Elizabeth and I met on Facebook although we sat and sweated out the ACS CCP™ exam together in 2013. We both passed the exam but somehow missed each other that fun week at Cheese Camp in Madison. We became fast friends as I vicariously followed her journey to the 2015 Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco. Adam sure knows how to throw a cheese party… another CMI is just around the corner in NYC at the end of June…
Elizabeth graciously sat down and shared her time answering questions as part of my 2015 Virtual Q&A with Cheese Professionals. As always, I am grateful…
“My roots are deep in the heart of my beloved Wisconsin. I was born in La Crosse and grew up down on the farm in Mauston, County Seat of Juneau County, which is currently famous as the home of Carr Valley Cheese. I didn’t know about that at the time. My family farm was not dairy, but rather beef and vegetables. My father grew the world’s most delicious tomatoes! Living in the country was very instrumental in shaping my world view- neighbors are important, and knowing where my food comes from is important as well. I carry these values to my work with cheese every day.
I work at a local grocery store chain in Minneapolis, where I run the specialty cheese counter. When I started, I worked catering. The opportunity for promotion came and with it, my introduction to the world of Cheese. I think that I am very lucky to have found a specialty that is endlessly fascinating. There is always something new and interesting to discover. And to be told by my customers that the cheese I chose for their occasion was perfect is tremendously gratifying.”
“My company has always encouraged excellence in our cheese program. Two of our Corporate Support staff took and passed the ACS CCP exam in its inaugural year and developed a plan to select the next candidates to take the exam. I was selected, studied like mad, and passed in 2013. Earning that certificate is like the difference between being in a relationship and being married. It is a commitment, a joyful and interesting one. The commitment does not end with receiving the certificate. I need to continue to improve my knowledge, to consciously develop my personal body of knowledge and expertise. CCPs are committed to maintaining the highest standards of Cheese Professionalism.”
“As I said, I work in a grocery store. Lunds and Byerly’s is a hometown chain that people have been shopping at for years, and they trust us. I see my role as that of an ambassador. I want to be able to help our customers figure out solutions to all their grocery needs, not just cheese. Working in a grocery store is about creating and maintaining a community. That said, my focus is first and foremost my Cheese Counter. I curate the case, choosing the cheeses I want to carry. I am in charge of maintaining the cheese, keeping a close eye on its quality. I sell the cheese. It is so fun to get to know my customers, what they need what they are doing, get to know who they are. I get to tell them cheese stories.”
“One of the most delicious things I have ever demoed in my 15 year grocery store career blew my mind. The cheese was a Beemster cheese called Graskaas. It is a sweet young thing, made only in the springtime, when the grass is fresh and lush. The cheese captures this perfectly. It comes out at the same time as Taylor’s Gold pears, from New Zealand, which are sweet, juicy and flavorful. I skewered them together with a caramelized pecan from Spain. The smooth, creaminess with the flavorful fruit and the sweet, nutty crunch is outrageous. The stuff dreams are made of. Customers swoon, and memories are made.”
“The question of raw versus pasteurized is clearly important. The current debate generated by the FDA is actually a good thing because it give us a forum to really examine raw milk, what we know about it and what we can learn about it. A good thing, as long as we win, in the end! Personally I feel the integrity of pure milk is most honored when it is raw and many traditions depend on whether milk is pasteurized or not. I am very much in favor of preserving these traditions, and also am excited about opportunities to create new cheeses that take advantage of the benefits of raw milk. Does it matter to the final outcome of the flavor profile of the cheese? I have had excellent cheeses in both categories, and look forward to exploring and learning more.“
“The question about whether to implement a protected origin and regulation for American cheeses is an interesting one. The system was created in order to maintain the integrity of certain Cheeses. The cheeses have centuries of history and culture attached to them, and the purity of the methods are intrinsic to the culture surrounding them. Comte is a perfect example of this. Here in America, we do not have centuries of tradition and cultural communities that are devoted to a particular cheese. I therefore think that a system designed to honor an American cheese of merit would be less geographical and more specific to one cheese and one maker. A system of honorific designation could be a very exciting endeavor, beneficial in so may ways, not the least of which is marketing, but also an organized way to pay tribute to the realization of the vision of inspired Cheesemakers.”
“No question, the most important cheese journey of my career was the opportunity to compete at the Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco, January 2015. Ever since I first heard of this event, it has captured my imagination, and I was thrilled to receive a sponsorship from Cypress Grove to participate. It was amazing, everything I expected and more. The first day of the weekend was an educational day. The CMI piggybacks onto the Fancy Food Show, and many experts were available to speak to us, so the first day was devoted to seminars and panel discussions. The competition the next day included a written exam, a blind taste test, cutting and wrapping, a sales challenge and a pairing event. This solid day of competition required us to use every skill we have honed as cheesemongers, in a very concentrated way. The winner, Matt Reilly of Eataly, Chicago, summed it up nicely when he called it “family game night”. But serious competition it was. My co-competitors really know their stuff and have the swagger to prove it! It was an honor to be amongst them. Even though I did not make the Top Ten, clearly this was a case when the journey is its own reward. To have the opportunity to network with fellow cheese geeks who speak the same language, to have access to world class experts, was awesome. My job as a cheesemonger has taken on added significance as a result of my experiences there. To accurately and passionately tell the story of Cheese, and to do so with passion, charm and a good dose of theater is all part of the fun. Serious. Fun.”
8) Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.
“Interesting non-cheesy fact about me: I have spent a little time in some very haunted places. Those stories are best told around the campfire.”
My thanks to everyone participating in my 2015 Virtual Q&A with Cheese Professionals. I hope all of you, my loyal readers, are enjoying this as much as I am…
Interviews will continue throughout 2015… sometimes, they will be “stand-alone” and sometimes they will be presented as round-table discussions with several Cheese Professionals answering the same question. Those participating includeCheesemakers, ACS CCPs™, Cheesemongers and Cheese Professionals and Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.
List of 2015 Cheese Professionals.
List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.
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