Our very own Alan Watson was crowned “Young Cheesemonger of the Year” at the British Cheese Awards last week!
The Young Cheesemonger is a tough competition and the standard of competitors this year was particularly strong. There were four intense rounds for the eight finalists:
Round one: Each contestant discussed their ideal cheeseboard selection.
Round two: The cheesemongers cut and wrapped different weights of cheese from whole cheeses by sight with no use of weighing scales.
Round three: Contestants tasted and identifed a number of unmarked cheeses.
Round four: A Mastermind-style quiz with questions about British cheese.
We had a chat with Alan to get his thoughts on his new celebrity status!
What does winning the competition mean to you?
"To win, means everything. It’s recognition from some of the industry’s biggest names that I have a craft that I’ve been working on for the last 5 years. At the moment I’m trying to hide my delight but as time passes since the competition I’m starting to realise whats happened."
What inspired you to become a cheesemonger?
"When I was younger I always wanted to be a chef, until I realised how hot a kitchen was, I then discovered the cooler climate of a cheese-shop. Once I started working in cheese I knew I wanted to succeed and learn as much as possible. Cheese-making is a craft steeped in historical, social, economic and cultural history, I just wanted to spread the word of good cheese."
Which part of being a cheesemonger do you enjoy the most?
"Discoveries! The varieties of cheeses in the world are practically endless so I’m discovering new cheeses every week. New flavours, techniques of production and regional styles."
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a career in cheese?
"It will take a lot of time to have built up a mental encyclopaedia of different cheeses so be patient. If you’d like to speed-up the process ensure to visit other cheeses shops and ask plenty of questions. Any good cheese shop will be happy to answer any questions."
The entry question was ‘You have around £30 to shop for a cheeseboard for 6 people – which British cheeses would you buy?’ What was your answer?
"Dorstone, Tunworth, Lincolnshire Poacher, Corra Linn, Rollright & Barkham Blue."
What’s your absolute favourite cheese (price no object) and what would you pair it with?
"My favourite cheeses in the past have unfortunately been very rare cheeses, there’s something about learning the story of an artisanal producer who is crafting a cheese for the love of the product over money. My favourite cheese also changes as often as the wind changes direction, but right now we’re directly in the perfect season for Goat’s cheese, due to kidding. So I would say Dorstone with a crisp Reisling from a cold-climate region. Fresh figs would also finish the combination beautifully."
Alan is Store Manager at our Cale Street London Cheese Shop. Based in the heart of beautiful Chelsea Green in London. Here food lovers can treat themselves to a wide range of delicious artisan cheeses from Britain and the Continent, mouth-watering fine foods, exclusive cheese accessories and gorgeous hampers.
The Cale Street shop is also available for hire for private events for up to 6 people. We can host tutored tastings or cheese and wine matching challenges. Perfect for occasions or entertaining clients.