For cheese lovers it would be a day in paradise, but it’s serious work for the 28 judges assessing more than 2000 kg of cheese for the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards at AUT School of Hospitality + Tourism this Saturday.

The judges’, a panel of cheesemakers, chefs and food experts, operate under the guidance of Australian Master Judge Russell Smith, who is leading the judging for the final time. A regarded cheese judge on the world circuit, Russell Smith has made a significant contribution to the quality of New Zealand cheese by heading the judging panel for the past seven years. Smith is supported by Ross McCullum, founder of Kapiti Cheese and a Life Member of NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA).

The NZ Champions of Cheese Awards is organised by the NZSCA which has run the awards since 2003. This is the 16th year of the award’s which celebrate New Zealand cheese, recognise excellence and educate consumers.

“As always our judging panel is exceptional, in part due to the growing reputation for these awards and local cheese,” said NZSCA chair Miel Meyer. “The NZ Champions of Cheese Awards are an incredible opportunity to showcase New Zealand cheese. We’re also pleased to have introduced a new revitalized awards logo. From March, cheese lovers’ can look out for NZ Champion of Cheese stickers on award-winning cheeses. This is a guarantee of quality as judged by our experts.”

All cheese is judged blind, which means judges receive and taste cheese without any branding to prevent bias.