the owner of St. James Cheese, asked if I wanted to compete this year, I said, ‘Not really.’ We went back and forth talking about it and decided that somebody should represent Louisiana and St. James. I sucked it up and got out there.
“That being said, I think that the Cheesemonger Invitational is a truly unique and special event. It’s just as much a grueling and difficult competition as it is an opportunity to meet new people from the industry and celebrate this wonderful thing that we get to do every day.
“The most difficult part of the competition for me was the cheese identification round. Unless you recognize the cheese by sight, you constantly second-guess your instincts. You get a 1-ounce piece of cheese that could literally be anything. When you don’t allow your brain to narrow down a decision in any way, it is extremely difficult to trust your judgment.”