Sr. Vice President of Saputo
Specialty Cheese Dominique Delugeau looks through a
selection of cheese describing what may be found in his
refrigerator at his office in Richfield on Thursday
afternoon. Delugeau will be a cheese judge at the World
Championship Cheese contest in Madison later this month.
Daily News photos by John Ehlke
RICHFIELD - Dominique Delugeau will see, smell, taste and touch
100 of the world’s finest cheeses over two days. It may seem
like an extravagant amount, but he does not tire of the
“I may go
to dinner that night and have something with cheese,” he said
about the upcoming World Championship Cheese Contest from March
18-19 in Madison.
appreciation for the craft is undeniable.
executive vice president of specialty cheese, deli and marketing
with Saputo Cheese USA in Richfield, is one of 50 experts from
14 states and 19 nations, including Argentina, Portugal, Ireland
and Croatia, chosen to judge the competition.
appreciates learning about cultures through cheese.
a story behind a cheese and how it got started,” he said of the
came to the U.S. from France about 28 years ago to get his
master’s degree. He stayed and has been in the specialty cheese
industry for about 26 years.
father was in the business in France,” he said, adding his
father has retired. “Basically, the apple doesn’t fall from the
tree. I was not planning on it and it just happens.”
experience has led him across the U.S. and overseas as a judge -
not to mention the travel he puts in as Saputo’s executive. This
will be his forth time judging the World Championship Cheese
“You need to
have a special palate,” he said. For example, “Not everybody
tastes bitter the same way. It depends on taste buds and there
is a lot of practice and a lot of knowledge.”
only technical knowledge, but understanding what the cheesemaker
is going for even if the judge is not used to that taste.|
If 100 samples
per judge sounds remarkable, imagine keeping track of tons of
cheese. Thus, it is a busy time of year for Wisconsin Cheese
Makers Association contest manager Jane Cisler. Friday was the
deadline for 2,600 entries, or about 50,000 pounds, to arrive at
a warehouse in Little Chute, she said. Here they are labeled for
one of 90 classes. Keeping track of the cheese is of utmost
importance, she said.
Selections of cheddar cheese that has been aged two years on
display at Saputo Specialty Cheese in Richfield on Thursday
Daily News photos by John Ehlke
hugely on volunteers that help us from all over. This includes
making sure cheese doesn’t get lost - and we’ve never lost one,”
Cisler said with a laugh.
guidelines are quite stern, Delugeau said.
this is the best competition worldwide. It’s the way it’s
structured,” he said.
international and a U.S. judge are paired for the categories and
coordinators try to give a judge a category they know well.
To begin, a
judge looks at the cheese for defects, color issues and cracks,
Delugeau said. They sometimes use a cheese plug to pull out a
piece and then slowly smash it in their fingers.
that you will bring it to room temperature or the right
temperature to smell and taste,” he said, adding this helps a
judge have a better feel of the cheese’s texture.
then takes in the aroma and puts it in their mouth. They chew it
slowly because certain parts of the tongue pick up different
tastes - salty, bitter, sweet, sour.
something is really off with a cheese you will detect it right
away,” Delugeau said. The cheese is then swallowed or spit out,
and the judge waits for an aftertaste.
starts with the eye, the touch, the smell and the taste,” he
their senses, they enter a score on an iPad. The average of the
paired judges is the final score.
are blank and anonymous so the judging is as neutral and fair as
possible,” Delugeau said.
should not make facial expressions and they do not share scores.
strict and it should be that way,” Delugeau said. “And it’s
pretty intense. I will be exhausted after two days of judging.”
is a pleasurable experience. “You always come across new cheese
from around the world that you’ve never tried before,” he said.
toured hundreds of cheese factories throughout the U.S. and
Europe. The Madison competition includes specialty cheeses from
hundreds of places, including South Africa and Japan and of
cheesemaker is always going to give the very very best,” he
said. “When we get to the final round you are going to have some
very exquisite cheeses and when you get to the No. 1 and No. 2
and No. 3 - judges are going to say ‘wow that's one I really
Third-generation owner/manager of Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, Joe
Widmer isn’t sure if giving their best works for his
because you never know,” Widmer said. “The best I’ve ever done
in a competition is when I don’t take all the different batches
to find the best ones, I just send them in. I don’t know if you
call it luck?”
Cheese Cellars entered colby, colby with caraway seeds, mild
brick, traditional aged brick, one-, two- and four-year aged
cheddars, and a brick cheese cold pack spread in this year’s
competition. It has entered the competition for about 20 years
and taken home third places for cold pack cheese spreads and
mild brick. They also participate in other contests, including
the American Cheese Society Competition and Wisconsin State
for fellow cheesemakers to have competition,” Widmer said. “It
makes them strive to make a better product and the camaraderie
World Championship can be very competitive and dramatic, Cisler
important to the cheesemakers. It could be a huge boost in their
marketing, and bragging rights are always good.”
always well represented, Cisler, Delugeau and Widmer agree.
lives in Mequon with his two sons, ages 16 and 18 - they love