On March 24, at noon, Eastern time, staff at more than 250 Loblaws banners across Canada picked up knives and prepared to attack an unsuspecting wheel of cheese.
Their goal – to earn a Guinness World Record for the most wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano ever cracked open simultaneously.
According to Guinness officials, 305 wheels of Parmigiano were cracked. That beats the previous record of 176 wheels, claimed in 2008 by Whole Foods market in the U.S.
This king of cheese has been made around Parma, in Northern Italy, for nearly 1,000 years. It takes 600 litres of raw milk to make one 34-kilogram wheel of Parmigiano.
To earn a stamp of approval, Leo Bertozzi, director of the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Consortium, said even the cows that produce the milk for the cheese must come from the Parma region. The wheels are aged for at least 12 months.
A master cheesemaker from Parma was among the Italian delegates who flew to Toronto for the Loblaws promotion.
At a media preview, held at the new Maple Leaf Gardens store, the cheesemaker looked like a surgeon preparing to operate.
First, he chose several short blades with black handles from a wooden box. Working quickly and intensely, he inserted the blades at key points across the centre of the wheel. A few minutes later, without warning, the cheese broke into two perfect halves, revealing a golden moonscape.
To highlight Parmigiano’s versatility, Loblaws executive chef Tom Filippou grated the cheese over pasta with arugula, and baked it into thin lacy cups for salad. He says he also likes to serve shards of Parmigiano as a cheese course, surrounded by walnuts, fresh figs and a drizzle of honey.
An official from the Guinness World Records was also in Toronto to observe the feat.
Once the wheels were cracked, customers were invited to sample the golden shards of Parmigiano and experience its nutty flavour and granular crystals that melt in the mouth.
Everyone involved can truly say they witnessed history in the breaking.