MEET THE VIRTUAL CHEESE AWARDS JUDGES

The Virtual Cheese Awards has pulled together an esteemed collection of judges to give each cheesemaker or consumer valuable insight about each cheese. WE would like to thank them all for their time and dedication.

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Nigel Barden

HOST

FOOD & DRINK BROADCASTER

Nigel Barden, broadcaster and journalist, is our Virtual Cheese Awards host and has managed both our 2020 and 2021 live finals. Nigel specialises in promoting British ingredients and artisan producers, particularly in his role as chairman of judges for The Great Taste Awards, Farm Shop & Deli Awards, World Cheese Awards, British Cookery School Awards, Deliciously Yorkshire and host of the National Fish & Chip and Ice Cream Alliance Awards. 


His own radio show “Barden’s Soundbites” was on Scala Radio and saw Nigel playing music inspired by food & drink. On TV “Nigel Barden’s Drivetime Dishes” airs on Amazon Prime and Simply Good Food TV.  His first podcast was “A Grand Hotel by Corinthia”, a 3 part series featuring chef Tom Kerridge and the Corinthia Hotel and he’s currently championing artisan food and drink producers in his podcast for Britannia Living. 
 
Since the March lock-down Nigel has presented live tastings for the British Cheese Weekender, highlighting the plight of the artisan cheese making community and hosted the Virtual Cheese Awards, a five and a half hour live event. He fronts the UCFF (Universal Cookery Food Festival) regular Zoom catch-ups and sits on the industry panel debates for Sodexo Foods. In the summer Nigel was the voice of the ‘Sea For Yourself’ radio campaign for Seafish, the public body supporting the seafood industry, encouraging listeners to cook more seafood and to try different species. In October he was filmed cooking for Seafish in his own kitchen.  
 
Nigel hosted the cocktail hour, to close 8 hours of the National Fruit Show, which was held virtually for the first time in 87 years. He also regularly hosts online cheese & wine tastings, often linking up with tasters abroad.  
 
Footage of ‘Cooking with the Barden Boys’ featuring Nigel and his 3 sons is posted weekly @NigelBarden on Instagram and twitter, featuring the dish he cooks for Scala Radio. The NigelBarden.com website is updated regularly.  
 
He is currently recording a new football console game, in which he’s the commentator. 
 
In a former life Nigel was a director of Yorkshire Fine Wines, based at Nun Monkton near York. He grew up on a farm in Lancashire, studied land agency at the Royal Agricultural College and worked in Yorkshire as a land agent. Nigel’s also a BBC rugby commentator and trained and worked as an actor. His wife is from Sicily and they have 3 boys under 22”.  

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Morgan McGlynn

JUDGE

CHEESES OF MUSWELL HILL

OWNER 

Over the last decade, Morgan has traveled the UK and the world, working with celebrated mongers and makers, and learning to make, mature and sell cheese.

 

Morgan is a judge at the world cheese award, a two time best selling author in cheese and a cheese expert on channel 4’s tv show Sunday Brunch.  

 

Morgan spends their time hand-picking artisan cheeses for the ‘Selected by Morgan’  for large uk retailers & Michelin star chefs and  working closely with the cheese makers and farms.

 

She is also passionate about education – working closely with cheesemongers and chefs, running masterclasses, contributing regularly to food magazines including  Olive magazine, and speciality food magazine.

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Hero Hirsh

JUDGE

PAXTON & WHITFIELD

HEAD OF RETAIL

Hero Hirsh is Head of Retail for Paxton & Whitfield, cheesemongers to the Queen, where she has spent the last 13 years working with some of the best cheeses in the world. She is a regular judge at the World Cheese Awards and won their ‘Cheesemonger of the Year’ title in 2012.


She has been a training partner for the Academy of Cheese since its inception, delivering both level 1 and 2 courses to hundreds of delegates. She is also working with the Academy to create learning content for its upcoming level 3 and Master of Cheese qualification.


With a lifelong passion for food, and a background as a pastry chef in some of London’s Michelin star restaurants, Hero had the ideal foundations for a career running the cheese counters in one of the UK’s most prestigious cheesemongers.
Hero loves to talk about all things cheese and even started the UK’s first dedicated cheese podcast.

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Laura Anne Bradley

JUDGE

INDIE FÜDE

OWNER

Laura is co-owner of Indie Füde, a business founded in 2016 to exclusively showcase the exceptional produce of the island of Ireland. She is a passionate advocate of all things local and sustainable, and has gathered a wide knowledge base to allow her to highlight this. She enjoys educating the general public of the value of our local producers and does so via tutored tastings amongst other things when times allow!

 

Indie Füde has always shone a light on Irish cheese with an impressive counter at their two outlets, and the recent addition to the portfolio being Indie Füde - The Cheese Addition - securing their place at the forefront of championing our cheese makers. 2022 has seen them join forces with a local cheesemaker to further their foray into cheese by producing their own under the Velocheese x Indie Füde brand.

 

Laura has judged at The Irish Cheese Awards, The Great Taste Awards and The Blas Na Heireann Awards. She relishes the opportunity to discover new and exciting makers this way - as well as being able to support makers in the industry.

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Alan Kirby

JUDGE

BOOTHS

CHEESE BUYER

Enjoying all foods and find cheese a really interesting category with fascinating back stories. I have worked for Booths' for over 35 years the past 8-10 in Cheese. I dislike all things social media so it took some persuading to do this!

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Ruth Holbrook

JUDGE

THE NEWT

RETAIL MANAGER

Ruth is currently Retail Manager of the shops at The Newt in Somerset. She started there last August and is making it her mission to put the cheese room in the farm shop firmly on the map.

 

Previous to The Newt, she worked at Paxton & Whitfield for six years, most recently as Head of Wholesale, but always had a hand in the practical side of cheesemongering. Ruth has judged at many cheese and fine food awards, including the Virtual Cheese Awards in its inaugural year. She’s very glad to have made the move out of London and back into the lush green pastures of Somerset with its wonderful cheese

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Russell Haggata

JUDGE

MORRISONS

CHEESE TECHNICAL MANAGER

Over 30 years food and dairy experience, Cheese category technical manager @ WM Morrisons for over 14 years, studied cheese and dairy technology at college and university, worked in dairy industry including Davidstow and Eden vale

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Brownwen Percival 

JUDGE

NEALS YARD DAIRY

I work with a wide selection British and Irish cheeses but will try to be impartial!

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Helen Blair

MODERATOR

GOOD SENSE RESEARCH

HEAD OF GOOD SENSE RESEARCH 

Helen is Director of Good Sense Research who have been a supporter of the virtual cheese awards since it started back in 2020. Helen is a huge fan of cheese and is looking forward to being part of the team again in the role of Chief Steward. Helen says ‘Whilst Good Sense Research predominantly focus on consumers opinions it is always interesting hearing from the judges who are the experts in the industry. It’s also a great way to find out which are the best cheeses to look out for on the market!’  

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Adrian Boswell

MODERATOR

GOOD SENSE RESEARCH

QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH MANAGER

Lee is joining the Virtual Cheese Awards for the first time as a steward for the judging. Outside of the awards he is the Quantitative Research Manager at Good Sense Research delivering insightful analysis for the client base. Lee is looking forward to expanding his knowledge of cheese and the art of tasting from watching the judges at work.

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Tracey Colley

JUDGE

ACADEMY OF CHEESE

DIRECTOR

Tracey has worked in the cheese industry for over 17 years; as an award winning deli owner, a top tier Account Manager and Events Organiser for fine food Distributor Harvey & Brockless and currently as a Founding Director and operations officer of the Academy of Cheese. 

She has worked with numerous cheesemakers, cheesemongers, and Food Halls across the UK for many years before helping to establish the fast-growing educational programmes of the Academy of Cheese. 

 

Tracey is an experienced cheese judge, usually in person and surrounded by colleagues and friends from the cheese world, so is intrigued and delighted to be taking part in this new virtual judging experience as part of the Virtual Cheese Awards 2021. 

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Chris Dawson

JUDGE

MARKS & SPENCER'S

CHEESE BUYER

I have been the Cheese buyer for M&S since January 2020, leading the Cheese Category transformation project,

as we modernise & expand the M&S cheese assortment to meet our customers growing cheese needs.

Previously I was a Specialist Cheese consultant for 6 months at M&S.

I was the Cheese Buyer at Waitrose from 2003 through to 2019 & have developed a real passion for all things cheese

and built an extensive cheese product knowledge & supplier relationships across the UK & Europe during this time.

My previous buying roles included Grocery & Non-Food at Waitrose.

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Kelly Dowson

JUDGE

FOOD INNOVATIONS SOLUTIONS​

MANAGING DIRECTOR

Fiercely ambitious, Kelly is the driving force behind the FIS Group. F!S Group is a family of three businesses specialising in F&B innovation, research and growth acceleration.

 

Food Innovation Solutions, Good Sense Research and CUBO, come together to provide a suite of complimentary services in food and beverage innovation, strategic support and consumer research.


With a Food Science degree Kelly has spent the last 15 years working across foodservice and hospitality as well as retail and manufacturing, in both innovation and insight functions. 

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Tanny Gill

JUDGE

CLARKS SPECIALITY FOODS LTD

HEAD OF CHEESE & RETAIL 

Tanny Gill has been championing cheese in the UK since 2004, spreading his specialist knowledge to food and drink retailers and supporting great local cheese makers.
I’ve been involved in cheese in the UK since 2004, and there’s no doubt that consumer knowledge and the demand for good quality artisan cheese has grown exponentially during that time. Consumer’s are more aware and keen to support great quality local cheese makers, as well as the vast array of quality cheeses being made across the whole of the UK.

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Terry Hudson

JUDGE

TERRY HUDSON CONSULTING

OWNER/DIRECTOR

Terry has worked in the dairy industry for nearly 50 years, most of that time in cheese. Starting on the shop floor involved in manufacture of many different dairy products and attending Reaseheath Agricultural College he progressed up the management chain to head up the Technical Division in the largest cheese company in the UK.

 

During his career he has been lucky enough to travel to many countries around the world involved in manufacture, imports & exports. He is well known to most of the smaller and farmhouse makers in the UK. Terry regularly judges at Cheese Shows, several of which the Trophy winners and Supreme Champions, involving UK & overseas cheese.

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Louisa McCoy

MODERATOR

GOOD SENSE RESEARCH

RESEARCH MANAGER

Louisa has worked in market research for over 10 years, across several sectors including food and drink and travel retail, for several different brands. 

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Bruce Macdonald

MODERATOR

BRUCE MACDONALD CONSULTING

OWNER

Bruce has worked in the cheese industry since 1975, full-time in grading since 1987. Self-employed since 2010. This allows him to provide a lot training which culminated in launching the Guild of Cheese Graders® in 2015.

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Richard Newell

COLLATOR

RICHARD NEWELL CHEESE & DAIRY SERVICES LTD.

OWNER

Richard commenced his career in the dairy industry in 1982. He has since held posts in production, quality, technical sales & process engineering. Working for small artisan family run businesses right up to the largest fully automated businesses he has a wealth of experience on all aspects of cheese making & sales.

 

He has developed a cheese that is now sold in the premium retailers and has previously advised major retailers on sourcing. He now runs his own consultancy and is currently managing a new artisan sheep’s cheese dairy project. https://richardnewell.co.uk

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Nicky Philp

JUDGE

HARVEY & BROCKLESS

PURCHASING DIRECTOR

I have worked with cheese for the last 30 years. Initially in my uncles deli & then was lucky enough to work with and visit many Cheese makers whilst working at Harvey & Brockless over the last 20 years. 

Holly Shackleton Editor Speciality Food

Holly Shackleton

JUDGE

SPECIALITY FOOD MAGAZINE

EDITOR

As editor of Speciality Food Magazine, Holly Shackleton has spent the past five years delving
appetite-first into the artisan cheese industry, and she is proud to have judged at industry awards
throughout that time.

 

She is passionate about educating consumers about the joys of great
cheese as well as supporting the cheesemakers that make the British cheese industry such an
exciting place to be.

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Perry Wakeman

JUDGE

RENNET & RIND

SALES DIRECTOR

Perry is a Certified MonS Affineur, working and studying under Hervé Mons, Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Artisan Craftsman of France), in the 9 MonS maturing cellars located in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region. Perry currently holds the highest certification possible with the Academy of Cheese and is a regular contributor to the Academy's curriculum. He was asked to judge at the World Cheese Awards in Bergen, Norway in 2018 and again the following year in Bergamo as a Captain Judge.

 

Perry is ‘Head of Cheese’ at Rennet & Rind, responsible for maintaining the strong relationships we have with our British cheesemakers, regularly visiting them on the family farm to batch select our cheese. Perry also looks after our Rennet & Rind maturing room, using his expert knowledge to ensure every cheese that leaves us arrives to you at its very best.

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Sam Wilkin

JUDGE

CELLARMAN

OWNER

Sam loves the wonderfully diverse world of cheese, the people who pour all their care and craft into making four raw ingredients into something extraordinary.

 

In his day job I am Head Cheesemonger at The Cheese Bar Group in London and an experienced cheesemonger working with some of the best in the business. He is also an accredited trainer with the Academy of Cheese offering the Level One: Associate qualification.  

The Academy of Cheese aims to bring a greater knowledge and appreciation of this delicious product to the public. Alongside his work in cheese he hosts The Cellarman Podcast focussing on cheese and cider. He is looking forward this year to producing a podcast series on one dairies journey towards a regenerative model of farming.

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Emma Young

JUDGE

THE CHEESE EXPLORER

CHEESE CONSULTANT

Emma Young  is a Cheese Specialist from London in the UK. She has worked in the Cheese industry since 2009 as a Cheesemonger and Manager for Whole Foods Market UK, Cheesemaker at Gringa Dairy and Wholesale Manager for Mons Cheesemongers.

Early on in her mongering career she spent every day off and opportunity possible visiting cheese makers and here permitted, making cheese with them all in the name of study. She has visited and made cheese with many British producers such as the likes of Joe Schneider at Stichelton Dairy, Jonny Crickmore at Fen Farm Dairy, Anne and Andy Wigmore at Village Maid, John Spencer at Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, Irene & Jan Dirk Van de Voort making Remeker in the Netherlands, several small cheesemakers in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and a whole variety of French producers including Isigny, Ferme du Port Aubry in the Loire and the Borel family in Provence to name but a few. 

She is quite partial to a beverage or three and has taken her Level 2 WSET as a foundation to embellish her love for pairing cheese and drink.