Behind the Scenes with a Championship Cheese Judge
We’re so proud of our Dairy Products Quality Manager, Jill Allen, who had the incredible honor of judging at the 2013 United States Championship Cheese Contest®. At Tillamook, Jill and her team taste test hundreds of cheese samples every day to make sure each little loaf delivers the consistent quality our fans love. Although Jill didn’t judge any Tillamook Cheese at the competition, she put her fine-tuned taste buds to good use by grading several cheeses from across the country. Jill wasn’t the only one to receive recognition at the championship; check out the awards our own Tillamook cheeses took home! I had the opportunity to chat with Jill about her exciting experience.
Q: Was this your first time judging a cheese competition?
A: Yes, this was my first professional judging competition. I was very excited to judge at a National Level.
Q: How were you selected to be a judge?
A: I obtained my Wisconsin Cheese Graders License, and then was nominated to judge by other grading professionals.
Q: Which types of cheese did you taste?
A: I graded Flavored Semi-Soft Cheeses, Smoked Hard Cheeses, Reduced Fat Soft and Semi-Soft Cheeses, and Reduced Fat Hard Cheese.
Q: What were you looking for in each category?
A: We judged the cheese based on flavor; body and texture; makeup and appearance; color; and rind development.
Q: How many samples do you think you tasted altogether?
A: Probably around 100.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the judging process? Did you eat or drink anything to cleanse your palette in between samples?
A: I was partnered with another judge and we worked as a pair. Each judge had to be precise and assess the cheeses individually, but also collaborate as a team. After each tasting we cleansed our pallets with tart green apples and water.
Q: Did you learn anything surprising during the competition?
A: It was great being able to experience the excitement of judging at the US National Cheese Contest®. Judges came from all corners of the country. It was an experience like no other; to be part of an elite judging team that gets to experience and choose the best cheese in the United States.
Q: How much cheese do you taste each day at Tillamook, and do you ever get tired of eating it?
A: Tillamook has a grading team of 6 members, and together we probably grade around 400 pieces of cheese a day. My team loves what we do and loves Tillamook cheese!
Q: What’s your favorite type of Tillamook Cheese?
A: My favorite Tillamook Cheese is any of our Cheddars, Yellow or White.
Q: What is the weirdest type of cheese you have ever tried?
A: At the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest, I tasted a semi soft cheese, wrapped in seaweed!