The search for our next big cheese has begun, which will see expert cheese assessors from around NZ tasting more than two tonnes of specialty cheese.

With four new cheesemakers entering the awards this year, a record number of hobbyist cheesemakers (amateur producers), the rise in Haloumi as a new Kiwi favourite, and the use of a variety of different milks, the stage has been set for an exciting competition. It reflects the dynamic and diverse industry that characterises one of our biggest export industries.

Cheesemakers throughout the country are rolling up their sleeves as they produce and prepare around 450 specimen cheeses for judging in the 2011 Cuisine Champions of Cheese Awards, now in their eighth year. Winners will be announcedata gala dinner for the industry on Monday 1 March, 2011 at The Langham, Auckland.

“Judging by the number and quality of entries, the interest in speciality cheese has never been greater,” says Vikki Lee Goode, organiser of the 2011 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards. 

On Sunday 27 February expert cheese assessors from around the country will taste more than two tonnes of specialty cheese. A total of 28 judges, including some of New Zealand’s most renowned food experts and writers, will consume and critique hundreds of different cheeses.

The Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards are a celebration of local cheesemaking honouring the technical excellence in the manufacture of NZ cheese.

Every cheese will be examined by both a technical and an aesthetic judge and graded strictly to pre-determined bronze, silver and gold standards. Judges will also determine a Champion cheese in each category before selecting the two best cheeses in the competition to be named supreme winners of the Cuisine Artisan Award for small boutique producers, and the Yealands Estate Champion of Champions for larger producers.

Award organisers say there have been some stand out entries in this year’s awards. In particular the original cheese making category has inspired some interesting entries.

“There’s a cheese made by Gruff Junction that’s inspired by the Christchurch earthquake called Darfield. It’s a soft pyramid of goat cheese with a layer of black ash in the middle, which symbolises the fault-line, and when you cut the pyramid, the knife drags the ash against the white curd and looks like a seismograph,” says Vikki Lee Goode.

Haloumi is a popular entrant to the 2011 Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Awards. Eight years ago there was only one Haloumi cheese entered into the awards. Now there are ten entries from ten different companies.

Cuisine NZ Champions of Cheese Award winners will be announcedata glittering gala dinner at The Langham, Auckland on Tuesday 1 March 2011.

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