The Slow Cheese Award 2019
ILHAN KOÇULU, TURKEY
The founder of Slow Food Kars, the coordinator of the Boğatepe Gravyer Presidium, and one of the first activists in the Slow Food network in Turkey, Ilhan has long fought to protect Anatolia’s gastronomic traditions, especially in its northwestern provinces. Thanks to his commitment, the Gravyer cheese of the small village of Boğatepe has become one of Turkey’s prime dairy excellences, doubling production, sales and jobs in the meantime. As a result, it is now a point of reference for raw milk craft cheese lovers.
Ilhan is on the frontline in the fight to change the hygiene regulations imposed on dairies. It is partly thanks to him that in 2017 traditional styles of cheese production were made legal in Turkey after a long ban, and today many traditional Turkish cheeses are once again available on the market. One such cheese is the Slow Food Presidium Divle, a raw milk cheese encased in in sheepskin sacks and aged in caves.
RACHEL FRITZ SCHAAL AND PETER DIXON, USA
After 30 years experience in cheese production, Rachel and her husband Peter set up Parish Hill Creamery, working with a small dairy farm in Vermont. They started off milking 35 grass-fed cows and only produce cheese during the season when the animals graze on pasture. They neither pasteurize their milk nor subject it to heat treatment, and their dairy is one of very few in the USA not to use selected starters. With their Cornerstone project, they have pledged to spread natural cheese culture and organize lessons and seminars to teach other producers about the value of raw milk, the uniqueness of microflora, and the importance of striving for quality above all else.
ANDREA CAVALLERO, ITALY
After graduating in Agrarian Sciences in 1963, Andrea continued his training in Italy, France and the United Kingdom, and has decades of experience in research and teaching. In all, he has devoted more than 40 years to the study of Alpine pastures and forage systems. As a Professor of Alpiculture at the Agrarian, Forestry and Food Sciences Department of the University of Turin he has written and edited more than 130 publications on these subjects.
He is one of the world’s leading authorities on vegetal biodiversity in the Alps (their pastures, flora and wild fauna) and has always promoted the milk and cheese of grass-fed animals. One of his battles was for the introduction of land planning in Italy—implemented in France since 1975—to overcome the problem of the fragmentation of properties in marginal areas.
DANIELE CASEROTTI, ITALY
Young dairyman Daniele Caserotti, just 18, studied at the Istituto San Michele all’Adige, a technical college in Trento created to promote local agriculture. On his small farm he keeps 16 cows, which he takes up to mountain pastures in the summer. For almost a year now he has also been head of the traditional turnario dairy in Pejo, in the province of Trento.
Every day he uses the milk supplied by five local dairy farmers—raw and without the addition of selected starters—to make Casòlet, a Slow Food Presidium set up to rescue a collective milk supply chain model at risk of disappearing.
The traditional seasonal cheesemaking system was once widespread in the regions of Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto, but today it survives in just three dairies. The system once allowed families to make cheese collectively with meager quantities of milk, and is still suitable for small-scale dairy production. It differs from the cooperative model insofar as members do not sell their milk to the dairy but benefit from its services and are entitled to receive a quantity of cheese in proportion to the milk they supply. It is a form of organization reminiscent of traditional bread baking, which used to be a collective enterprise in local villages and hamlets.
RINO FARCI, ITALY
Rino Farci’s Fossada farm is situated in Escalaplano, in the southeast of Sardinia. It is a family-run enterprise with about 200 hectares of Mediterranean scrubland on which Rino rears (and hand-milks!) 400 free-range native Sarda sheep.
The farm has handed down the tradition of Axridda, or “cheese in clay”, from generation to generation. Slow Food is now working to launch a Presidium dedicated to this unique specialty—produced exclusively with raw sheep’s milk and without selected starter cultures—which recently boarded the Ark of Taste. Apart from the fact that the rind is treated with mastic oil during aging, the cheese’s most distinctive feature is its clay coating, which allows it to be matured for up to two or three years. This traditional technique was once used by many sheep-farming families in Escalaplano and handed down from father to son. Today it is known only to a few, and Rino, assisted by his father, is one of the producers responsible for its continued survival.
BRUNA SIBILLE, ITALY
Bruna Sibille was born in 1950 in Bra, where she has always lived, dedicating her professional career to teaching. Politics has always been Bruna’s great passion, and she has devoted her time and energy to social work through innumerable organizations, including Slow Food. As a public administrator, Bruna has contributed to the success of Cheese since 1999 (when she became Deputy Mayor of Bra). From 2005 to 2009, as the Piedmont Region’s Secretary for the Mountains, she followed the growth of the event with passion and dedication.
During her two terms of office as Mayor of Bra, Slow Food and the City of Bra staged five editions of Cheese and organized this year’s event. In the meantime, the event has become the world’s most important reference for excellence in the cheesemaking sector. Of the many people to whom Cheese owes a debt of gratitude, Bruna Sibille is deserving of a very special place indeed. As energetic, courageous and determined as ever, she will again be backing this year’s Cheese with her presence and unfailing commitment.