New Zealander Jason Tarrant has been announced as the Master Judge for the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2021. Tarrant is the first New Zealander to be head judging for the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards following the eight-year reign of Australian Cheese Judge Russell Smith.

Jason Tarrant, Master Judge for the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2021

Last year, Australian Cheese Judge Scott Bolch was announced as Smith’s successor but the COVID travel ban means that Bolch is unavailable.

The Awards are owned and organised by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA) and NZSCA Chair Neil Willman thanked Jason Tarrant for stepping into the role. “It’s wonderful to have a local Master Judge of the calibre of Jason, his experience and knowledge of the NZ dairy industry is extensive.”

Tarrant is General Manager of Technical and Strategic Projects at Open Country Dairy, a role he assumed last year. It follows a dairy industry career which began as a management trainee at Mainland in 1993. Since then, he has worked for multiple iconic New Zealand dairy companies including Fonterra, Whitestone Cheese Company, NZ Organic Dairy Company, Open Country and Goodman Fielder. Tarrant’s experience covers all forms of cheesemaking from speciality and organic to commodity cheddar.

Tarrant admitted to having to consider the role when he was offered it but said; “I’m proud to take the mantle of the Master Judge and assist the panel of experienced judges assess New Zealand’s finest cheeses. After having judged at the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards for a number of years I appreciate how robust the judging system is. It’s not about one person it’s about the cheese and the judges on the day.”

The judging panel for the Ignite Colleges Chef’s Choice Award, which was introduced last year, has also been announced. The panel is Alfie Ingham, head chef of Hugo’s Bistro; Volker Marecek, executive chef of the Cordis Hotel and Jasbir Kaur, Culinary Arts Manager and General Manager of Ignite Colleges. Entries in this category are judged by the trio who will be looking for a cheese which can be used effectively on a hotel/restaurant/café menu giving wonderful depth of flavour.

NZ cheese companies are also being asked to nominate their young cheesemakers for the biannual Aspiring Cheesemaker Award, which makes a welcome return in 2021. This award recognises the cheesemaker who shows exceptional dedication to developing their career and learning the art of cheesemaking.   

Judging for the 19th NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2021 will be held at Ignite Colleges on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 February 2021. Medal winners will be named on Tuesday 16 March with the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Gala Dinner at Sky City in Hamilton on Wednesday 5 May 2021.

The NZ Champions of Cheese 2021 Trophies are:

•       Countdown Champion of Champions (Commercial)

•       New World Champion of Champions (Mid-sized)

•       Puhoi Valley Champion of Champions (Boutique)

•       Milk Test NZ Champion Cheesemaker

•       Fonterra Co-operative Group Champion Original Cheese

•       ECOLAB Champion Blue Cheese

•       New Zealand Food Safety Champion New Cheese

•       CHR Hansen Champion Soft White Rind Cheese

•       Kiwi Labels Champion Greek/Cypriot Cheese

•       Cheeselinks Champion Fresh Italian Style Cheese

•       Champion Fresh Unripened Cheese

•       AsureQuality Champion Dutch Style Cheese

•       Champion European Style Cheese

•       Sabato Champion Farmhouse Cheese

•       Thermaflo Champion Washed Rind

•       Big Chill Distribution Champion Flavoured Cheese

•       Tetra Pak Champion Retail Cheddar Cheese

•       Champion Bulk Cheddar Cheese

•       Good George Brewing Champion Goat Cheese

•       Dish magazine Champion Sheep Cheese

•       Renco New Zealand Champion Export Cheese

•       Curds & Whey Champion Homecrafted Cheesemaker and Cheese

Special Awards

•       New World Cheese Lovers’ Choice

•       Ignite Colleges Chef’s Choice

•       Innovative Packaging Champion Butter

•       Champion Yoghurt

Entries are accepted until Wednesday 3 February.

Online entry is via the NZSCA website https://nzsca.org.nz/

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