Madison, WI — Friday, August 2, 2013 — the room is packed, many cheesemakers are passing by saying “good luck to you”. We smile and respond, “same to you”. We are at the American Cheese Society annual conference which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The event is 4 days long — Wednesday is usually spent touring creameries, market and cheese shops and other local food producers’ facilities. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are a “deep dive in everything cheese related”, from “Green Cheese”, which is a seminar on how to turn whey into biogas via fermentation, to “Building a Creative Organization”, presented by Ari Weinzweig from Zingermans. But, as a cheesemaker, the most exciting part of the conference is the annual competition and award ceremony.
Day in and day out we work hard at the creamery to make the best cheese, butter and crème fraîche that people can possibility imagine. We strive for perfection and take pride in our cheeses. So when those little cups, logs and aged disks are being judged with over 1,790 other products coming from North America, you bet we are nervous, anxious, stressed and even emotional about it.
I am seated with Bob, Allison and our team waiting for the awards to be announced, one category at a time, from fresh cheese curd, to goat cheeses with flavor, soft ripened sheep cheese, cheddar over 24 months to unsalted butter.... the award ceremony takes 2 hours to reveal each one of the best from each class.
As we cheer our colleagues, watching them jump on the podium as they receive their prize, I can’t stop crossing my fingers and telling myself, “ok, if this year we can only get one award, please be the Bonne Bouche, please”………. “And now the American Original Category.” I look on my right and see Joey, our talented aged cheesemaker. We don’t say anything to each other but we are both tense, holding our breath... “3rd place goes to Haystack Mountain, then 2nd place goes to Cypress Grove Chevre for their Humboldt Fog Grande. Now the first place”... (please, please, please) “goes to Vermont Creamery for their Bonne Bouche.” HOORRAYYYYYYYYYY! We all jump off our chairs! The whole Vermont Creamery team is cheering, and Joey and I are giving “high fives” as he runs to the stage to grab the award.
As the competition progresses, we receive some additional awards for our mascarpone, new cultured butter with sea salt and maple, and our Coupole (wrinkly cheeses are getting popular!!!!!).
As we bring those awards back to the creamery, everyone is excited and congratulates each other. Only a few of us can attend the conference while the rest of the team stays at the creamery to keep it going. Every day they flip, ladle, churn, clean, answer emails, tweet, ship, smile, receive, salt, shape, roll, smile, pasteurize, test, taste, sell, demo, stay late, collect, come early, care... So as we celebrate another great win at the American Cheese Society, we should also celebrate the hands behind each one of our products and the many years of their dedication to Vermont Creamery (years in parentheses).
Bob (29), Allison H (29), Aaron (5), Allison W (6), Andrew (2), Betsy (1), Brad (2), Brent (3), Carrol (3), Cindy (10), Don (16), Ed (1), Erica (10), Hilary (4), Jeff C (1), Jeff F (2), Kim (15), Louis (4), Matt (3), Mike (4), Michelle (4), Phyllis (7), Rachel (7), Ray (6), Rene (1), Joey (5), Rose (3), Ryan C (2), Ryan H (new), Scott M (3), Scott T (2), Steve D (3), Steve L (2), Steve P (7), Steve S (5), Tom (new), Tim (3), Travis (10), Wayne (3), Wendell (14), Maureen (7), Chris (new), Kimberly (new), Miles (new), Brad (new), Butch (2), Brian (3).
Cheers to a great team and thanks everyone!
— Adeline (10)