As the Leaves Change, So Too Does the Judging & Competition Committee
As the weather cools (finally in Texas), I’m reminded that at this time of year it is important to be thankful and grateful. This is my first CheeseBytes article, and it feels fitting to express my gratitude for the myriad of volunteers who worked so hard in Providence, RI to make sure that your cheese would be judged in its best possible condition. Giving of one’s time in a volunteer capacity is an amazing gift, and for many in this industry, it’s the rarest commodity.
I am thankful for the time and energy that the Judging & Competition (J&C) Committee puts into this effort each year. We begin our weekly calls in late August/early September, taper off for Q4, and pick right back up again in January, in order to cover all of the topics necessary to ensure an efficient and effective J&C. In recent years, we have created two sub-committees, one focused on Category Review and the other focused on Receiving & Logistics. This year, we’ve made the decision to create a third committee, the Rules Committee. Since the very first J&C, rules have been developed and decisions have set precedents, all with a focus on providing a fair, structured competition that ultimately benefits the cheesemakers who enter for feedback – as well as our wider industry, which grows stronger as a result. Our hope is that the Rules Committee can codify these decisions and precedents into a logical structure to provide a deeper understanding to our members of how the J&C operates.
In October, a handful of members of the J&C Committee paid a visit to the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, just a few blocks from the state capital building. We were given a private walk-through of the behind-the-scenes facilities, so that we could begin our planning for the logistics and execution of the event in 2016. Each year, the ACS Conference & Competition moves around the country, and it is our job to adapt to any unique challenges that the new site offers. This visit allows us to understand the flow, the lighting, the temperature, and the opportunities that we then discuss at length on our weekly calls to ensure we avoid any surprises that might catch us off-guard once we arrive.
Along with the typical tasks of the J&C Committee, we must also transition the leadership of the committee every two years. That time is now upon us, and it is with great excitement that I announce that Dr. Stephanie Clark is the new Vice Chair of the Judging & Competition Committee. Stephanie brings an incredible depth of knowledge and passion for the industry to this role. For the past several years, she has served as our invaluable technical advisor, helping us untangle some of the more difficult nuances of our competition categories and identify defects in cheeses on-site at the competition. As one of our 2016 Conference Co-Chairs, she joined me on our site visit in Des Moines and, as a local, provided us with great recommendations.
For the last two years, I have served as this committee’s Vice Chair under the great leadership of Tom Kooiman. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tom for his tenure as Chair and for his friendship and mentoring. Tom led this group during a time of great growth, as we brought new committee members onto the team and focused on the continued transparency of the event. He made sure that we focused our efforts on getting the details right. I’m grateful for his continued involvement and guidance as I assume the big shoes he left behind.
Together with this great team that we’ve been building over the last several years, I am certain we will continue to improve the ACS Judging & Competition to streamline the entry process, improve the feedback you receive from our judges, and uphold ACS’ commitment to food safety.
I truly look forward to the next two years serving as the Chair of this committee.
ACS Judging & Competition Committee Chair