1. How long have you worked at Cheesetique?
It will be three years this August.
2. What advice would you give to a cheese novice?
Taste. Taste. Taste. The only way to know what you like is to try everything, and that means finding out what you don’t like as well. It’s easily the best thing about cheese from a consumer’s standpoint. Forget country, milk type and style when you taste things so you’re not hoping for something you’ve had before and so you can take every cheese at face value. Soon enough you’ll have a solid idea of what you do and don’t like and the rest will come naturally. Finding great cheese is like searching for a great record or bottle of wine, you have to hunt for it and work for it! You should try to be as adventurous as your palate will allow (and then go a little bit further).
3. How do you know a great cheese when you find it?
A great cheese will tell YOU it’s great, not the other way around. It plays such an important part of the human experience, not simply as a food but as a cultural and regional tradition that can stretch back farther than we’ll ever probably know. It connects people to not only their personal upbringing but the history of a specific region and the collective experience of the people that created it. Great cheese always makes me imagine people sharing that same wheel long before I was alive and gives you a small connection to that past and to why makers work so hard to keep a traditional cheese’s integrity. At the bottom of it, I think a great cheese simply highlights the animals, land and people that made it, and you can truly taste all of those things in the best of the best. When you can’t decide why exactly, but you know you have to have just a few more tastes, you’ve most likely found something really special.
4. You will be participating in The Cheesemonger Invitational in New York this year. What are you most nervous about?
Other mongers that have participated in CMI have been so open and excited about their experience that it takes some of the fear out of it. I’m really nervous about what to expect, just the unknown. OK and the written test. Having a chance to sell a cheese to the person that made it is both really exciting and makes me sweat a little bit just to think about. I’m really excited to get a chance to absorb as much experience and knowledge as possible while getting to meet a ton of energetic and accomplished mongers. This is the greatest profession in the world if you want to meet people that are passionate about every step in the process from maker to counter that even the most knowledgeable are still seeking new info and experience to make them better day-to-day. The community is so supportive that the competition is really just for fun and bragging rights compared to the chance to learn from acclaimed makers from around the globe.
5. Cow, Sheep, or Goat?
Sheep. Period. All day every day. Sheep are stingy with milk, but what they give is so pure, earthy, sweet and specific to a place. They start smooth and grassy and age out to a beautiful nutty and caramel-y earth flavor with the most unique texture. Not only that, but adding just a little bit of sheep’s milk to a cow- or goat-dominant wheel brings out the best that the other milk has to offer. All milks are so unique and specific that every meal, drink, or snack calls for something different, so who could really choose?