Meet Christine Hyatt, Cheese Muse and The Cheese Chick – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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Meet Christine Hyatt, Cheese Muse and The Cheese Chick

Christine Hyatt, The Cheese Chick

Christine Hyatt, The Cheese Chick

Christine is another cheese professional I met early in my career who was generous with her time and knowledge. Again, the internet brought us together and we met briefly at the 2009 Wedge in Downtown Portland and then again in Seattle in 2010 at the ACS Conference where I also got to know Jeannie Carpenter while prepping cheese for the Festival of Cheese celebration… my sincere thanks to Christine for taking the time to sit down and participate in my 2015 Q&A… it is greatly appreciated!!!

Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese? When did you realize you were a cheese geek?

Completely by accident like most of us… Cheese came to me after moving from the east coast to Austin, TX. Shortly after the move, I split with my husband. I was writing screenplays at the time and needed a job that I didn’t bring home with me. One that was interesting, that paid the bills and had healthcare. I started working the cheese counter at Central Market in 1998. Within a few weeks, I was hooked. I loved the history and tradition that was being preserved and was just fascinated by the varieties and flavors. When I started, I didn’t even know Spain made cheese. It was mind-blowing. Soon I was teaching cheese classes in the Cooking School and really enjoyed learning and tasting every day.

Where do you work and what is your job title? Describe a “typical” work day.

I am a creative spirit whose muse is cheese – I call myself a chief “cheese creative” at Cheese Chick Productions. I photograph, write about and share stories of great cheeses and cheesemakers. Cheesemakers send cheese to my studio or I go to them to document their farm and creamery through photographs and video. I write about and photograph for regional and national publications and have an active social media presence sharing cheeses I love online. I also teach small producers who may not have the budget to hire me for commercial photography so they can take better photos of their cheese. Every day is different. 

Wabash Cannonball Photo Shoot by Christine Hyatt. Copyright Cheese Chick 2014. Used by permission.

Wabash Cannonball Photo Shoot by Christine Hyatt. Copyright Cheese Chick 2014. Used by permission.

Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?

It’s hard to pick a favorite.  I love ripened goat cheeses with a geotrichum rind. I just love the look and the flavor and the care that goes into making them. So awesome. I’m also a sucker for blue cheese and aged, and washed rind… My perfect pairing hits all the notes – sweet, salty, savory. If I have all those notes on the plate and I can vary up bites – cheese with a dried apricot in one bite, atop a slice of salumi the next – I’m a happy woman. Add in a good beer, and we’ve got a party. 

Raw vs. Pasteurized? Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product?

Either can work – it really is about the care that goes into producing the milk. How the cows are treated, what they are eating. I’ve had wonderful raw and pasteurized cheeses. I find raw milk cheeses can have a bit more complexity and certainly more variation which you can see as you taste batch to batch. 

(Editor’s note: Check out other Cheese Professionals’ thoughts on this topic.)

Should the US create a system similar the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?

I think we march to the beat of our own drum here – and with good success. I don’t think an EU style PDO system would do much here, though it’s clear how important it was for maintaining quality of traditional styles of cheese over there, especially after the world wars decimated production. Here, our producers are able to be creative and not bound to produce one specific cheese in one specific way. 

(Editor’s note: read what other Cheese Professionals have to say on this topic.)

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?

My most favorite cheese journey was traveling through Oregon in 2006,visiting cheesemakers with David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery and Max McCalman, Maitre Fromager, who was working on his book Mastering Cheese at the time. We visited a dozen cheesemakers all over the state and I was invited along to produce a series of video segments. It was fascinating to see the many different creameries, the beauty of the state. I learned so much and saw the stirrings of what would become a flourishing cheese region. 

Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.

Cheese Chick Productions Art. Copyright Christine Hyatt 20145. Used by permission.

Cheese Chick Productions Art. Copyright Christine Hyatt 20145. Used by permission.

I have been practicing yoga for 25 years – since early in my college days. It is the one practice that has been a constant, longer than cheese. 

8.)    If you could do one thing, anything, all day long, what would it be?

I couldn’t do only one thing all day long – I’d get bored quickly, even if I loved what I was doing. I look forward to the days when I have cheeses to photograph in the studio or I am out visiting with a cheesemaker or an event. Because I live now in Phoenix, I’m rather removed from the traditional cheesemaking regions. It’s a treat when I get to hang out with people at talk cheese.

Please visit Cheese Chick and explore her website; it’ll take a while, but it’s worth it!!

Again, my thanks to Christine for taking the time.

Interviews with All Cheese Professionals: Cheesemakers andCheese Professionals

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 all Interviews from 2013: Cheesemakers, Cheesemongers.

List of 2015 Cheese Professionals.

List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.

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Studying for one of the 2016 ACS CCP™ exams? Simply want to know more about cheese? Please join our Cheese Study Group at Facebook!!!

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