Austin, Texas (June 11, 2014) – No one celebrates the “king of cheese,” Parmigiano Reggiano, better than Whole Foods Market, and the grocer’s global cheese buyer Cathy Strange was awarded for her dedication to preserving the craftsmanship of the Italian cheese with the “Coltellino d’oro,” or golden knife, by the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano. Strange is not only the first American to be acknowledged with this award, but the first non-Italian as well. Additionally, she was named ambassador of Parmigiano Reggiano in the U.S. by the Consortium president of the Modena region, Aldemiro Bertolini.

Strange was honored at the 41st annual Modena Dairy Festival, the traditional event for all Parmigiano Reggiano producers, on Monday, June 9. This year the festival also celebrated the Consortium's 80th anniversary. The evening was an opportunity for recognizing cheesemakers and dairies that excelled in the production of Parmigiano Reggiano during 2012, but also for acknowledging individuals for their commitment in making Parmigiano Reggiano and its production region, the rolling hills of northern Italy, known to the world.

The “Coltellino d’oro” or golden knife was awarded to Strange for her expert selection of Parmigiano Reggiano wheels which she makes by personally visiting the region yearly to meet the cheesemakers and hand select the cheese. Whole Foods Market works actively to spread the word about Parmigiano Reggiano to shoppers by hosting a ‘Crack Heard Around the World’ each year where stores simultaneously crack wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano. Additionally, the grocer’s cheesemongers and Certified Cheese Professionals™ are trained on all aspects of Parmigiano Reggiano to ensure the cheese’s integrity and educate shoppers on the best ways to enjoy it.

“I’m so honored to receive this recognition,” said Strange. “Whole Foods Market is committed to bringing the highest quality products to its stores, and for cheese, that means Parmigiano Reggiano. I’m proud to have such strong relationships with the cheesemakers and Consortium and know that with each wheel we crack and sell, our shoppers are enjoying the best tasting cheese.”

The Consortium singled out Strange after this year’s Parmigiano Reggiano celebration when the Consortium president, Giuseppe Alai, Aldemiro Bertolini and the renowned chef Massimo Bottura were present for the ‘Crack Heard Around the World’ event in New York City and also held an exclusive event showcasing the different ways to use the cheese.

A Plaque of Thanks was also awarded to Michele Buster, Jess diMeo and Pierluigi Sini of importing company Forever Cheese, one of Whole Foods Market’s partners.