The public-facing component of The Cheesemonger Invitational is a dairy bacchanalia where ticket-buying attendees can consume their weight in unlimited cheese. But behind the scenes at the bright, industrial space on the Brooklyn waterfront, the pros have come to compete.

You might think the point of a cheese competition would be to make the best cheese. But the CMI—which celebrated its ninth year in New York last month—isn’t about making, it’s about mongering. The dozens of participants from around the country are professional cheese-knowers, the people who proffer samples and suggestions and deftly wrap your quarter pound of gouda at specialty stores and high-end grocers. They gather twice a year—in New York and San Francisco—to pit their knowledge, deftness, and passion against one another in a daylong slate of different events designed to quantify skills that most of us take for granted. We followed New York-based monger, Joshua Santamaria, through a long day of tasting, selling, wrapping, and assembling his way into the finals.

Senior Producer: Kiran Chitanvis, Creative Producer: Jorge Corona, Producer: Hannah Keyser