Bonus Contest

Best in Creativity  

Each year that we've run our Ham Independence contest (2016 will be our fifth!), the displays that our participants come up with have astonished us. They have made us chuckle, beam, guffaw, and most of all feel inspired and proud to be working with such fun, creative folks.

In 2015, we decided that it was just too sad to choose one winner, so we asked an awesome line up of experts in the specialty foods field to help us pick the winners of the Creativity Contest. They selected one winner for each of the following categories:

"Most Artistic"
"Savviest Merchandising"
"Go Big or Go Home"

The three winners each got a giant box of La Quercia cured meats for a staff pork party and a fancy ribbon to hang on their wall. 

It was such a great success that we did it again in 2016! 

Our 2016 Panel of Judges

Click below to read more about our incredible panel!


Charles (C.J.) Bienert, along with his wife, Kari Bienert, opened The Cheese Shop of Des Moines in 2011 and it immediately became a local treasure. The shop’s specialty is artisan and farmstead cheese and everything to be paired with cheese- from wine to craft beer and cured meat to chocolate. They host fantastic classes and events, and make a KILLER mac & cheese. The Cheese Shop of Des Moines was the grand prize winner of Ham Independence 2016 and since they are sitting this year out, we snatched him up as a judge.​ Photo credit: Rodney White/The Register


Molly Browne began exploring the world of cheese while working on a masters degree in Food Rhetoric at the University of Colorado. From there she went on to be the opening manager of Cured, in Boulder. Currently, Molly manages monger education and communication as part of the sales team at the Cellars at Jasper Hill--an affinage facility dedicated to to preserving the working landscape of Vermont through farmstead cheese production.


Stephanie co-founded Culture Magazine with her sister Thalassa. She spends her days running the fast growing national magazine and thinking about trends in the specialty market. ​ This isn't Stephanie's first brush with Iowa agriculture -- some of the grain silos you see scattered around Iowa farmscapes are Stephanie's handiwork from her 20's. ​Photo credit:


Thalassa co-founded Culture Magazine with her sister Stephanie. She writes, teaches, and acts as a freelance cheesemonger from her home in Napa, CA. She has decades of experience in specialty food retailing and has worked all over the US, plus a stint in Australia. ​In her free time, she likes to make up fake artisan cheeses, such as 'Dilleggio'​ — taleggio in pickle juice, of course (pictured)​.


There is a 88.8% chance that you already know Emiliano. Emiliano is the unofficial mayor of the American artisan cheese and meat world. He has rocked his specialty retail skills at many independent shops, most recently FarmShop in LA.​ He is currently working on a new project in the Bay Area.​​ Photo credit: