Like so many of my Cheese Friends, Sheri and I first met online but met last June at the Cheesemonger Invitational in NYC, where I had the honor of being a judge. It was as though we had known each other forever. Sheri and I both paid our own way to achieve our ACS CCP® status and maybe that helped bond us and has given us a unique perspective regarding the certification program. She helped spearhead our GoFundMe ACS CCP Scholarship Fund because she and I know first-hand how hard it can be to raise the dollars needed to sit for the exam and attend the ACS Conference (I sat for the exam in 2013, the year before Kroger began sponsoring associates).
Sheri’s passion inspires. My thanks to her for taking the time to answer these questions:
- Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese and when did you realize you were a cheese geek? “Growing up we milked our small “herd” of 3 cows, one was a Brown Swiss with an abundance of cream. I turned that cream into butter, I made ice cream, I experimented making my own yogurt. My grandfather was a chef and I inherited his love of cheese and creating in the kitchen as a teen. I was exposed to many kinds of cheese at a young age. I was a food geek. In my past career, I ran a restaurant at a golf course which catered tournaments constantly. Many of the salad recipes were my creations and most contained some kind of cheese from Parmesan to Jarlsberg. Everything just tasted better with cheese to me. My true cheese switch flipped for me when I began representing a specialty cheese importer. I had all these wonderful and exciting cheeses to sell. I was writing cheese programs for my customers and creating schematics. My Hawaii customer had very stringent needs for shelf life and I learned quickly what cheeses were going to be best for their case sets and customer demographics. I was working with the retailer’s chefs on sandwich and chef prepared salad programs which involved unique meat and cheese pairings, sauces, bases. Cheese was always the ingredient to enhance the flavor of a dish.”
- Why did you want to become an ACS CCP? How has it changed your career path? “I began selling specialty cheese as a broker representative for Anco Fine Cheese in 2008. I began holding training seminars for my customers in Arizona and later Hawaii. I wanted to know more about the lengthy product lists of Imported cheeses I had been given to sell. The pairings, flavor descriptors and tasting profiles we went into during the training seminars were right in line with my culinary background- I was hooked. In 2014 I realized I could qualify to take the exam and applied after attending the conference in Sacramento. I began studying for the 2015 exam and was very fortunate to study with an excellent study group weekly along with taking prep sessions offered by the ACS authorized educators. After I received notice I had passed the exam, I took a hard look at my career path of nearly 20 years in the brokerage business and decided I wanted to focus on my cheese career. I left my current employer to be self employed as a Cheese Ambassador and Educator. I get to play with cheese every day. I have fabulous cheesemaker clients and I get to excite customers about their cheeses. I have been blessed to teach at retailer cooking schools, University of Utah as an adjunct instructor, Restaurants and numerous private events for clients. I am doing what I love and am excited to see where my cheese career path leads.”
- Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would your perfect pairing be? “I am a huge blue cheese fan. I like pairing it with dark 70% single origin cacao chocolate bar. I also adore sheep’s milk cheese. I once taught a class on all sheep’s milk cheeses. My class dubbed Ossau-Iraty as “Oh So Erotic”. I love this cheese with Castelvetrano Olives.”
- Raw or pasteurized? Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product? “I grew up drinking raw milk from the cows that I milked. I am a Raw Milk Rockstar as I am an advocate to educate the public about how raw milk is safe, how terroir plays a role in the flavors in the milk that come forth brilliantly in the cheese. I’ve tasted raw versions of cheeses while traveling in Europe and I feel there is no comparison in the flavor and the texture.”
- Should the US create a system like the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses? “I feel that the US should celebrate the American Original Artisan Cheesemaker and their autonomy to create traditional European style cheeses with their own touch to reflect the terroir and place names of where they produce cheese. Many cheesemakers have studied abroad to learn the techniques and have made the cheese style their own.”
- Tell us about one of your “cheese journeys.” Was it traveling for pleasure or “on the hunt” for an obscure cheese you just had to taste? “My cheese journeys this past year have been exceptional. I toured Paris, NYC and London with cheese professionals to deep dive into cheesemongering, cheesemaking and affinage in these regions. Visiting the farms where PDO cheeses are made, walking in the aging caves, asking the affineurs questions were extremely educational. Affinage and Sensory Evaluation of cheese are exciting to me. In my journey to educate myself beyond the cheese counter, I attended a seminar by Montserrat Almena-Aliste PH.D. that helped me gain a greater understanding of my own palate. I was able to judge Roquefort at the Salon du Fromage as part of my Paris adventure which was particularly thrilling as I adore blue cheese. “
- Please share one non-cheesy, fun fact about yourself. “I’ve danced with a Hula Halau (school) for over 10 years. I danced at both my daughter’s weddings.”
- If you could do only one thing, anything, all-day long, what would it be? “I absolutely LOVE to travel so I would just travel the world until I saw everything. The realistic answer is I would create in my kitchen. Of course it would have to be in my dream kitchen.”
Share anything else you’d like other cheese nerds to know about you. “My other passion is Bean to Bar Artisan Cacao. I’m a member of the Utah Chocolate Society. Tasting the terroir of the single origin cacao and how the chocolatier transforms them is another amazing art to me, like cheesemaking and affinage.”
You can check out Sheri’s bio here.
Again, my thanks to Sheri.
As mentioned above our Facebook group is raising funds to send worthy ACS CCP exam® candidates and ACS CCPs® who want to attend the 2017 ACS Conference in Denver, Cheese With Altitude. You can apply for a scholarship by clicking here and you can contribute to the scholarship fund by clicking here. All monies raised (withe the exception of the fees charged by GoFundMe) go to the winners of the scholarship. everyone involved in the scholarship efforts is donating their time and receiving NO fees or monetary compensation… just the feeling of helping those who need our help. Complete rules and information can be found here.