WCMA Honors World Championship Cheese Contest Leaders

Posted By: Grace Atherton WCMA News,

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA), proud host of the 2024 World Championship Cheese Contest, is honoring Contest judge Russell Smith; Contest volunteers Kevin Thome of the Cheese Reporter and Bruce Workman of Edelweiss Creamery; and the Danish Dairy Board for their outstanding contributions to the event. The awards were presented on Wednesday, March 6 during the Contest in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Our passionate, dedicated judges and volunteers are an essential part of our Championship Cheese Contests.  We’re deeply grateful for their commitment to growing these events and ensuring their continued success, year after year,” said Kirsten Strohmenger, Contest Director.

The Aschebrock Award: Russell Smith

The Aschebrock Award, named for Contest Chief Judge Emeritus Robert Aschebrock, recognizes an outstanding Contest judge and mentor. The 2024 Aschebrock Award was presented to longtime Contest judge Russell Smith on March 6.

Smith is a cheesemaker, consultant, and educator who works tirelessly with cheesemakers in Australia and New Zealand. He also has a background in cheese retail and distribution. This year marks his seventh time judging the World Championship Cheese Contest, and he has evaluated dairy products in major Australian competitions since 1998. In 2010, he started a school cheesemaking program for science teachers and students in Brisbane called “Camembert in the Classroom,” which proved so successful that Dairy Australia funded the program to run Australia-wide in 2013. His passion for cheese education extends to the restaurant industry in Australia, with a program of cheese sensory workshops for chefs. Smith has played a critical role in growing Australian entries in the World Championship Cheese Contest, this year facilitating an impressive 65 entries from the country.

The Eggebrecht Award: Kevin Thome and Bruce Workman

The Eggebrecht Award, named for the late Contest Committee Chairman and “B-Team” founder Brian Eggebrecht, is presented each year to outstanding Contest volunteers.  On March 6, Contest leaders presented the 2024 Eggebrecht Award to Kevin Thome of Cheese Reporter and Bruce Workman of Edelweiss Creamery.

Bruce Workman, one of the most decorated Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers, has volunteered at the Championship Cheese Contests for 23 years. Owner of the award-winning Edelweiss Cheese Factory in Monticello, Wisconsin, Workman has been a leader in preparation and execution of Swiss-style cheese judging at WCMA’s Contests – even crafting the special wire tools needed to cut entries as large as 200 pounds. His cheerful attitude and tireless energy are widely known and appreciated among Contest volunteers, judges, and staff.

Kevin Thome has offered his time and effort to the Championship Cheese Contests for more than 30 years - all while serving as writer, advertising manager, designer and producer of the Cheese Reporter newspaper.  The newspaper’s annual booklet of Contest winners, produced by Thome, is the definitive historic record of this event. Thome's sense of humor and skill for building community have played a crucial role in recruiting new volunteers and growing the Contest each year.

The Schlinsog Award: The Danish Dairy Board

The Schlinsog Award, named for Contest Chief Judge Emeritus Bill Schlinsog, is presented annually to a leader in the dairy industry who has helped build and support the excellence of WCMA’s Championship Cheese Contests. This year, the Schlinsog Award was presented to the Danish Dairy Board. Lars Johannes Nielsen accepted the award in person on the Board’s behalf.

Denmark has earned 140 World Championship Cheese Contest awards over the years, including 54 Gold Medals, 44 Silver Medals, and 42 Bronze Medals in the international competition. Danish dairy manufacturers have earned medals in 39 different contest classes, showcasing the nation's dairy product ingenuity and diversity. Throughout its years of participation in the Contest, Denmark has won a remarkable four World Champion titles.

Hosted biennially by WCMA since 1957, the World Championship Cheese Contest is the largest technical dairy products evaluation in the world. This year, 3,302 entries of cheese, butter, yogurt, and dry dairy ingredients from manufacturers worldwide are being evaluated by a team of 53 internationally renowned judges. The announcement of the 2024 World Champion Cheese will be livestreamed at WorldChampionCheese.org and on Facebook at 2:00 p.m. (CT) Thursday, March 7. For more information on the Contest and complete results for all classes, please visit WorldChampionCheese.org.