Laura Chenel’s received two first-place awards and two second-place honors at the American Cheese Society’s 34th annual competition on July 28, 2017, in Denver, Colorado.
Laura Chenel’s Original Medallion placed first in the heavily-populated category of Fresh, Rindless Goat’s milk cheese (aged 30 days or less). The 3.5-ounce fresh chèvre was launched earlier this year along with four other varieties in the brand’s Medallion Collection, offering a unique size and package of fresh goat cheeses that’s the perfect size for a quick snack or practical to unmold and add to a salad plate.
Laura Chenel’s 5-ounce Goat Brie took first place in another popular category: American made, International style, Made from goat’s milk. The soft-ripened wheel’s creation begins with fresh local goat milk that is turned into curd, gently cut and poured into molds. After nine to 14 days of aging, Laura Chenel’s Goat Brie develops a thin bloomy rind and a velvety texture. Grassy and nutty flavors are balanced by hints of lemon and a clean finish.
Taking home second-place honors each were the brand’s 6.2-ounce Cabecou Marinated in Herbs and Spicy Cabecou. With a dense texture, goat cheese disks are hand-packed in olive oil with savory herbs or crushed chiles, respectively, infusing the flavors into the creamy yet tart rounds of chèvre.
“We are both honored and humbled that our fresh and aged chèvre cheeses continue to meet the judges’ expectations for superior products,” said Philippe Chevrollier, General Manager at Laura Chenel’s, Marin French Cheese, and Saint Benoît Creamery. “Laura Chenel’s has garnered 17 awards this year alone, testimony to our commitment to produce only the highest quality, handcrafted goat’s milk cheese…. The efforts of the entire Laura Chenel’s team, together with our collaboration with independent goat farmers in the western region of the U.S., have allowed us to become the standard for American chèvre.”
Sister companies, Marin French Cheese and Saint Benoît Creamery, were also award recipients at the 2017 American Cheese Society competition. Marin French Cheese won a third-place award for its Petite Jalapeño, a 4-ounce soft-ripened wheel that offers a smooth texture and creamy taste that nicely counterbalances the heat from the jalapeños peppers. Saint Benoît Creamery’s Original Yogurt also took a third-place prize in its category, appreciated for its exceptional taste and texture achieved with milk coming only from Jersey cows.
Wisconsin cheesemakers continued their winning streak at this year’s American Cheese Society’s (ACS) annual competition, capturing more awards than any other state for the thirteenth consecutive year. This year’s competition, held in Denver, Colorado, garnered a record 118 ribbons for Wisconsin cheese and dairy products, including 34 Best of Class awards. That’s twice as many as the second-closest state.
Wisconsin cheesemakers, butter and yogurt makers, claimed 29 percent of all awards, including 34 first place ribbons, 35 second place and 49 third place. Out of 108 cheese awards, 56 went to certified Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers.
In addition, Wisconsin cheese and dairy companies swept nine categories:
• Fresh Unripened Cheeses, Cheese Curds – all milks
• American Originals, Brick Cheese – made from cow’s milk
• American Originals, Brick Muenster – made from cow’s milk
• Italian Type Cheeses, Grating Types – all milks
• Flavored Cheeses, Feta with Flavor Added – all milks
• Flavored Cheeses, Rubbed Rind Cheese – all milks
• Smoked Cheeses, Open Category – made from cow’s milk
• Cultured Milk and Cream Products – all milks
• Cheese Spreads, Open Category Cold Pack Style – all milks
Thirty-three Wisconsin companies received one or more awards at the competition. Several companies had particularly strong showings. Klondike Cheese Co. of Monroe took home 14 awards, including first place ribbons for Odyssey Peppercorn Feta and Odyssey 2% Greek Yogurt. Maple Leaf Cheesemakers Inc. of Monroe earned nine awards, with first place ribbons for Aged Brined Twin Grove Gouda, Low-Fat Cheddar, Reduced Fat Cured Gouda and Jalapeño Jack. Edelweiss Creamery of Monticello won eight awards, including firsts in Edelweiss Emmentaler and Tuscan Dream Semi-Soft Italian-Style Cheese. Schuman Cheese of Turtle Lake took home seven awards, with a first place ribbon in Cello Organic Copper Kettle Parmesan.
“We are proud of the talent, passion and dedication that earned our Wisconsin cheesemakers another strong showing at this year’s competition. Wisconsin is honored to be among the many other incredible cheese and dairy products represented from across America.” said Suzanne Fanning, Vice President of National Product Communications at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Wisconsin’s winning streak continues after taking top honors at the 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest and 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest. The 2017 ACS competition included a record 2,024 entries from 281 companies from North, Central and South America.
By Lorrie Baumann
Le Bon Magot® surprised the specialty food community at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show with a display of five sofi Awards, all earned this year with the new company’s very first entries into the sofi Award competition. Naomi Mobed, the company’s Founder and CEO, launched the brand in February 2015 and then exhibited in the 2016 Summer Fancy Food Show to test its flavors with Fancy Food Show attendees before she was really ready to face the sofi Award competition. “Actually, we validated the taste and flavors of our products with trusted palates even before being incorporated into a company,” she said.
With her five 2017 sofi Awards on her shelves, Mobed is ready to scale up production to meet the demands of the national market. She’s debt-free and looking for investment capital to help her grow. “We’re keen to attract external investment and believe we have a sound and scalable business model,” she said.
Le Bon Magot currently offers just five products, all based on regional African, Middle Eastern and South Asian flavors, with sophisticated spice blends with depth and nuance that also appeal to contemporary American palates. Each of them reflects their branding – “magot” is a French word that means a hidden treasure. “The name was for a variety of reasons – one was the pure marketing reality that the common language among gourmets continues to be French,” she said. “I like the fact that it doesn’t have one specific meaning, not just a treasure, but jewels, loot, coffers, bounty and booty. Each one of our products is of a vibrant gem-like color. I came from a finance background and I am passionate about jewelry, so our name also has a tongue-in-cheek element to it.”
Her Tomato and White Sultana Chutney, winner of this year’s gold sofi Award in the condiments category, was her first product and is still her company’s top seller. The chutney marries the sweet fruitiness of tomato to Kashmiri chiles, ginger and garam masala. Next in production were the White Pumpkin and Almond Murraba and the Brinjal Caponata, made of purple aubergine, cumin and curry leaves and the winner of the bronze sofi Award in the pickles category. The Brinjal Caponata is a traditional western Indian condiment made from a recipe that came from Mobed’s grandmother by way of her mother, who tweaked it a little bit, and that Mobed herself played with also before settling on its current formulation. The White Pumpkin and Almond Murraba includes cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla in a preserve that’s traditionally used for celebrations in Central Asia and Middle East.
Spiced Raisin Marmalata won a gold sofi Award and an award for the best new product in the jam and preserves category. This product offers jumbo black raisins imported from South Africa blended with ras al hanout, dried rose petals, green cardamom and smoked cinnamon. “We wanted to recreate the oud scent but for the palate,” Mobed said. While oud is the distinctive scent of a resin found in agarwood trees that is used for incense and perfumes and valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, Mobed uses smoked cinnamon alongside dried rose petals, cardamom and other spices to recreate the musky notes. Like the other products in the Le Bon Magot line, Spiced Raisin Marmalata was made to pair with cheese and charcuterie, but can also be used as a cooking ingredient, perhaps to be added to a spiced oatmeal raisin cookie or a Linzer cookie. The company’s final product is its Lemon-Sultana Marmalata with Caraway and Saffron, the winner of a bronze sofi Award in the jam and preserves category.
All of the products are made from recipes that came from Mobed’s grandmother and great-grandmother that were originally written down in a dialect that Mobed speaks but doesn’t read. Her mother translated them, interpreting measurements that came from a system that was once used across Asia but is no longer common.
Mobed is a Parsi born in Pakistan with family from India. Her father was employed in the oil industry, while her mother worked in the pharmaceuticals industry, and they raised Mobed in Iran, Hong Kong and Europe as well as in the U.S. Her first American home was in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. She left the U.S. to go to the London School of Economics when she was 21, after receiving her undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. “I’d always wanted to be in the food business since the latter years of my undergraduate degree,” she said. “I was applying to grad school and culinary school. I decided to go to the London School of Economics, thinking I could do culinary later.”
Mobed lived in London after finishing her education there, eventually moved to Muscat, Oman, then came back to England, and did some more moving around from Johannesburg to Dubai and all points in-between before returning to the United States two years ago. Her business is now based in New Jersey, where she says she is settled for the immediate future. “A business settles you,” she said. “My mother lives here. My grandmother now lives here. I’m as settled as I ever will be.”
She says that, while she brings her finance experience with her into her business, making and selling food is a part of her family culture that she values highly, and a number of her female family members have flourishing food businesses around the world. “For a lot of women in Iran and Pakistan, catering and foodservice is a way for women to gain independence and empowerment without leaving their homes,” she said. “The same goes for other countries in the Middle East as well. That’s why you have so many female entrepreneurs.”