Enjoy the ambiance of a fondue party in Switzerland without leaving the Magic City when cheese mongers and restaurants face off in a “fonduel” competition while raising money for educational programming at Jones Valley Teaching Farm.
The urban farm in downtown Birmingham hosts the competition to earn the moniker “The South’s Best Fondue.” The melted-cheese duel is set for Wednesday, January 31, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
Tickets for the benefit are $60, and include all-you-can-eat fondue, two drink tickets, and an on-site demonstration from Adam Moskowitz, a third-generation cheese importer and founder of the Cheesemonger Invitational (CMI) competition in New York.
In keeping with the Swiss chalet theme, the Birmingham event will be held outdoors on JVTF’s pavilion. Heaters will be blasting, but participants are encouraged to bundle up if temperatures are cold.
Located at 25th Street North between Seventh and Eighth avenues, Jones Valley Teaching Farm serves the community by providing growing space, fresh-picked produce, and workshops. Its educational programs are designed to help a new generation learn how to grow, harvest, and cook healthy produce amid the fresh-food deserts in numerous city neighborhoods.
Proceeds from Fonduel will benefit JVTF’s “Our Good Schools” food educational program, which offers apprenticeships, field trips, camps, and classroom lessons at Birmingham city schools.
Evans Meats, a Birmingham-based restaurant wholesaler, is co-sponsoring the event with Maker to Monger, Moskovitz’ family cheese company that imports more than a dozen Alpine and other European cheeses.
The scheduled competitors are:
The Son of a Butcher Located in Birmingham’s Pepper Place district, the retail arm of Evans Meats sells cut beef, pork, other land meats, poultry, seafood, charcuterie, and cut-to-order domestic and imported cheeses. But while the Fonduel competition is on a neutral site, erasing any home-cooking advantage, TSOB’s head cheese guy, John Litzinger, placed third nationally in the 2023 Cheesemonger Invitational.
Helen In 2000 Rob McDaniel, one of Birmingham’s best chefs, and his wife Emily opened the downtown live-fire contemporary Southern grill, named for his grandmother. Before that, the Auburn University graduate’s resume included launching and building SpringHouse restaurant at Lake Martin, and he also was a top member of chef Chris Hastings’ kitchen at Hot and Hot Fish Club. McDaniel is a five-time semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast in the James Beard Awards.
Golden Age Wine Nestled in Mountain Brook Village, Golden Age is shop and bar that specializes in naturally-made wines. Opened in 2019 by Brendan Loper and Trent Stewart, its modest menu includes grilled cheese, and fromage boards. It was a 2022 semifinalist in the James Beard Awards.
Grey’s Fine Cheese The shop that introduced Nashville to the term “turophile” (a cheese connoisseur) takes a road trip to Birmingham for Fonduel. Grey’s Fine Cheese now also has shops in Memphis, and Franklin, Tennessee. Given that Grey’s specialties include fondue, will the out-of-towners melt hearts in Birmingham?
Bar La Fete Founders of Bandit Patisserie and The Essential restaurant, longtime Birmingham chef Victor King and ace baker Kristen Hall opened Bar La Fete in 2022 as a tribute to Parisian wine bars. Cheese plays a big role on the food menu at Le Fete, but will Bandit’s bread prowess tip the scales at Fonduel?