Cheese 2017: Where we left off

“We can already say that the 11th edition of Cheese has been the most successful, not only in terms of numbers, but in terms of quality, and the determination with which we’ve upheld our choices,” says Slow Food President Carlo Petrini. “The choice to make the event raw milk only was courageous, and it paid off.”

Cheese is by now the international reference point for the world of affineurs, who have expressed their willingness to create a Master course at the University of Gastronomic Sciences dedicated to the production of raw milk cheese.

Photo: Alessandro Vargiu

So how did the four days of Cheese go?

Despite being twenty years old, Cheese doesn’t show any sign of tiredness, on the contrary, it is constantly renewed, raising the bar of quality time after time: raw milk and the new battle against selected cultures, and entertainment that offers useful content for our daily lives: these are some of the elements in the grand mosaic of the most important international event dedicated to quality cheese. More than 300,000 visitors came to Bra during the event.

It’s impossible to estimate how many foreigners there were among the public, but we know that 50% of the tickets for reserved events were sold outside of Italy. The great network of Cheese, made up of dairies, farmers and affineurs, as well as experts and buyers, was represented by 50 countries from five continents, from the USA (this year’s host country), to Hong Kong, from Iran to Georgia and South Africa to Brazil.

There were many new vendors at the Italian Market, who were surprised by the curiosity of the public, eager to taste their products and listen to their stories, while the historic exhibitors had sold out of most of their products by Sunday evening despite bringing 20-30% more cheese compared to two years ago.

Photo: Alessandro Vargiu

As always, the Affineur Alley was one of the busiest areas of the town. All of the exhibitors agreed that Cheese is the most important event dedicated to cheese in the world: Hervé Mons of Mons Fromage in France said “It’s absolutely the greatest edition of Cheese”, while the Londoner Jason Hinds of Neal’s Yard Dairy confirmed: “The best edition, by distance”.

Among the new features of this edition, we are particularly proud of the Natural Area, with its 58 Italian cheese made not only with raw milk but without selected cultures, as recounted in the President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, Piero Sardo’s book Formaggi naturali d’Italia (Slow Food Editore, 2017), as well as charcuterie free from nitrates and nitrites, the Triple A natural wines of Velier and Lambic beer (the only beer in the world made with spontaneous fermentation).

Photo: Alessandro Vargiu

The program of conferences saw a growing audience of younger people, the next generation of Slow Food activists, who are fomenting a truly international dialog. Around 60% of the audience for the State of Raw Milk, the flagship conference of the event, was made up of foreigners, bringing together the voices of producers who fear for their futures with others who’ve found a way to overcome their difficulties. At Raw In The USA, the most important of debate for all the American producers and enthusiasts present at Cheese, the panel agreed on the production of natural cheeses made without added cultures as the next objective for the American raw milk cheese movement, which is growing constantly. The relationship between food and climate change was also up for discussion, as it will be at the center of Slow Food activities in the coming months; the international communication and fundraising campaign Menu for Change was launched at the event.

Cheese also means hospitality and solidarity, thanks to 60 families in the local area who opened their doors to hundreds of our delegates from across the world. From these meetings friendships are born, such as that between a family from Bra and a producer of natural cured meats from Sweden. On Saturday evening they celebrated by uniting their cultures in the kitchen, making a pizza with Caramagnola Ox-Horn Pepper and Swedish salami free from nitrites and nitrates.

Cheese goes beyond the City of Bra too, thanks to the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, which saw a great number of interested young people and families visit the school, while at its stand in Piazza XX Settembre there was a host of curious event, among which a guided tour of Bra by the University’s Dean, Andrea Pieroni, dedicated to urban foraging.

See you all in 2019!

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