Living the cream as an apprentice cheese judge

Sweet cheesus! It was a cheese fever dream of epic portions at the The Australian Grand Dairy Awards judging table. The annual awards recognise the cream of the crop from around Australia. And this year they cooked up something extra special for lactose lovers. Members of the public had the opportunity to put their days of late night gelato tasting and cheese board sampling to the test. Lucky competition winners received an exclusive invitation to judge some of the top dairy finalists and help select the winner of the People’s Choice Awards.

Upon arrival at the Grand Dairy headquarters we donned our judging attire, complete with white coats and clipboards. Sonia Cousins – cheese educator, judge, and cheese monger – provided a quick tutorial. It might sound delicious, but dairy judging is serious business. It’s a full sensory experience that incorporates smell, texture, appearance, and flavour. (Plus some unique challenges – like judging butter?!)

Entering the judging room was enough to convince me I’d died and gone to dairy heaven. A massive table topped with a white cloth was spread with all manner of dairy. Off to the side sparkling water, apple slices, and crackers sat ready to cleanse our palates. It was a blind tasting, so we only knew the styles of what we were judging (which ran the gamut from goat cheese to flavoured ice-cream). Luckily, we also knew our samples were top quality, gold medal winners. (No milk from cows sneaking into onion patches passed our lips.)

AGDA helps showcase new products and things you never knew existed. (Surprising even a seasoned cheese monger like Cousins.) In addition to classics like cheddar and brie, we also tasted lesser known cheeses like quark, labneh, mountain style, and raclette.

Personally, I couldn’t get enough of the award-winning blue cheeses and the licorice ice-cream was also an unexpected stand-out. With our judging scores tallied, now it’s time for the public to have their say. Voting is open the People’s Choice Award – and it comes with a chance to win a year’s supply of cheese!

– Jenny
Jenny Schmidt’s love affair with dairy started with a part-time job in a creamery as a university student. When she’s not stuffing her face with cheese, you can find her sampling the latest craft beer or sipping a creative cocktail.

Vote now in the people’s choice awards and go into the draw to win a year’s supply of cheese from the Australian Grand Dairy Awards.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Keep Left.