Judging & Competition: Past to Present

Planning for the 2013 Judging & Competition started the day after the Awards Ceremony last August in Raleigh, NC. Since then, the Judging & Competition Committee has had several conference calls and will start our weekly calls in January as usual. We already have our agenda for Q1 of 2013, and the calls won’t stop until a week before we arrive in Madison next year.

No big deal – right? Let me add some perspective.

For almost two decades, there was no “12 month” committee – no meetings, no conference calls, no emails. Half the time, committee work was done on my IBM Selectric (that’s a typewriter).  It was a committee of one until two months before every conference.

In 2001, Judy Schad was conference chair and convinced the Board to contract with FSA of Louisville, KY to manage our day to day operations. The Competition “Committee” finally had help with logistics and correspondence. I felt, as a committee, we could finally communicate what we did to the membership. That was a huge triumph for me.

2005 was a watershed year: David Grotenstein joined the committee as future chair in training. Karen Silverston volunteered out of the blue to tidy up, count score sheets, and help judges.  I had never met her before but was happy to have a volunteer who “…just wanted to work with the judging people.” I no longer felt alone.  Twelve months later she and Richard, her husband and now fellow committee member, tidied up all our accounting systems with advanced IT, data collection, same day score results, scanners, and templates. I thought the Committee was complete with David running logistics and FSA managing the paperwork.  We were finally “cooking with cheese!”  Actually, not yet – we were only cooking with whey…

In 2007, David appointed Michele Haram and Debra Dickerson as Cooler and Judging Room Captains, set up a triage room, and a receiving committee for cheese entries.  The Silverston’s created templates for Festival signage, reformatted the scoresheets, and created an entry/receiving database.  Heady stuff – giant steps – and then it got even better!

2010 – ACS became self-managed. Now we are supported by people who are us – ACS staff!  It takes a village – and volunteers.

Since then, the committee has evolved into a catalyst of review and change that was needed and felt, but never realized until now.  Our committee is a bit like the blues legend B.B.King: after barnstorming around the country for 30 years, he was “discovered” in 1969 at the Newport Jazz Festival.

Since 2011, we’ve been purging the devils left in the details and the ghosts in machines by breaking new ground:
• Collecting all the US 2011 entries into one truck crossing the Canadian border in one import for our first International Competition.  Massive paperwork and logistics!
• A new on-line entry system was brought to life resulting in only 15 paper entries last year.
A training webinar for Aesthetic and Technical Judges so they arrive prepared and ready to judge.
• Videos instructing how to ship cheese to the competition – almost no distressed cheese entries.
• A quality control auditor independent from the staff.
• A more streamlined Awards Ceremony.

Three years ago, the committee couldn’t do any of these things on its own.  Now, we have committee members who volunteer to look at logistics, make site visits, and assist with sourcing refrigeration as we move the competition around the continent.

As we continue to forge new ground and make improvements to the Judging & Competition, we will report to you about these projects and more in future CheeseBytes:

CATEGORIES – The Committee is working on:
• Building a mechanism for receiving and judging Fresh Mozzarella/Burrata within hours instead of days of being made
• Overhauling the Flavored Categories to award true cheesemaking innovation and originality
• Reviewing the entries into our newest subcategory Original Recipes
•  Organizing Mixed Milks as separate subcategories

SCORESHEETS – The Committee will:
• Review scoresheet language
•  Review minimum award points
•  Develop a modified template of the unique ACS Aesthetic and Technical scoresheets which will be available to members for training and sensory evaluation exercises
• Recommend the use and restrictions of these new scoresheets to the ACS Board of Directors

As I mentioned earlier, it takes a village.  Here are your 2013 Committee Members – at your service:

Todd Druhot, Judging & Competition Committee Chair
Tom Kooiman, Judging & Competition Committee Vice-Chair
John Antonelli
Steve Binns
Patrick Bleck
Matt Bonano
Stephanie Clark, Ph.D.
John Greeley
David Grotenstein
Michelle Lee
Rachel Perez
Karen & Richard Silverston

This committee has come a long way since its inception and has worked diligently to bring you the most unbiased, constructive, and information rich competition possible.  We look forward to continuing this for years to come.  Thank you for joining me on this brief journey back in time and allowing me to share our progress.

We are looking forward to Madison and hope to see many of you there!

John Greeley
Judging Chair Emeritus