Posted: 03/06/2019

Paxton & Whitfield’s Watson wins Young Cheesemonger of the Year

Alan Watson Paxton and Whitfield

Alan Watson, the manager of Paxton & Whitfield’s Cale Street branch, has been crowned Cheesemonger of the Year.

The competition, held on the second day of the Royal Bath & West Show on 30th May, saw eight contestants from cheese retailers across the country compete for this coveted title.

Watson, a finalist for the second year running, was run close for the title, with Sam Day of Farndon Fields Farm Shop taking second place and Alexander Kiely of The Fine Cheese Co coming third.

The finalists had their skills put to the test across four rounds, in front of a judging panel that included Mary Quicke, Tim Rowcliffe, the Guild of Fine Food’s training manager Jilly Sitch and Fine Food Digest Editor Michael Lane.

Alan Watson, winner of Young Cheesemonger of the Year 2019, said: “Just taking part in the competition is a great accolade for any cheesemonger and to have been surrounded by such talented people yesterday was incredibly daunting. On top of that having such respected and  experienced  judges added to my slight feeling of nerves when I started the day. The feeling of hearing my name read out as the winner at the end of the day was amazing and it really hasn’t sunk in yet that I won!”

During the final, which was held the day after main judging of the British Cheese Awards and hosted by Justin Tunstall, the eight cheesemongers took part in four rounds.

  • Round 1 – Cheeseboard Proposal & Discussion
    Each finalist will discuss the cheeseboard selection from their application form.
  • Round 2 – Cut & Wrap
    Contestants will have to cut and wrap different weights of cheese from whole cheeses by sight with no use of weighing scales.
  • Round 3 – Identification
    Finalists will have to taste and identify a number of unmarked cheeses.
  • Round 4 – Quiz
    A Mastermind-style series of questions asked about British cheese.

Each of the eight cheesemongers was selected from a field of entrants who had to submit an entry form for the competition. A key aspect of the form was the challenge of pitching a British cheeseboard for six people, with a budget of £30.

The finalists for the competition, all of whom are under the age of 30, were: 

Mary Quicke MBE,  cheesemaker and managing director of Quicke’s, said: “It was a privilege and pleasure to have spent the day with such talented young people working in cheese.  They were all really passionate, knowledgeable and capable when it came to participating in the competition.  We had such a great range of challenging tasks to give them and a great variety of cheesey things to do.  There were so few points between all the competitors in the final marks.  The winner, Alan, was well deserved. It’s great there are such motivated young people championing cheese across the country.”

Tracey Colley, director of the Academy of Cheese, said: “What a fantastic line up we had for Young Cheesemonger of the Year 2019, they were certainly put through their paces but rose to all the challenges with passion, skill, patience and humour! Our eight finalists ranging in age from 21 to 29 years old are a credit to the cheese industry and we feel very proud to be helping them on their journey onwards and upwards. The winner, Alan Watson from Paxton & Whitfield the UK’s oldest cheesemonger, shone through with his knowledge of British cheeses, cutting and wrapping skills and identification and assessment of the five competition cheeses.” 

Michael Lane, editor of Fine Food Digest, said: “Alan Watson’s experience, understanding and enthusiasm proved to be a potent winning combination but he was run very close by an excellent field of finalists. All eight of the contestants impressed the judging panel with their level of knowledge, approach to selling cheese and, most of all, their individual personalities. Each one is a credit to themselves, the shops they work in and the professional title of ‘cheesemonger’.”

Read more of the latest news from Fine Food Digest here

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