“Essential Excellence” defines expanded annual cheese competition

Utah Cheese judging 2019

The Utah Cheese Awards, a cheese plate food competition and exhibition announced it’s 4th running today. The deadline is August 21 and the judging will take place on August 22 and 24.

In a nod to how the industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme of the show is “Essential Excellence” – in honor of the essential workers involved in producing food, and bringing it to the consumer.

Due to an overwhelming number of entries received in 2019 the show, for the first year, the evaluations will be split into two judging sessions. These will be August 22 in Salt Lake City, and August 24 in Logan. Show founder Steven Jerman explained, “With around 80 total submissions last year I felt it would be worth it to bring in more judges – both for the extra time that allows organizing the entries, but also to lesson fatigue to the judges pallet’s”. 

To gain more qualified judges, the show is allowing persons associated with companies producing cheese plate foods to judge the show – given they won’t be judging the category their company produces.

Scheduled to judge in Salt Lake City This year is Tosha Rustad, chef and owner at Cafe La Muse d’Or, a coffee shop in the Sorenson Arts and Education Complex on the University of Utah campus. Tosha has judged every year since the beginning and was awarded the 2019 Utah Cheese Awards Special Recognition Award for that work. 

Joining her is Mike Riedel. He was born and raised in Salt Lake County where he discovered craft beer in the early 1990s, as local breweries began to emerge. He started the Utah beer Blog in 2005 to advocate for Utah suds (which weren’t getting the attention they deserved elsewhere.)

Since then he has been honored to judge beer competitions in and out of Utah and is the top “Beer Nerd” at City Weekly where he shows a great ability to break down flavor descriptions when describing malt beverages.

Rounding out the Salt Lake team will be Patrick Thomas, the chef-turned interior design owns Salt Lake Fermenting Company which produces a probiotic hot sauce in South Salt Lake.

Judging in Logan will be lead by Dave Irish, who is perhaps, the Utahn most knowledgeable about the science and production of cheese. He holds a Master of Science in food safety and quality from Utah State University (USU), and has worked in those fields for some of the largest food processors and cheesemakers in the country.

Closer to home, he has consulted with many of the artisan start-ups that have gone on to be Utah Cheese Awards winners. Currently, he is the manager of USU’s Aggie Creamery which not only produces the well known Aggie Ice Cream, but also several award-winning cheeses, including the Utah Cheese Awards most awarded selection, “Aggiano.”

Also scheduled to judge in Logan is Barney Northrup the executive chef of Crumb Brother’s Artisan Bread He was previously a chef at Herm’s Inn.

And finally, Liz Kennard Butcher completes, the Logan Team. Liz founded “Butcher’s Bunches” a line of hand-crafted preserves that are made in Cache Valley and distributed nationally.

Information on entering can be found on the Utah Cheese Awards website, utahcheeseawards.com under call-for-entries. Those with questions may contact Mr. Jerman at utahcheeseawards@gmail.com. Winners will be announced in a public ceremony in October of this year.