Cheese Gladiators

Di Bruno Bros. Cheesemonger Contestants

If you ever want to see a pageant involving knives, muscles, and cutting boards, book a trip to Long Island City for the Cheesemonger Invitational (CMI) on June 23, 2012. Now in its third year, the event draws makers, mongers, and rabble from the cave to compete for cash prizes and a chance to throw down against the best in the business.

On Monday night, Di Bruno Bros. hosted its pre-trials. About fifteen mongers from the company’s four locations met up after hours to do battle. There was skin, and there was stink.

Reigning champ Ezekial Ferguson didn’t give the touching speech everyone was hoping for, but he did rile the crowd. Spectators cowered against the charcuterie counter to stay out of harm’s way.

How the Competition Works

Like any good pageant, the CMI favors both charm and skill. Contestants have to earn points in four categories:

Stage Presence: Each monger spiels for 30 seconds on his or her favorite cheese. (At Di Bruno Bros., we heard a lot of plugs for Parm. One monger revealed skin in this portion of the contest but was not disqualified. On his flank: a Parmigiano label from Giorgio Cravero. Bravo.)

Giorgio Cravero Tattoo

Taste Test: A super monger can decode the origins of a cheese via a sniff and nibble.  At last night’s trials, the Di Bruno clan had to differentiate between a stinky washed rind from New York (Hudson Red) and a subtle British sheepie (Berkswell). To get a perfect score required more nuance than just naming the cheese – the best mongers knew the region where the cheese was produced and could determine if the milk had been pasteurized.

Cut and Wrap: Can you eye a perfect quarter pound of cheese? Once you cut it, can you French pleat it or create an origami frog? It’s amazing what you can learn about a person’s wrap style. At Di Bruno Bros., we eyed twenty packaged wedges – some were as beautiful as sweater sets in shirt boxes. Others looked like crumpled socks.

Jamie Png Cut and Wrap

Plate Your Slate: Here’s the highlight of the competition. Each monger must create a pairing for a cheese selected at random. Contestants earn points for creativity, presentation, and taste. Last night’s mongers outdid themselves.

Among the entries:

Paski Sir Sandwich with Bacon-Maple Cupcake Filling (Ian Peacock)

Ian Peacock Makes His Slate

Beenleigh Blue with Chocolate Cherry Sauce and Dark Choco Almonds (Richard-Luis Morillo)

Sharfe Maxx S’more with Dark Chocolate and Torrone (Matt Shankle)

Matt Shankle's Maxx S'more

For the finale, our two winners posed. The rabble pounded leftovers, then everyone lit into the night on their bicycles. The greatest honor was being there.

Last Night’s Winners

A big congrats to Matt Shankle and Adam Balkovic. Check out their posts on this blog, and you’ll see that they’re two of the meanest mongers on the Eastern Seaboard.

Winners Matt Shankle and Adam Balkovic

Come June 32, 2012 they’ll compete against the burliest and brightest from around the country at the Cheesemonger Invitational 2012. We’ll bring you all the hunky gore right here.

For more dairy trash-talk, visit Madame Fromage.