Whole Foods cuts the cheese and breaks a record

    Photos by the author

    Whole Foods Evanston North cracked open an 80 lb wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano at 2 p.m. Saturday, joining an international Whole Foods attempt to shatter the Guinness World Record for “Most Parmigiano Reggiano Wheels Cracked Simultaneously.” The record was set in 2008 with 300 wheels cracked at 176 Whole Foods stores.

    Cheesemonger Stephen Sipp, 33, had the honor of cracking open Evanston North’s Parmigiano Reggiano. He muscled through the massive wheel in just a few minutes and passed out generous samples of freshly cracked cheese to shoppers.

    Cracking a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano is actually a silent process, though one might be led to think otherwise.

    Whole Foods imports Parmigiano Reggiano from independent suppliers in Italy and the cheese retails for $20 per pound. Saturday’s wheel cost $1,600.

    “We sell on average a wheel a week,” Sipp said. “But we break it down into smaller pieces.”

    February has been a month-long celebration of Parmigiano Reggiano at Whole Foods. The West Vancouver, British Columbia store expressed its cheese-devotion by carving a replica of the Roman Coliseum out of a Parmigiano Reggiano wheel.

    More than 1,000 customers joined in on the fun, participating in an online recipe contest. Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps with Chocolate and Sea Salt took home top honors.

    Unbeknownst to many, Parmigiano Reggiano is not simply Parmesan, just as Chianti is not simply red wine. Under Italian law, only Parmesan produced in the northern Italian provinces of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia may bear the Parmigiano Reggiano name. For nearly a thousand years, strict artisan standards have elevated this hard, crystalline cheese to cult status among gourmets. The cheese is aged for two years before it can be sold in stores.

    Official results have yet to be announced, but considering the explosion of new Whole Foods stores in the past two years, Sipp is confident the Parmigiano Reggiano cracking world record will be broken.


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