I met Michael and his brother, Charlie, in Bra, Italy at the 2011 Slow Food Cheese Festival... aka “Cheese”. Since then, our paths have crossed at many cheese festivals and ACS Conferences. In 2014, I had the pleasure of attending their Food Safety Seminar at the ACS Conference in Sacramento.
Michael and Charlie continue to educate the food industry regarding food safety including the new Food Safety Modernization Act. You can attend one of their seminars March 17th in San Francisco.
My thanks to Michael for taking the time to participate in my 2016 Virtual Q&A.
Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese? When did you realize you were a cheese geek?
I am a Cheese & food safety consultant. I got into cheese originally because I wanted to get paid to travel and learn about European culture and I thought that working on cheese farms suit my creative writing interests. I suppose I realized I was a cheese geek when I started spending 50 hour weeks underground turning tons of cheese.
Where do you work and what is your job title? Describe a “typical” work day.
My brother and I started a consulting practice together called TWC consulting. A typical work day when working with cheese businesses normally involves a walk around the facility, an observation of the cheese making process, and a bit of time in the aging room, feeling wheels of cheese. A typical work day outside of the cheesemaking room, normally involves countless hours drafting HACCP plans, facility layouts, pathogen environmental monitoring programs, and recall plans. And normally in there is a phone call or two from a cheese maker trying to figure out what is happening in their aging room.
Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?
My favorite cheese is Gruyère d’alpage for sentimental reasons; everyday though, I could eat fresh goat cheese for the rest of my life. An fruity pinot noir pairs pretty well with both.
Raw vs. Pasteurized? Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product?
My favorite cheeses make good content for this discussion: I enjoy pasteurized product (fresh goat cheese) just as much as raw product (Gruyère), so I am not bothered by whether or not the milk has been pasteurized. However, I am sympathetic to very small businesses managing the cost of a pasteurizer. A pasteurizer costs enough money that if the money were invested in ingredient, product and environmental testing and pH/Aw monitoring, it is conceivable that a cheesemaker could achieve a similar level of confidence that his/her product is sane however, that would involve a serious and educated effort by a cheese maker and the support of his/her staff. Cutting big culturemanufacturing companies out of the picture would be great, and I would be supportive of an effort to safely cultivate dayold whey and cultured milk as innoculants.
Should the US create a system similar the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?
Many people in the world wants to make renditions of popular, European cheeses, so I can understand why Europe created this system of protecting their cheeses’ names. The idea that people around the world are going to make knockoffs of American cheeses to sell competitivelyin the global market is too far-fetched for me. When the world begins to take an interest in particular American cheeses and brands, then yes. This appears to me to be another case of the little brother imitating the older brother
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?
I left for France on a 3 month trip and returned after 4 years having worked in France, Switzerland, and Italy for some of the World’s best manufacturers and agers of cheese. It was a trip that gave me meaning on many levels and formed me as a person and worker.
Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.
I have an identical twin that knows all of my secrets.
If you could do one thing, anything, all day long, what would it be?
Surf a reef pass called Lances Left off Sumatra in the Mentawai islands. This would involve eating bananas and drinking guava juice.
Be sure and check out Michael’s bio 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 2015 Cheese Professionals.
List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.
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