In addition to the ACS Cheese Competition (which I will cover tomorrow), another important event is meeting the new Inductees into Guilde Internationale des Fromagers. Yesterday, in Providence, one of the new inductees recognized was Di Bruno Brothers‘ Emilio Mignucci and ACS Board of Directors member.
We met in Madison in 2013, when I sat for the ACS CCP Exam™ and became instant friends. As I say here often, Emilio is another of the helpful members of the Cheese Community who believes that when one succeeds, we all succeed.
Earlier this year, Emilio took the time to answer my 2015 Virtual Questions. As always, my thanks to Emilio for taking the time:
Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese? When did you realize you were a cheese geek?
My grandparents, the original Di Bruno Bros., started the company in 1939 so I was born into it. We always ate all kinds of cheese. When we took over the business in 1990 my grandfather said to us “you need to teach more people that cheese is the best and fastest of all fast foods” they never liked McD’s or Burger King Etc. “and besides, cheese is heathier!” I loved hearing this. That is what made me a cheese geek!
Where do you work and what is your job title? Describe a “typical” work day.
My title is Vice Pres. of DiBruno Brothers. I hit all 5 of my stores in the week to pitch in behind the counters and work with our associates. I try to be around to educate both the staff and customers. My favorite days are Saturdays when I get to spend about 6 hours working the retail floor cutting cheese at the original store in South Philadelphia. That is where I was brought up/raised. I know everyone there and love the vibe. It keeps me inspired to work with the gang behind the counter!
A typical day starts at our wholesale warehouse at 7:30ish connecting with the purchasing dept., GM, and ops teams. Then I head to one of the stores by noonish unless I am scheduled to do a “ride with” with one of our Account Sale Managers. At the stores we cut, taste, and evaluate cheeses and think up really exciting pairing opportunities from our nonperishable shelves to help to drive sales. Everyone has a responsibility to the financial wellbeing of the business so providing the crew with the confidence to think outside the box is important.
Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?
A favorite cheese, well you know how difficult that is, I love cheese, lots of cheeses and for different reasons. It really depends on how I feel but if you are asking what is always in my refrigerator at home this is my list of regulars, Grande Provolone from Wisconsin (this satisfies the South Philly Italian in me), Colston Bassett Stilton, Harbison, a pecorino for eating, Cravero Parm, and a gooey goat. I pretty much keep it simple with prosciutto, a salami chub, great crusty bread, a honey and some nuts.
I do have my seasonal favorites that I look for throughout the year. You know all of the usual suspects like Vacherin, Winnimere, and spring made fresh goats, alpine cheese in the winter, etc…
Raw vs. Pasteurized? Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product?
Raw or pasteurized does not even come into play with me. I just want really great, flavorful cheeses. As long as the cheeses are well made and have a great story, we will sell them. I know that it matters to some people but we are fortunate to have so many great cheeses that are both raw and pasteurized. It used to make a difference but now that cheese makers are getting better at their craft. The early batches of Epoisses did suffer from pasteurization but that has since been fixed, and it is still a great cheese. There’s no denying that!
Should the US create a system similar the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?
I am not so sure that this is needed. I am encouraged by the inroads that the ACS is making with FDA in regards to the open lines of communication to set up the standards or “Best Practices” for cheese makers. Let’s face the facts, all that any cheese maker wants to do is make great cheese and the FDA’s job is to make sure that these cheeses are safe for the public to eat. With these open lines of communications, ACS is having those conversations and the FDA is realizing that ACS is and should be looked at by them as a resource, as the subject matter experts! ACS has the needed expertise in the association, on the BoD, and with all of the relationships that they have among the Ag. Colleges and universities.
Tell me about one of your “cheese journeys”. Was it traveling for pleasure or maybe “on the hunt” for an obscure cheese you just had to taste?
The latest journey is always the easiest to remember. I was invited by my very dear friend Adam Moskowitz to travel to Switzerland with him and 3 other serious cheese retailers. Wow, what a trip! We visited Le Gruyere SA and tasted some spectacular cheeses from the younger to the aged to, one of my personal highlights, the Alpage, which we had the pleasure to see in person while hiking up and down the Swiss Alps. I was so impressed with how amazing it was to see the father and son team of the Maurith Family (i hope i spelled the family name correctly) create and craft such an incredible cheese, only 2 a day for the 10 weeks during the transhumance. What a fond memory but there were so many on that trip. The visit with renegade cheese maker Walter Rase, who makes one cheese, Challerhocker, a new world style of a cross between an Appenzeller style and a great earthy gruyere. We also visited a larger renegade** cheese maker, Daniel Studer, who makes MaxxExtra, then Nufenen, Nidelchas and let’s not leave out Le Cret dairy who produces one of the finest Gruyeres labeled 1655.
Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.
I love taking Muay Thai (Asian street fighting) classes for exercise. It helps to keep me focused and in shape enough to continue leading the BEC (Big Eater’s Club).
If you could do one thing, anything, all day long, what would it be?
Work the retail floor in my stores. That is the best part of my week and I really only get to do it on Saturdays.
** Renegade in that they are not producing cheeses that the government had all of the swiss cheese makers make in years past. the Swiss cheese union was created around 1942 or so, and it ended in 1999. during that time the Swiss government used to pay the cheese makers for making the traditional (AOC) cheeses (tilsiter, sbrinz, emmentaler, tete, appenzeller, etc.) and the government was responsible for selling the cheeses. over time the Swiss government had gotten backed up with having too much cheese and therefore started to reduce the allowances for the farmers and cheese makers putting them on hard times. in the 90’s the Swiss government started to dump the cheeses onto any market that they could to turn the cheese into cash flow further damaging the reputation of the product and the livelihoods of those farmers and cheese makers. So these two cheese makers in particular started to alter recipes to create new and unique cheeses. these renegade cheese makers needed a renegade importer/distributor, hence Colombia Cheese and Adam Moskowitz.
Again, my thanks to Emilio for his generosity of time and knowledge.
Check out Emilio’s complete resume here.
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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