Adam and I have never actually met but we have been Social Media friends for years because of our love of all things cheese. Most of you know him as the Founder of the Cheesemonger Invitational, the Bi-Coastal Contest for Cheesemongers to strut their cheese stuff hoping to be crowned the best of the best in the world of cheesemongering.
Today, you’ll have the chance to get to know him better. My thanks for taking the time to answer the questions with great detail and enthusiasm.
How did you come to cheese?
Need to answer that in two parts. I was born into it. Much love and respect to Ben Moskowitz (my Grandfather) and Joe Moskowitz (my Father) for being industry stalwarts. My aha moment began on a trip to visit Jamon Serrano production in Spain. I met three people on that trip who deeply inspired my desire to work in food: Robert Aguilera, Tyler Hawes and Kelly Sowden. Then I came home and started cheesemongering at Formaggio Essex. And that is where I became addicted to cheese.
When did you realize you were a cheese geek?
I wouldn’t classify myself as a cheese geek. My friends retain more than me. Yes, I read a lot about cheese. Visit production often. Go to shops whenever I can. And talk about cheese a ton. But for me cheese is a way of life. I think I am more a cheese spiritualist than a cheese geek.
As the founder/creator of the Cheesemonger Invitational, please share with us its inception, mission, evolution and any plans going forward that you’d like to share. (I’m sure the readers will be interested in anything you wish to share.)
The Cheesemonger Invitational started organically. I wanted to have a party for my cheese friends in my warehouse. That didn’t pass muster with my father. So all of a sudden it became a competition among the best in the business masquerading as a party for cheese professionals. And I am proud to say, it is still that to this day. Now it takes place two times per year. It has grown from a one night affair to a three-day cheese course. Our mission is to engage, inspire and spotlight cheesemongers. We start with an evening cocktail reception. Then a full day of education, including: meet the maker roundtables, guided tastings, and a workshop. (We get geeky!) Most important, we start feeling like family. Then the following day is the competition. The day time is private preliminaries. The night-time is the Finals and party like no udder. We test mongers on various skills required to be a great cheesemonger. Moving forward, we have The Barnyard Collective in Queens to try to cultivate the moo vibe year around.
Re the CMI, what’s your favorite component and why?
I have many favorite components. For one, the bonding. Watching mongers become friends, help each other, root for each other, and most important, remain friends to this day inspires the moo out of me. Hearing the crowd roar for a perfect cut blows my mind. I really dig the artistry of beautiful looking perfect bites but I am always overwhelmed when it’s time to eat all of them. But my most favorite is the free education. That is why I started the Barnyard Collective. I love getting people geeked about cheese.
Where do you work and what is your job title? Describe a “typical” work day
I took over Larkin Cold Storage as President 8 years ago. One year later we launched EuroLarkin. One year later I launched Cheesemonger Invitational. One year later we relaunched Columbia Cheese with a focus on village dairies. In 2013 I purchased Larkin and Columbia from my father. (that is my biggest professional accomplishment to date) Today I run Larkin, Columbia, CMI, sit on the board of EuroLarkin, and in my spare time, curate The Barnyard Collective which is a cheese education center in NYC. So I do not have a typical work day. I must say my team is amazing. I believe I work with the best people in the business. The most typical thing I do on the daily is solve problems. I am like the wolf from pulp fiction.
Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?
My favorite type of cheese is alpine. My favorite cheese is challerhocker. (It’s a perfect food) Pairing with bubbles I would go with Cremant du Jura. With beer I would go with a Porter. With white I would go with an oxidized chardonnay from Jura or Riesling. With red I would go with Schiava from Alto Aldige.
Raw vs. Pasteurized?
I prefer Raw or Thermized. But I have eaten pasteurized cheese that tastes amazing. (Shout out to Harbison) I have also eaten way too much raw milk cheese when visiting Europe and paid a very hefty price gastronomically.
Does it matter?
What matters to me is the spirit. I support great cheesemakers sourcing great milk from a minimal amount of farmers and pasteurizing for prudent reasons. It matters if their hands are ‘still in the vat’ and are involved intimately in all aspects of production and aging. If an industrial complex is sourcing questionable milk from a vast amount of farmers and is mass producing a product not in line with best practices than pasteurizing is a must. My concern is faulty pasteurization statistically kills more people than raw milk, but FDA positions raw milk as more dangerous.
What difference does it make in the product?
Many things contribute to the flavor and aroma of a cheese. Milk treatment is a very large factor, and pasteurization certainly can limit flavor potential, but style of production, rind treatment and aging, still yield amazing flavor in the product. For example, Tunworth is one of the best camembert styles I have ever eaten. And again, Harbison is one of my favorite cheeses. Meanwhile, large agribusiness is pooling an absurd amount of mediocre milk making mediocre cheese that is one-dimensional and boring.
Should the US create a system similar the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?
The way our government works… Hell no. Industry needs to regulate itself.
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?
Hiking up an alp with some of my closest friends in the cheese business to visit an alpage gruyere producer. It was like seeing the cheese unicorn. Father and son toiling in a copper vat on a mountain ridge. Then we continued to hike up the Alp until we got to a gondola that took us to the top of the tippy top of the mountain and we ate fondue. Normally I hate exercise but this was one of the best days of my life.
Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.
I am a left-handed cancer with a wicked vinyl collection and a tendency to rap freestyles.
If you could do one thing, anything, all day long, what would it be?
If I could do anything all day it would be hanging out with The Barnyard Collective learning more about cheese. (and make some art with my friends).
Check out Adam’s full bio.
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 include Cheesemakers, 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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