Julia Powers, ACS CCP – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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Julia Powers, ACS CCP

Julia Powers, ACS CCP

Julia Powers, ACS CCP

Julia is a member of the first class of ACS CCPs™, passing the exam in 2012. She and I have known each other several years, meeting at the 2010 ACS Conference in Seattle. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions for the website and I thank her for taking the time from her super-busy schedule:

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

I describe myself as the Traveling Cheesemonger.  Raised in an Air Force family, we moved around quite a bit.  My upstate New York parents fell in love with Puget Sound area of Washington state and I followed suit.  Here I was fortunate to be employed by a locally owned market – Metropolitan Market.  Listening to the cheesemongers tell the stories of the cheeses in her case was a beautiful romantic backdrop to what I thought at the time was just a ripple in the pond of employment for me.  Then, I had the opportunity to work on the cheese side of the deli and that ripple turned into a tidal wave.  I’ve always loved cheese and in my European travels before working at the market, I enjoyed walking into those shops and smelling the lovely aromas that would greet you at the door.  I never thought it would be me behind that counter.  I touched the rind of an aged Comte with religious respect, waxed poetic of the seasons of the animal that brought the milk to this infinite status of lush, and purchased countless books on the internet as well as scoured out-of-print stashes that were available domestically as well as internationally – I knew I had it bad.

2.)    Why did you want to become a CCP? How has it changed your cheese life or career path?

The CCP designation was for me and for me only.  Having joined the American Cheese Society on my own shortly after my cheese epiphany, I was intrigued with the notion of a society standing behind its members and supporting the membership in a continuing education mode – monger, maker, or whomever.  I wanted to be in the first round – the control group if you will.  To succeed in passing the certification was a nice feather in the cap and I am overjoyed that there have been so many to follow doing the same thing.  Has it changed my path in any way?  Of course – any yearning for more information and to test yourself on that knowledge is key to keeping your brain moving.  It is not a one-stop-shop however, and that knowledge needs to be tended to on a daily basis.  Yearn to learn always.

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

Currently I am the PNW Sales Associate for McKenna Marketing – a specialty food broker out of San Francisco.  Although there are more lines than just cheese, it was important for me to understand the broker relationship in the chain of sale.  I had worked with distributors in my monger role and I wanted to learn more aspects of this wonderful business that we are in.  My typical day may be spent touring stores, getting to know people behind the counter, working food shows, and/or strengthening relationships with local distributors.  I do miss touching cheese every day however the lessons learned along the way to satisfy one’s religion (that would be “cheeses”) are just as important.

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

I’m a stinky girl for sure.  When Cowgirl Creamery‘s Red Hawk is loose and sticky and the funk sends the lighthearted on their heels – that is when I am most happy.  I’ll slather it on a lovely seeded cracker and then a chaser of a delish IPA is the fizzante finish for the taste buds.  You cannot go wrong with the washed rind family.  Other standouts: Grayson, Soumaintrain, Stinking Bishop, Taleggio, Pont l’Eveque, etc..

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

Yes of course it matters to those that are making the cheese and the traditions that have been forged throughout the centuries.  If you ask me should it be all raw or all pasteurized – that, then, is a question that cannot be answered.  I truly believe that I can “taste the place” in a bite of raw milk cheese.  I can close my eyes and have a visual of where that cheese was made, what the animals were eating, was it winter or spring, the age of the cheese, etc.  My palate is not a super palate however and the distinctions between raw and pasteurized may become blurred at times for me.  I told you that Red Hawk was one of my favorites – well then would we say that’s not a good cheese because it’s pasteurized or that it is not a true flavor of Tomales Bay terroir?  I think not.

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

Not at this point.  I believe that we are artisans to the “nth” degree.  Our recipes are always pushing the envelope a bit and if we try to create this system before we have solidarity on the FDA and state front, it may be a sinking ship before we know it.

7.)    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?

When I was in college I studied in Florence, Italy and definitely fell in love with the European environs.  I could live there in a minute.  The Slow Food Festival in Bra, Italy has always been on my radar since I fell in love with cheese and 2013 was my year to go.  Prior to attending Bra, Mons started their Acadamie and I wanted to learn more of the affinage process – I wanted to learn from seasoned experts.  Before I pissed away my pop’s inheritance, I wired money to France and attended the first Affinage course of the Academie.  What a fantastic adventure it was and clearly it showed me that the affinage work is for those with strong backs and legs.  I have so much admiration for those that do this day after day after day.  After the course, I traveled south and explored Provence on my way to the Bra festival.  It was a cheese immersion that will not be duplicated easily and once again I felt quite fortunate to be able to sniff those breezes.

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

I tried out for game shows in Hollywood after graduating from college.  My boyfriend at the time lived in Hollywood and I wanted to get some quick money so I picked all the game shows that awarded money only – what would a college grad do with a refrigerator or a living room set, right?  It was an embarrassing chapter of my life however it makes for excellent stories now.

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

Wow… hmmmm…. touch more cheese.

Check out Julia’s bio and video cheese plate here.

Interviews will continue through 2016… 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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