After several runner-up finishes in prior years at The Cheesemonger Invitational, Flora Artisanal Cheese’s Chouaf was starting to earn a reputation as the Susan Lucci of cheesemongering. But, yesterday he won. “You are the best cheesemonger in America,” the event’s organizer told Chouaf late last night.
Chouaf defeated top cheesemongers from around the country in a series of tests like blind taste identification, written tests, cutting, speed-wrapping, and a mock sale. But, the test that has become a favorite of cheesemongers and spectators alike is the “perfect bite,” where mongers combine cheese with other ingredients to create an ideal morsel of food. To help plan his perfect bite, Chouaf called on the talent of Ian Redshaw of Lampo, creator of Charlottesville’s 2015 Dish of the Year. Together, Redshaw and Chouaf devised a bite inspired by the snack food Bugles. In this case, the bugles were made of Redshaw’s own dehydrated lamb mortadella, baked and stuffed with Kunik cheese, and topped with a pudding of garlic scapes and spruce tips, and pomegranate aril.
Charlottesville continued its streak of amazing showings at the Cheesemonger Invitational, as Sara Adduci was again a runner-up. With Adduci at Feast! and Chouaf at Timbercreek Market, two of the nation’s top three cheesemongers work less than a mile from one another right here in Charlottesville.
To excel at the competition’s rigorous tests requires a belief in oneself that can come only from years of practice and study. And, Chouaf has just that. Before he left for the Cheesemonger Invitational last week, Chouaf told me that he expected to win. Where were we? Champion, of course.