Tasting 225 cheeses over two days for a noble cause

Judges of the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix sponsored by Dairy farmers of Canada.
Judges of the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Somebody had to do it, taste 225 cheeses over two days.

That was the task facing the eight judges gathered in Montreal over Saturday and Sunday to taste their way through the 225 cheeses entered in the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, the bi-annual competition that decides the best in cow’s milk cheese made in Canada.

Finalists will be revealed on February 26 with the winners announced on April 18. CheeseLover.ca will post the results the same day.

The first time most of the winners will be available for tasting and purchase by the public in one place will be at the third annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival on June 1-2 in Picton in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, just across the Bay of Quinte from Belleville.

Meet the eight judges who gave their all for a noble cause (in the photo, from left to right):

Sue Riedl: A Toronto-based food writer who is the cheese columnist for The Globe and Mail and also hosts its “Chef Basics” video series. She’s a regular contributor to foodnetwork.ca and writes for her blog (cheeseandtoast.com) about cheese and other edibles. Sue studied at Queen’s University before obtaining her cuisine certificate at the Cordon Bleu in London, England. She has worked in Toronto’s dining industry and has graduated from Canada’s Cheese Education Guild. Click here for her blog on the judging.

Michael Howell: Executive Chef of Tempestuous Culinary in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, cookbook author, leader of Slow Food Nova Scotia, President of The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia and sits on the Board of Taste of Nova Scotia. Michael is a strident advocate for local food, family farms and new farmers. Click here for his Facebook post on the judging.

Allison Spurrell: Owner of the cheese boutique Les Amis du Fromage and the cheese-inspired restaurant Au Petit Chavignol in Vancouver.  Allison holds a certificate in cheese making technology from the University of Guelph and was inducted into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers – Confrérie de Saint-Uguzon. Allison has been a member of the CCGP jury since 2006.

Gurth Pretty: Former president and owner of Cheese of Canada, Gurth is a true cheese lover and connoisseur. He was a jury member in the 2009 and 2011 CCGP events, and was invited to be a judge at the 2011 American Cheese Society competition. Chef and author of several books on cheese, he works passionately to have more delicious cheese be made available to Canadian consumers. He’s currently a Senior Category Manager of deli cheese for Loblaw Companies Ltd. Click here for his photos of the judging.

Danny St Pierre: After graduating from l’École Hôtelière de Laval cooking school, Danny rose through the world of cuisine including advanced-level training at the Institut de Tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Québec in 1998 and two years at the world-renowned Toqué restaurant in Montreal, where he earned his stripes as a chef. Danny also served as host of the Ma Caravane au Canada TV show that aired on TV5 Monde. He is the owner of Auguste restaurant in Sherbrooke, Quebec and co-owner of Chez Augustine, a new café and caterer that celebrates home cooking for both eating in or taking out.

Reg Hendrickson: Reg has 40 years of experience in the food industry including teaching professional culinary programs in the Calgary public school system. He has a 20-year working relationship with Dairy Farmers of Canada and was responsible for the research and development of its initial cheese training material. He provides training for deli staff, and delivers cheese seminars especially geared to the needs of food industry professionals and the interests of the general public.

Ian Picard: Vice-President of La Fromagerie Hamel, one of Quebec’s finest and highly reputed cheese shops. Ian studied everything there is to learn about cheese at the École Nationale d’Industrie Laitière et des Biotechnologies in Poligny, France. He has worked with some of the most renowned master cheese makers in Paris, Dijon and Alsace to perfect his technique.

Phil Bélanger: Jury Chairman and the longest-standing jury member. Phil’s been a part of the CCGP since its inception in 1998. He has had a distinguished career to the Atlantic agrifood industry and currently is Senior Consultant for Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour for the province of New Brunswick and Chairman of La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs for the New Brunswick chapter, as well as an independent consultant in hospitality and tourism.

Earlybird ticket sales for The Great Canadian Cheese Festival are under way.

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