The Importance of Getting It Right

The Judging & Competition Committee has spent the past few years putting together tutorials for you, the cheesemaker, on how to pack your cheeses to be received for each ACS conference. Proper packaging and insulation makes all the difference while your cheeses are in transit. We hope that by taking the necessary steps to get your cheeses to the Competition, they will be evaluated in top condition. Along with packing your cheeses for optimal shipping results, there are other factors at play in how your entries arrive at the convention center for receiving. The obvious variable out there is that we can never control the weather. This is very apparent particularly during the summer months. Please take a moment prior to packaging your cheese to evaluate the weather where the Judging & Competition will be held and be sure to pack accordingly.

While the Judging & Competition Committee works to ensure that all entries are handled seamlessly, we are always confronted with the fact that each site is different. As a conference attendee, you primarily experience the venue from the “Front of House,” i.e. ballrooms and corridors, while the J&C Committee, on the other hand, deals with these spaces as an afterthought. We conduct the bulk of our work in the “Back of House,” the deep hallways behind the kitchens, the dock spaces, etc. We hope that we will be able to beg, borrow, or charm the resources that our host conference center will allow us to use.  Because each location is different and brings about its own set of unique challenges, we adapt to the surroundings. When we were receiving 700 or 800 cheeses, it was a difficult task. Now that we handle 1000 cheeses more than those earlier numbers, the planning stage is started months before we even know how many entries will arrive.

cheesebytes

Once your entry arrives at the venue, we methodically unpack and sort the cheeses. After they are unpacked, they are made anonymous and assigned to their final categories. Now, it’s off to the trucks where the Cooler Captains act as librarians of cheese and move through the steps of the final sort where each entry is placed on a specific speed rack based on entry category. This entire process is executed all while maintaining each cheese’s anonymity. This process may seem difficult with 500 cheeses in one truck, however, the Cooler Captains have an organized system and are in charge of being able to find any one cheese at a moment’s notice in any one of 4 refrigerated trailers amongst 1700 to 1800 cheeses. This is why I call them librarians.

With the help of various reports, the Cooler Captains are able to locate a cheese quickly. In the past handful of years, we have moved from 1 to 3 Cooler Captains. While they have slightly different nuances on how they run their individual trailers with their specific categories, they each adhere to the guidelines of how the system is set up. Other volunteers are not allowed into the trailers to pull or move cheeses unless it is expressly OK’d by the Cooler Captain. These trailers are, in other words, considered sacred space.

We will continue to keep you updated as the 2014 preparations unfold.  If you ever have any questions, please feel free to contact me or the ACS staff.  We hope our updates will help you more efficiently and safely ship your cheeses and, overall, will help you feel more prepared for this year’s Judging & Competition.

Looking forward to Sacramento,

Tom Kooiman