The American Cheese Society is the leading organization supporting the understanding, appreciation, and promotion of farmstead, artisan and specialty cheeses produced in the Americas. Since its founding in 1983, ACS proudly hosts the foremost annual educational conference and world-renowned cheese judging and competition. This year’s conference and judging of American cheeses and cultured dairy products is taking place at the Sacramento Convention Center in Sacramento, Calif., from July 29 through August 1st and is titled Celebrating the American Cheese Plate.
As the “Farm to Fork Capital” of the United States, Sacramento is the ideal locale for this event, which will enhance the idea of “local” and reflect the excitement and growth of the artisan and specialty cheese community throughout North America. The four-day ACS Conference provides an opportunity for attendees to enjoy unparalleled educational, tasting, and networking opportunities with industry leaders from around the world. The ACS Conference also hosts the 3rd annual Certified Cheese Professional™ Exam, the only exam of its kind, which encourages improved standards of comprehensive cheese knowledge and service throughout the industry. There are currently 253 ACS Certified Cheese Professionals™ throughout the United States and Canada, and more than 150 candidates will sit for the exam in 2014.
Kicking off the ACS Conference on Wednesday, July 30, is the Opening Reception hosted by Marquee Sponsor the California Milk Advisory Board, andkeynote speeches by California wine and specialty food trailblazers Darrell Corti and Narsai David. The conference also features a Town Hall Meeting with Sam Mogannam, owner of the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, and “Meet the Cheesemaker,” where attendees can learn about and taste cheeses directly from producers. Throughout the conference, there will be unique educational tasting sessions moderated by leading industry figures including Dr. Rachel Dutton of Harvard University; Paul Bertolli of Fra’ Mani Handcrafted Foods; and Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. There will also be opportunities to take regional tours of cheesemakers, retailers, wineries, and breweries, and meet with Scholars-in-Residence for one-on-one cheesemaking consultations.
The largest competition of its kind, the ACS Judging & Competition saw a record 1,794 entries in 2013, submitted by 257 cheese makers. As the ACS Judging & Competition returns to California for the first time in more than ten years, participation in 2014 is stronger than ever. The ACS Judging & Competition Committee has enlisted 38 renowned judges from around the world to evaluate cheeses across 106 different categories.
While the weekday conference happenings and competition are reserved for ACS members, the weekend events are open to the public and feature a Festival of Cheese and a Public Cheese Sale. The Festival of Cheese takes place on Friday, August 1st and is the perfect way for the public to taste all of the winners and losers of the Cheese Competition. Cheese Grab Bags will be available at this event, with a variety of hard cheeses from the ACS Judging & Competition available for attendees to purchase on their way out the door. The bags will feature a wide variety of cheeses in them, and each one will be different, so there’s a fun surprise element involved when the guests discover which cheeses they’ve received in their bag. All proceeds from the bag sales support the American Cheese Education Foundation and cheesemaker scholarships to future ACS Conferences. (Aug. 1; 7 – 9:30 p.m.; $60 for the general public and tickets may be purchased at the door; ticket includes a commemorative wine glass and cocktail plate.) Saturday, August 2nd is the public cheese sale, where guests may purchase rare cheeses from all over America at highly discounted prices with all proceeds benefiting the nonprofit American Cheese Education Foundation. (Aug. 2; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; free to the public).
Members of the public are also encouraged to participate in the 2014 ACS Conference & Competition by volunteering, and all volunteers receive one complimentary ticket to the Festival of Cheese. Those interested in volunteering must be 18 years of age or older, and are encouraged to sign up for a variety of shifts and events at http://www.cheesesociety.org/conference/volunteer/.
For any food or cheese industry professionals who want to join the ACS and attend the entire conference, there are various membership levels, and those interested should visit their website at www.cheesesociety.org