Recently, Shannon Welsh, Heinen’s Cheese Buyer traveled to the American Cheese Society Convention. While there, Shannon had the opportunity to mingle with over 1000 other cheese professionals from across the country.
How many times have you attended the conference? Where was the convention this year?
I’ve gone to the conference for the last 7 years, and there is always something to learn! This year’s conference was in Sacramento. What a great city!
The theme of the convention was ‘Celebrating the American Cheese Plate’. What can you tell us about that?
The conference was held in California, whose food culture is all about fresh, local, wholesome products. Cheese is no different, and when it comes to American artisan cheese, there is a lot to celebrate! We have some truly gifted cheesemakers who are giving European traditions a run for the money.
Of all the people you met at the conference, who left the biggest impression?
There is so much networking at this conference, and as a buyer I get the opportunity to meet such great people I couldn’t never pinpoint just one. Anyone involved in this industry is here to lift others up; it is a true community – I love it!
Did you try any unique cheeses? Which was your favorite?
Oh yeah, all kinds of great stuff. I love the cheeses coming from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont, and I was really impressed by some cheesemakers in the Midwest, especially Green Dirt Farm in Missouri and Dutch Girl Creamery in Nebraska.
What emerging trends in the cheese industry did you see at the convention?
There are a lot of American cheesemakers who are taking traditional European cheeses and making them their own, and “American”-izing them. Jasper Hill Farm is making a bark-wrapped bloomy rind cheese called Harbison that is just as good and luxurious as its French counterparts. There’s also a terrific Raclette-style cheese from Vermont that I loved called Reading (pronounced redding).
Are there any new cheeses from the convention that we might see at Heinen’s in the future?
Yep. But I have to keep those a surprise. ;)
Anything else, you’d like to share?
I am so lucky that Heinen’s is willing to invest in me for a trip like this. Building relationships with our suppliers is what Heinen’s is all about, and by going to this conference for so many years and meeting such great people, I am able to bring such great cheeses to our customers. It’s a great example of us knowing our sources!