Meet Chelsea Faris, ACS CCP™
I have known Chelsea since I had the honor of visiting Rogue Creamery and “helping” make cheese back in 2011 (“helping” means the cheesemaker lets you do stuff that can’t possibly mess up the cheese make…). It’s a terrific opportunity to see and participate in the process and increase your knowledge of the cheese. I can also attest that once you help make cheese, you wonder why artisan cheese doesn’t cost more. You also realize it’s a hard job… easier to sit here at my laptop and write about it…or for mongers to sell it…
I want to thank Chelsea for taking the time and thought into participating in my virtual Q&A.
Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese? When did you realize you were a cheese geek?
I think I have always loved eating cheese, but unfortunately grew up eating the kind that was bright yellow and sealed in individual plastic sleeves vs. anything truly artisanal or handmade. It was after working for the University of Wyoming’s catering company in high school that my interest in different cuisines, methods of cooking and food varieties started to take shape. The hard work, patience and creativity involved in working up a beautiful plate of food really intrigued me. I love the looks of joy on people’s faces when eating something I have spent time preparing. To get to that level takes practice and accepting it might not always turn out right.
I didn’t come to cheese, cheese found me. I was in my senior year of college looking for an internship when a professor recommended me for an internship with Rogue Creamery to plan and manage the annual Oregon Cheese Festival and Ashland Independent Film Festival. A year later after a successful internship, I became a Rogue Creamery team member in the Wholesale Department. Since then I have traveled throughout the United States sampling, promoting and displaying our products. My interest in cheese, and knowledge of cheesemakers, and manufacturing processes has blossomed in the 5 years I’ve been with Rogue Creamery. The passionate people at specialty food shows, the edgy vibe cheesemakers seem to always have and the limitless information regarding cheeses of the world, keeps my job thrilling.
2.) Why did you want to become a CCP? How has it changed your cheese life or career path?
I am always on the lookout for career advancement opportunities, and in the food industry you prove your ability though experience and education. The CCP was a perfect opportunity to push my cheesey knowledge further. I decided to try my hand at it by taking the exam. Realization hit once I looked at the Body of Knowledge, (a sort of study guide the ACS provides) about just how difficult it was going to be and I really had to buckle down. I was committed to learning everything I could in the 9 months before the test. The support of our owner, David Gremmels and the support of my co-workers the knowledge that I was benefiting myself, my team, and my community kept me studying each week.
It’s changed my life by rounding out my knowledge on cheese types, milk sources, and cheeses throughout the world. I am limited in my experience to Rogue Creamery cheese products. I’m not the typical cheesemonger behind a case 40 hours a week talking about cheeses from France, sampling bloomy or washed rinded cheeses, or scooping curds from a cheese vat as a cheese maker would do. I knew it was going to take some serious dedication to research the cheese world; however the personal satisfaction I’ve gained from passing the exam is incredible.
The CCP certification has made my co-workers and peers in the community reach out to me for further cheese education, pairing advice or help with what to serve at their next dinner party. It’s intensely gratifying to be a part of the 2014 class of CCPs and to be able to share my experiences of bringing new exciting cheeses to the table with my peers.
3.) Where do you work and what is your job title? Describe a “typical” work day.
I work at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, OR and manage our Wholesale Department; my title is “Cheesemonger Advocate” J. I work daily with distributors, wholesale accounts and retail customers both nationally and internationally.
Oh gosh, a “typical” work day sounds like a dream. In cheese nothing is ever certain, or on time or perfect. As some of the other CCPs have mentioned, it really depends on the time of the day, week or year. On a daily basis I’m working with customers, taking orders, sending Rogue Creamery educational materials and swag, invoicing or answering questions. But January through July are food show months when we travel the country and showcase our current products to new customers or show new products to current customers. I get the opportunity to make sales calls, present cheeses to chefs in kitchens all over the country and demo at cheese shops such as Cured in Boulder, Colorado or Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin, TX.
Then in August through December we all hibernate back in Oregon to prepare for our annual release of the award-winning Rogue River Blue, prepare promotional schedules for the new year, host pairing classes and demos in our community and stay incredibly busy with the extra work of the holiday season. It’s never quiet, always chaotic, and I love it.
4.) Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?
I don’t think I could just pinpoint one cheese. Fresh cheeses, semi-soft, hard, and blue cheeses are all so different depending on milk sources, terroir of the land, and cheesemaker styles. If I had to choose a style of cheese, I would pick the mixed milk category and cheeses such as our Echo Mountain Blue and Mount Mazama Cheddar made with cow and goat’s milk. The flavors are crisp, clear, brilliant and complex leaving you with a tangy finish. I’m always going to want to try a cheese that has an interesting story or pairing with out of the norm stuff like pickled plums, bacon jam and mostarda. I’ve tried plenty of blues, cheddars, and semi-soft cheeses, but this year I am going to try and venture out into the bloomy and washed rind categories a little more.
5.) Raw vs. Pasteurized? Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product?
If your dedication is to quality and the perfect flavor profile, it shouldn’t matter one way or another. Dedication to understanding the terroir, your animals and the recipe its what’s most important in making a glorious cheese. It’s about being original. Do what makes your cheese taste the best.
6.) Should the US create a system similar to the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?
I’d actually love to see a system in the US that protects American Originals. Particularly the state of Oregon which has at least 20 different creameries producing award-winning cheeses such as Caveman Blue and Mount Mazama Cheddar from Rogue Creamery, Adelle from Ancient Heritage Dairy, Don Froylan Queso Oaxaca from Ochoa’s Queseria, The Peak from Oregon State Creamery, In Your Face Curds from Face Rock Creamery, Cumin Gouda from Willamette Valley Cheese Company, River’s Edge Chevre from River’s Edge, Tillamook Pepper Jack from Tillamook County Creamery Association, and Classic Chevre from Briar Rose Creamery.
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?
One my fondest cheese journeys wasn’t just the cheese I had, but the memory associated with it. I was taking a cab to Murray’s on Bleecker street in New York, and it was the first time on my own, but I wanted to get the chance to see the cheese shop I’d heard so much about. They were about to close, but I was welcomed in to meet the team and sample their cheeses, once they found out who I was. There was no rush to hurry me along and get me out of there so they could go home; they even stopped what they were doing to take a picture with me (see photo). While there I had this most amazing cheddar called Isle of Mull, and it still sticks in my mind today. It’s one of those cheeses that you don’t find just anywhere,so it makes it just a tad more special. This Scottish cheddar is an English-style recipe made with cow’s milk and a good amount of whiskey distillery draff. “The whiskey remnants imbue the raw cow’s milk cheese with a yeasty sharpness and a near-alcoholic prickle on the back of the tongue.”
8.) Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.
I was a unit director at a camp east of Portland one year and my camp name was “Cheez –it”
9.) If you could do one thing, anything, all day long, what would it be?
My perfect weekend consists of hiking or exploring the Rogue Valley, enjoying a glass of wine or beer at one of our many wineries and breweries and then settling in for the evening with a home cooked meal and watching House of Cards on Netflix.
My thanks again to Chelsea for taking the time…
You can check out Chelsea’s bio here.
Interviews with Cheese Professionals continue through 2016… sometimes, as “stand-alone” interviews and sometimes as round-table discussions with several Pros answering the same question. Those participating include Cheesemakers, ACS CCPs™,Cheesemongers and Cheese Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.
List of 2015-16 Cheese Professionals.
List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.
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