Awards Jury: Experts in cheese

Judges for the Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens are selected, first and foremost, on the basis of their deep knowledge, understanding and appreciation of cheese.

The Jury is evenly divided between judges strong on technical aspects of cheese and those strong on aesthetics.

Dr. Arthur Hill is Chief Judge and head of the Jury responsible for evaluating and scoring cheese:

Art Hill, Chief Judge

Art Hill, Chief Judge

Dr. Arthur Hill
Professor and Chair
University of Guelph, Department of Food Science
Guelph, Ontario

When it comes to dairy and cheese, Art Hill is a man of many talents but his specialty is cheese technology. At University of Guelph, the second oldest dairy school in Canada, Art has conducted, since 1986, a respected Cheesemaking Technology Course that attracts national and international participants. When time permits from his duties as Professor and Chair in the university’s Department of Food Science, Art influences government and industry policies on issues such as milk pricing, safety of cheese curds and raw-milk cheese, import of dairy ingredients, and cheese composition standards.




Yannick Achim, Judge

Yannick Achim, Judge

Yannick Achim
Owner, Yannick Fromagerie
Laurentians, Montreal, Quebec City, Quebec

Yannick Achim had just graduated from university in economic science when he had the opportunity to acquire Fromagerie du Marché in Saint-Jérôme. Since then, Yannick has proven his entrepreneurial skill and leadership to expand to six fromageries, in the Laurentians, Montreal and Quebec City. His passion led him to Europe in a quest for artisan cheesemakers and the most refined products, bringing back their passion, dedication and savoir faire. He also traveled throughout Québec in search of the best local products. Yannick has much experience evaluating cheese, having judged at Sélection Caseus des fromages fins du Québec, International des fromages de chèvre de France, Concours général agricole à Paris, Caseus Montanus en France, Sélection Caseus Award en Belgique, International Caseus Award à Lyon (France) as well as twice serving as a jury member for the American Cheese Society competition.



Janice Beaton, Judge

Janice Beaton, Judge

Janice Beaton
Founder, Janice Beaton Fine Cheese
Calgary, Alberta

One of Janice Beaton’s first memories is of clinging to her grandmother’ s apron as farmhouse cheese was made on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. She was teethed on cheese! Many years later Janice would help put the world’s specialty cheeses on the palates of Albertans through the Janice Beaton Fine Cheese Shop in Calgary. For seventeen years she was chief cheese evangelist in the city’s burgeoning culinary scene. Her steadfast commitment to the best Canadian artisan cheese, and her depth of knowledge of the world’s finest, led to her induction into La Guilde Internationale des Fromagers and Confrerie des Chevaliers du Taste-Fromage de France. Janice wrote the history of Canadian cheese-making for the prestigious Oxford Companion to Cheese (2016).

In 2018, Janice is shepherding the expansion and further development of her popular condiments – Janice Beaton Cheese Partners – for wider distribution.
Oh, her Grandma would be proud.

Gurth M. Pretty, Judge

Gurth M Pretty, Judge

Gurth M. Pretty
Senior Category Manager for Special Projects, Deli Cheese (Market Division), Loblaw Companies

Gurth M. Pretty is the Senior Category Manager for Special Projects – Deli Cheese (Market Division) of Loblaw Companies Limited. Loblaw is Canada’s largest food retailer of more than 1,000 corporate and franchised stores from coast to coast. Gurth assists in sourcing unique domestic and imported cheese, creating in-store events and training store staff regarding cheese and active selling. His goal is to bring even more delicious cheese to Canadians and to make Loblaw the Canadian retail destination for cheese.

His involvement in the cheese industry includes: Via his former company, Cheese of Canada, retailing and distributing Canadian artisanal cheese to Toronto area farmers’ markets, independent cheesemongers and restaurants; Authoring and contributing to books, The Definitive Guide to Canadian & Artisanal Cheese (Whitecap 2006), The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook (Whitecap 2007) and The World Book of Cheese (DK Books 2009); Member of the jury at 2009 to 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.

Odysseas Gounalakis, Judge

Odysseas Gounalakis, Judge

Odysseas Gounalakis
Owner, Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese
St. Lawrence Market, Toronto, Ontario

Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Odysseas come to Toronto in 1982 for university. His first part-time job was in a cheese shop in St. Lawrence Market. He developed such a passion for food that when the opportunity presented itself he opened his own shop, Scheffler’s Deli & Cheese, in the Market. Over that last 20 years, Odysseas has committed to further his knowledge of cheese and expand his selection of imported and local cheeses. He has been certified as a Certified Cheese Professional by American Cheese Society, and recognized by Confrerie de Chevaliers de France as a Chevalier du Taste-Fromage.





Marla Krisko, Judge

Marla Krisko, Judge 

Marla Krisko
Co-owner, Cheese Education Guild
Toronto, Ontario

Marla is a graduate from the Cheese Education Guild’s Cheese Appreciation program and has spent the past 10 years educating food professionals and cheese enthusiasts about cheese focusing on the growing Canadian cheese market. She is a founding member of the Toronto Cheese Guild as well as a member of the American Cheese Society.







Ghislain Paquette, Judge

Ghislain Paquet, Judge 

Ghislain Paquet
Co-owner, Fromagerie De la Gare
Sherbrooke, Quebec

After graduating from l’Ecole d’hôtellerie in 1997, Ghislain Paquet worked for more than a decade in first-class restaurants, such as Manoir Hovey , Falaise St-Michel et l’Auberge Quilliams, first as a server, eventually as maitre d’hotel and wine sommelier. Six years ago, his passion for gastronomy led him to open Fromagerie de la Gare. It’s a relatively small cheese shop but his reputation as a cheese sommelier stretches far beyond Sherbrooke in the heart of Quebec’s Eastern Townships.






Geoff Rempel, Judge

Geoff Rempel, Judge 

Geoff Rempel
Specialty Team Leader, Whole Foods Market
Square One, Mississauga, Ontario

As a former broker in the field of used and rare culinary books, Geoff chose to switch focus from culinary history to food itself. While traveling trough Australia and New Zealand, he was given exposure to the cheesemaking world, working small stints on local dairies. Returning to Canada, Geoff completed the Cheesemaking Technology Course at University to Guelph. He was also able to help in the inaugural days of Ontario Cheese Society as an event planner. While Geoff will always consider himself an amateur cheesemaker, he has spent the last nine years working at Whole Foods as a cheese specialist, predominantly as a cheese buyer. His goals have always been centered on fostering and growing upcoming talent, continually aspiring to grow his own palette, and supporting local products and innovation in the cheese world.


Vanessa Simmons, Judge

Vanessa Simmons, Judge 


Vanessa Simmons
Cheese sommelier, Savvy Company
Ottawa, Ontario

Vanessa Simmons is cheese sommelier at Savvy Company in Ottawa, spending countless hours with cheesemongers and cheesemakers. Savvy specializes in “creative social experiences,” events where consumers discover fine wine, craft beer and artisan cheese with its wine and cheese sommeliers. Vanessa has studied with Cheese Education Guild (Level 2), Toronto, and Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute, Basic Cuisine Certificate, Ottawa, has worked as a chef and her tasting seminars make for a delicious discovery of Canadian artisan cheeses. She’s been seen and heard on Rogers TV Daytime, CTV Morning Live,CBC Radio & Radio Canada, has been a keynote presenter at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival year over year, and a judge at the 2013 Selection Caseus—Le Concours de Fromages Fins de Québec. The Toronto Star called her “openly fanatical about artisan cheese.” Her popular blog is Curd on the Street.



Nick Tsioros, Judge

Nick Tsioros, Judge 

Nick Tsioros
Co-owner, Olympic Cheese Mart
St. Lawrence Market, Toronto, Ontario

Nick Tsioros was born into the business and carries on tradition as a hands on buyer and cheesemonger for the St. Lawrence Market’s first specialty cheese store, Olympic Cheese. His father started the business 50 years ago and today they boast the largest selection of imported and Canadian artisan cheese in Canada. Nick’s active participation in the industry and passion for cheese has made him internationally recognized for his expertise.

Cheesemonger Invitational Contestant (New York, 2011)
Cheesemaking Technology Course (University of Guelph, 2012)
World Cheese Awards (Birmingham, England, UK, 2012 & 2013)
American Cheese Society Member (2014).


Debra Amrein-Boyes, Judge 

Debra Amrein-Boyes
Debra Amrein-Boyes grew up on a heritage family farm on the Canadian prairies. After attending university she spent several years working and travelling until settling for 10 years in a small farming village in the Swiss Alps, where she was first introduced to cheesemaking. She returned to Canada in 1991.
In 2003 Debra and her husband George Boyes founded The Farm House Natural Cheeses Ltd. on their small dairy farm in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, and began producing authentic artisan cheeses from the organic grass-fed milk of their heritage breed cows and later, goats, focussing on traditional methods for a diverse selection of handmade cheeses. 2009 Debra was honoured to have been selected for membership in the prestigious French 
Guilde de Fromagers Confrerie de St. Uguzon, in recognition of her effort to guard and preserve the traditions of cheesemaking. Her book “200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes” now in second edition, was published by Robert Rose in 2009. Her farmstead cheeses have been enjoyed by gourmets around the world, including Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, and at various elite national and international events.
In 2016 Debra and George retired from active farming and cheesemaking and have relocated south-western to Quebec to be near family, though remaining active in an advisory capacity.

Egon Skovmose


Egon Skovmose, Judge 

Egon Skovmose
Co-founder, Danlac Canada Inc.
Calgary, Alberta

Born and educated in Denmark. After working 3 years as apprentice at two dairy plants attended 6 and 9 month dairy processing school and graduated from Royal Veterinary and Agricultural College in Copenhagen in 1969 with a Bc. Science in dairy processing technology. Spent two years in Lebanon with FAO (United Nation) teaching students from the Middle East in making different dairy products (cheese, yogurt, butter etc.) also visited several countries in the Middle East following the students to see how well their education was applied to local conditions. Came to Canada in 1971 to manage quality control at Noca Dairies in Vernon B.C. followed by employment at Palm Dairies, Calgary. Also tried a few years with Cominco fertilizer operation near Calgary. 1979 started as a dairy processing specialist with Alberta Agriculture until 1992, when I started Danlac Canada Inc. supplying ingredients to the dairy industry as well as advice to clients in making high quality dairy products. Operated the company for 20 years and sold it to one of my clients.  Started a new company called Daniskov doing consulting as time permit, between trips and golfing.

Heather Rankin

Heather Rankin, Judge 

Heather Rankin
Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Obladee
Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Heather is Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Obladee, a Wine Bar in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a certified Sommelier, national and regional wine judge and cheese curator at Obladee. She’s a fixture of the local wine and food community, a wine writer, and devoted wine and cheese educator of her exceptional staff and patrons.




Heather Thelwell, Judge

Heather Thelwell
Cheese Consultant
Guelph, Ontario

My current curiosity & passion for cheese began over 25 years ago while living up the hill from a Parmigiano-Reggiano aging facility in the Po River Valley in Northern Italy.
Some my current and past experiences include:
Certified Cheesemaker
(University of Guelph – Technical Production of Cheese;
University of Vermont – VIAC- Artisan Cheese Maker Certificate;
School of Artisan Food,  Wellbeck, Nottinghamshire)
Production of a variety of styles of cheese for predominately small ruminant dairies in Ontario.
Cheese Monger – at both small & large farmers markets; a large specialty food retailer & boutique cut-to-order cheese shops.
Cheese Educator – offering tutored tastings, short courses and implementation of cheese programs for small grocery chains and preserve companies. Former instructor for Artisan Cheese Marketing.


Awards Chairman and non-voting member of the Jury:

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Awards Chairman

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Chairman

Georgs Kolesnikovs
Founder & Director
The Great Canadian Cheese Festival
Picton, Ontario

Georgs Kolesnikovs first fell in love with artisan cheese when he tasted Oka as a teenager, when the Trappists still made it. As founder and director of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, he has extensive experience in event promotion—and a lifelong passion for cheese. Georgs writes the popular cheese blog Twice a year, he makes cheese at home. Once a year, he visits major cheese festivals, looking for new ideas for cheese events—and sampling cheese, of course!






Click for an explanation of judging procedures at Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens.