Parmigiano Reggiano Becomes Big Cheese at Whole Foods in February

Once again, Whole Foods Market is paying tribute to one of Italy’s most revered cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano, all of this month via in-store events and an online customer recipe contest.

“Whole Foods Market salutes Parmigiano Reggiano each year because it is truly one of the incomparable cheeses of the world,” explained Cathy Strange, global cheese buyer for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods. “We take extraordinary measures to work with a small group of artisan producers in Italy to hand-select the very best Parmigiano Reggiano. Our chosen wheels are carefully aged for two years to bring out the best of Parmigiano Reggiano’s nutty and sweet flavors and creamy and crystalline textures.”

The culmination of this monthlong celebration will take place on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 3 p.m. EST/2 p.m. CST, when Whole Foods cheese mongers in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom will simultaneously demonstrate the traditional method of breaking into 24-month-aged wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano using official tools (five different knives) from Italy’s Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano. The process of carving into and portioning each 85-pound wheel requires specialized expertise and normally takes about half an hour. “Part of the fun of this promotion will be watching our Team Members who have mastered the skill of ‘parm cracking’ perform this task in record time,” noted Strange.

In its first-ever attempt in 2008, Whole Foods set a Guinness World Record for “Most Parmigiano Reggiano Wheels Cracked Simultaneously,” with nearly 300 wheels opened at 176 stores. The natural and organic foods retailer hopes to shatter that record at this year’s upcoming event.

Also as part of the promotion, Whole Foods customers can enter an online recipe contest for the chance to win a $500 shopping spree, authentic cheese knife sets and gift baskets. Through Feb. 10, shoppers will be able to submit original recipes on the grocer’s Behind the Rind Web page ( to share new ways to enjoy Parmigiano. A taste panel will judge the recipes on flavor profile, overall culinary appeal and innovative use of the cheese. Winning recipes will be posted on the Whole Story blog at

Additionally, Whole Foods stores will provide recipes and host in-store pairings and tastings in their cheese departments throughout February. Promotion sponsors include Buonitalia, the Consorzio del Formaggio de Parmigiano Reggiano, Forever Cheese and the Ministero delle Politiche Agricole Alimentarie e Forestali.

Only Parmesan cheese made in one area of northern Italy can bear the name Parmigiano Reggiano. For nearly 1,000 years, the cheese has been crafted in small batches, employing artisan methods that meet the strict quality standards of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano.
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