The USA Cheese Guild®, the centre for cheese excellence and knowledge, will host 12 USA Cheese Specialists® in Dubai later this month as part of a competition to crown one of the experts, ‘The Big Cheese’.
In partnership with the International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) Dubai, the 12 finalists, all of whom are alumni of the USA Cheese Specialist Certification Program, will take part in a cook-off on 24 October at ICCA Dubai, where they will be tasked with producing a fine-dining menu incorporating at least two varieties of USA Cheese in both a starter and main course.
The winner will be announced at a glittering award ceremony on 25 October at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa on The Palm.
The primary purpose of this competition is to encourage the graduates of the USA Cheese Specialist Certification Program, conducted by the USA Cheese Guild in association with ICCA, to display their advanced cheese knowledge and exhibit their application, innovation, and presentation skills.
Judging the competition are four stalwarts of the UAE’s culinary scene, Chef Uwe Micheel, President of the Emirates Culinary Guild; Chef Sebastian Nohse, Senior Culinary Director for Hilton Hotels, Europe Middle East and Asia; Chef Andreas Krampl, Senior Director of Culinary, Middle East & Africa, Marriot International; and Chef Antonio El Khoury, Director of Culinary Programs MENA for the USA Cheese Guild and Instructor of the USA Cheese Specialist Certification Program at ICCA. Joining them is Amy Foor, Vice President, Global Foodservice Programs at the USA Cheese Guild.
“We have been blown away by the standard of entries which has made it an incredibly difficult task to shortlist just 12 people,” said El Khoury.
“The innovative recipes and the diverse way chefs from around the world have incorporated USA Cheeses into their recipes is mirrored by the U.S. cheese industry itself, where creativity and a combination of new and old techniques ensures an ever-expanding portfolio of new and exciting varieties and flavours. All of which are garnering increasing popularity in the Middle East and the rest of the world.”
The finalists will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Dubai with an all-inclusive trip to the emirate, including flights, a three-night luxury resort stay, and dining at an award-winning Dubai restaurant. Finalists will also have the opportunity to enjoy the exhilaration of Skydive Dubai.
The USA Cheese Guild is tasked with increasing awareness of Cheeses from the USA, targeting local trade and consumers through education programmes showcasing the craftsmanship, quality, innovation, variety, and versatility of USA Cheeses.
A cornerstone of the Guild’s education efforts is the USA Cheese Specialist Certification Program, a professional training curriculum for importers, distributors, foodservice professionals and retailers, providing instruction on cheeses from the USA, how to use or sell it, and most of all helping participants to discover an exciting industry they never knew existed.
The program is offered through workshops and partnerships with nine prestigious culinary schools and universities worldwide. To date, more than 1,400 industry professionals have completed the program, earning the designation of USA Cheese Specialist. Since 2018, ICCA has been offering the version of the program geared toward culinary students, which is structured in three progressive levels – Associate, Intermediate, and Advanced – providing 36 hours of instruction, where students will develop a greater understanding and appreciation of cheese by tasting and cooking with a variety of cheeses from the USA.
According to the latest data from the USA Cheese Guild, in 2021, MENA’s overall cheese imports from the U.S. topped 22,385 metric tonnes (MT), denoting a 37% increase over the previous year. Globally during the same year, U.S. dairy and cheese exports witnessed a record year with 2.3 million metric tonnes (MT) of dairy products exported and a record-breaking 404,000 MT of cheese exported, a 14% increase year-on-year.
Today the United States produces a quarter of the world’s cheese output and is home to over 1,000 cheese varieties produced throughout all 50 states. In addition to supporting global demand for cheese, the country is developing a reputation for creating some of the tastiest cheeses on the planet, winning a host of accolades in recent years at the World Cheese Awards and the World Championship Cheese Contest.
“The consumption of USA Cheeses in the Middle East is on a clear upward trajectory as more consumers and foodservice professionals become familiar with the products and the fantastic flavours and textures available. From classic favourites to original creations, America is now a major player across all verticals of the cheese industry,” added Foor.