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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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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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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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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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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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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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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. 

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James Grant

JUDGE

No2 POUND STREET

OWNER

James Grant is a restauranteur & academician of The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. He is an educator at The Academy of Cheese. He is the owner of “No2 Pound Street” in the picturesque market town of Wendover, Bucks, which specialises in Boutique Wines, British Artisan Cheese and Charcuterie. His palate has been fine-tuned, and has been a World Cheese Judge since 2011. He also writes a monthly column on cheese in Speciality Food Magazine. 

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Deiniol ap Dafydd

JUDGE

BLAS AR FWYD

MD

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.

 

Deiniol has opened Blas ar Fwyd in 1988 which promotes the very best in Welsh food and drink including a big focus on cheese. 

Blas ar Fwyd stocks Welsh food from over 150 producers - a range of Welsh food and drink second to none. Blas ar Fwyd also provides a distribution service for these producers, enabling them to reach a wide range of customers where otherwise it wouldn’t be economical for them to do so.
 

Deiniol has made goats' cheese for five years, judged at Welsh Winter Fare, Great Taste and True Taste (Welsh) many times and was  judge at the World Cheese Awards 2022. He's also given tutored tastings of Welsh cheese for the last 25 years.
 

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Sarah Miness

JUDGE

WAITROSE

PARTNER & BUYER 

Sarah has a wealth of experience in buying and product development. She has been a Waitrose buyer for the past eight years and in 2021 she joined the Waitrose Dairy Team as a Cheese Buyer.  Sarah is currently the buyer for Waitrose's speciality, ingredient and Christmas cheese range - which includes the world-class Waitrose No 1 cheeses and those sold on its 221 cheese counters,  which are sourced from 14 different countries across the globe and from all corners of the British Isles.  Sarah has completed the renowned Academy of Cheese Level 1 & Level 2 Qualifications.  

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Nicola Beardmore

JUDGE

ORNUA FOODS

CHEESE GRADER

After a short time of starting as a deli supervisor, Nicola rocketed into the world of cheese awards back in 2017 starting as a finalist for Young Cheesemonger of the Year, then going on to judge the World Cheese Awards lasted that year. She’s since won Young Cheesemonger of the Year in 2018 and judged at the World Cheese Awards, British Cheese Awards, International Cheese Awards and is a familiar face at the Great Taste Awards judging sessions. She’s now a full time cheese grader and wishing to continue her cheese journey.  

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Charlie Turnbull

JUDGE

CHEESE EXPERT

TRAINER & BLOGGER

Charlie Turnbull is a cheese expert, trainer and blogger. He is a founding member of the Academy of Cheese, responsible the some of its core material, and teaches cheese courses in classroom and through online courses via his web portal charlieturnbull.com.

 

Charlie ran his own cheesemongers and bistro for fifteen years, works closely with the Guild of Fine Food including the World Cheese Awards, The International Cheese and Dairy Awards and judges ate other competitions such as the Concours Generale in Paris.

 

You can find Charlie at his regular online masterclasses where he shows the enjoyment knowing more about cheese can bring.

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Ed Billens

JUDGE

& CAWS

OWNER

I started my cheese journey working as a Christmas temp at Neal’s Yard Dairy which is where I got the bug for working in cheese, I then worked for La Fromagerie starting in the Cheeseroom at the Marylebone branch before managing the Highbury branch for nearly a decade.

 

Me and family moved to Anglesey at the beginning of 2021 where we setup our own cheese shop

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Gautham Krishna

ADJUDICATOR

VIRTUAL CHEESE AWARDS

I am pursuing my Master's in food and nutrition sciences at Sheffield Hallam University. I completed my Placement year working at Feltham's Farm in Somerset as a cheesemaker, which is home to the two-time supreme champion in VCA Renegade Monk and Rebel Nun, which won Gold for the best rind-washed cheese.

 

Coming from a country where cheese is not a big deal and lacks variety, I was in unfamiliar territory. However, I found my passion and love for cheese while working at Feltham's Farm by meeting other fellow cheesemakers and being amidst people who just adored cheese also, my mentor kept reeling me towards this industry.

 

Wanting to broaden my knowledge in this field, I started working as a cheesemonger in the oldest Cheese shop in the world, Paxton and Whitfield.

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