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Caseus Prize - Premio Caseus

A Cheese Competition in Italy

Premio Caseus winner - photo

ABOVE: Chef Giovanni Guarneri of the Don Camillo Restaurant in Siracusa, Sicily poses with his wife Cecilia and his winning cheese trolley at the second annual Caseus Prize competition.

In the United States, where I live, a cheese trolley is likely to be a streetcar that sold its naming rights to Kraft. The situation in Italy is quite different: Cheeses--and trolleys--often play an important role in a restaurant's dinner service, and Italy's Slow Food movement has focused even more attention on the manufacture and presentation of artisanal cheeses.

The Caseus Prize, or Premio Caseus, derives its name from the Latin word for "cheese." It rewards the country's most cheese-conscious restaurateurs and hoteliers with an annual trophy for the best cheese trolley in Italy.

The event takes place each October in Maratea, Italy.  Competitors, judges, specialty cheesemakers, print journalists from three continents, and Italian TV crews get together for five days of events that range from dairy visits to an awards ceremony and a "final great cheese-tasting."

Caseus Prize cheeses photoThe idea of a trophy for cheese trolleys may sound "wonderfully quirky," to use a British observer's description, but the competitors and judges take Italian cheeses and cheese presentation very seriously--as do some of Italy's best vintners, who donate wines to accompany the dairy products of Italy's most pampered cattle, water buffalo, goats, and sheep.

Competitors have a chance to learn about the finer points of making and serving cheese during the Caseus Prize event. In 2002, Premio Caseus lecturers and their topics included:

  • Gerard Poulard, a famous French matre formagier, on "Selection of a trolley, from knowledge to research."

  • Jean-Charles Arnaud, the cheese affineur in an ancient Napoleonic fortress in Jura, on "Cheese seasoning and flavor."

  • Marco Parenti, architect and author of the book Resecandi Casei, on "The art of cheese-cutting."

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