Interview With a Rockstar Cheesemonger

Most people who know me well, know that cheese is my favorite food. Gouda, Gorgonzola, Feta, Sharp Cheddar, Parmesan, Havarti, Sage Derby...it goes on and on. In fact, I seem to remember on my first date with Steve, I may have asked him to list his top 5 fav cheeses in order. I'm so cool.

Anyway, when I found out that Steve's good friend Erik had experience cheesemongering (is that a word?), I jumped on the chance to ask him a few questions. A cheesy interview follows...

CV: What exactly does a cheesemonger do?

EH: Quite simply, a cheesemonger is the person working behind the cheese counter. Ideally, the monger helps the customer determine which cheeses they need by offering up samples and any information they have on the cheeses displayed. Once the choices have been made the monger cuts and wraps each piece for taking away.

CV: How do you become a cheesemonger? How did you get into it? It sounds so glamorous!

EH: Funny, you're not the first to think that the position might be glamorous, or even sophisticated. On the contrary, it's really quite simple, and it's just about being helpful. Cheese is for everyone, and it's not supposed to be complicated. I encourage people to simply find what they like.

I got into selling cheese by working at Zingerman's, a deli and all-around fantastic food shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It wasn't until after I'd started working there that I realized that cheese was becoming a passion of mine. I was able to learn quite a bit from being there, and I've since worked at Neal's Yard Dairy in London, and Pastoral, right here in Chicago.

CV: Can you recommend a great local cheese or dairy?

EH: One of my favorite cheeses happens to be from just over the Wisconsin border, and that is Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company. Mike Gingrich is the cheese maker, and from what I know he has always exhibited passion, dedication, and consistency. His is an alpine-style aged cow's milk cheese, similar to Gruyuere or Beaufort.

There are also a couple of excellent goat's milk cheese makers here in the midwest: Prairie Fruits Farm in Champaign, Illinois and Capriole in Greenville, Indiana.

CV: What are your top 3 favorite types of cheeses?

EH: Robiola, a soft and delicate, mixed-milk Italian cheese. Montgomery's Cheddar, the king of cloth-bound cheddars, traditionally made in County Somerset, England. And finally, Eppoises, a pungent Burgundian cow's milk cheese which is washed with Chablis as it ripens.
[Ed. note-holy cow!]

CV: What's your band, NOMO, been up to lately?

EH: NOMO is doing great. We just returned from two months of touring after releasing our third record, Ghost Rock. We'll be playing out a bit during the Fall months, in addition to finishing up work on another album.

CV: What's the band's favorite food to eat on the road?

EH: In our hearts we wish we could eat much better than we actually do. Our absolute favorite is when any sort of meal is prepared for us, be it by the venue in which we're playing, or the gracious host who's putting us up for the night. While actually underway, I would have to say our favorite food to eat is a tie between Taco Bell and Subway.

CV: Easy Cheese vs. Cheez Whiz - who wins?

EH: Easy Cheese by a long shot. I used to keep a can of it in my dresser drawer as a kid, making myself late-night snacks without having to go downstairs to the kitchen. Plus, I love that crusty part on the top that shoots out after the can has been sitting unused for a while.
[Ed. note-me too!]

CV: Best cheese for nachos?

EH: Admittedly, I've never gotten adventurous with my nachos. You can't really go wrong with true nacho cheese from a jar. However, if I were to try something found at the cheese counter, it might be grated Mahon, an easy-to-like aged cow's milk cheese from Spain.

You heard it people, get out there and try some new cheeses (and check out NOMO while you're at it)! Thanks Erik! Hope to eat some cheese with ya soon.


Tim said...

This is a great and informative post. Also, I've been a NOMO fan for a couple years now. They're great and extremely nice people.

herrdat said...


Pirate Zehra said...

I really want cheese now - but more than anything i want nachos now. mmm