Local cheesemonger takes the podium at international competition

Local cheesemonger Nadjeeb Chouaf became the first American to reach the podium at the international Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager competition held in Tours Cedex, France. Photo by Ryan Jones Local cheesemonger Nadjeeb Chouaf became the first American to reach the podium at the international Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager competition held in Tours Cedex, France. Photo by Ryan Jones

By Alexa Nash & Erin O’Hare

Last week, local cheesemonger Nadjeeb Chouaf, owner of Flora Artisanal Cheese and a consultant for Timbercreek Market’s cheese counter, brought his work to the world stage and won big, taking third place in the third edition of the international Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager competition, held June 11 through 13 in Tours Cedex, France.

In doing so, Chouaf became the first American to reach the podium in the competition. “It was a huge step in placing the American cheese industry on the national stage,” he told us in an email.

The competition is held every two years and contenders must be accepted by a committee in order to enter. This year’s 10 cheesemongers were from the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, Belgium and France. The American and Japanese competitors must win their respective national championship to enter, and Chouaf won the American Cheesemonger Invitational last summer.

The Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager includes four rounds of skill and knowledge presentations followed by artisanal challenges, such as creating various sculptures from cheese provided by the competition, composing a “perfect bite” with Fourme d’Ambert, preparing a Brie Fermier restaurant-style cold cheese dish and arranging a large display on “the alchemy of a cheesemonger” on a 1-meter by 1-meter (approximately 3 feet by 3 feet) board.

Chouaf says he felt most prepared for the cheese presentation and prepared dishes, but he scored lower than he expected. However, he rallied with his large display.

“The large display and sculpture, which I felt completely unprepared for, seemed to be the most impressive to the judges,” says Chouaf, who will continue working on bringing Virginia cheese to the international stage.

Ho lotta food options

Starting this spring, Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie, North Garden’s funky little pizza place, will have a food truck parked at local breweries, cideries and events. Dr. Ho’s chef and owner, Michael McCarthy, and sous chef, Carlos Cruz, will run the truck, says manager Naomi Annable. They’ll turn out snacks like house-cut French fries and gyoza dumplings, and larger dishes like a yellowfin tuna bahn mi (sesame-crusted tuna, Sriracha mayo, pickled veggies, toasted brioche, house fries) and General Ho’s chicken (flash-fried chicken, sticky sweet sauce, broccoli florets, pickled carrots, steamed jasmine). Looking for something sweet? Fresh watermelon and house-churned ice cream are on the menu, too.

Eater’s digest

The Mountain Grill at Carter Mountain Orchard has expanded its hours, serving lunch seven days a week and dinner during the Thursday Evening Sunset Series. Orange County native Stefan Boutchyard, former SeaWorld head chef who worked most recently at Keswick Hall, is the restaurant’s executive chef. Boutchyard uses orchard ingredients throughout the menu, in dishes such as the cider-brined chicken and Brie sandwich and hickory- and apple-smoked pork barbecue.

Sisters Katie and Erica Painter have renovated a 1980s two-horse trailer into a teeny tiny traveling bar aptly named The Bitty Bar. Whatever your reason to celebrate—wedding, birthday, graduation, dinner with friends—the Painter sisters will bring the bar, stocked with whatever you need for your wet or dry gathering, with a particular focus on Virginia beer, wine and spirits and house-made syrups, fresh-squeezed juices and locally grown garnishes.

Bar talk got you thirsty? Our next issue of Knife & Fork, a summer cocktail guide on stands June 28, will wet your whistle.

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