How does one become a cheesemonger?
I began my career as a cheesemaker in rural West Pawlet, Vermont. Due to the distance between the farm and our retail customers in NYC, a tremendous information gap existed. Is the cheese raw or pasteurized? Jersey milk or Ayrshire? From the Northeast Kingdom or the Slate Valley? I wanted to close that gap and tell the stories of these small makers to customers.
Between independent study and formal training, I gobbled up as many experiences (and cheeses) as I could get my hands on. The goal: to hone in on what makes these products unique, why the inputs matter, and what makes them command a premium price. The cheesemonger is the final frontier, the last barrier between cheese and consumer. This responsibility can be daunting, but it is vitally important that information is delivered with accuracy and enthusiasm.
So, how do you become a cheesemonger? Learn from those who are smarter and more experienced than you. Ask to stage at your favorite cheese counter, lend a hand with farm chores at your local dairy, or break down boxes at your distributor’s warehouse. Immerse yourself in your passion, ask all of the questions, and be humble—there’s always more to learn.
ACS CCP and winner of the 2018 Winter Cheesemonger Invitational, Rory Stamp has worked in New England’s artisan cheese industry for more than six years, from starting as a farmhand on Martha’s Vineyard, to training at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, apprenticing at Consider Bardwell Farm, working as a monger and educator at Formaggio Kitchen, and managing sales and distribution for Shelburne Farms. He is currently the artisan food manager at Dedalus Wine Shop, Market, and Wine Bar in Burlington, Vt.
Photo courtesy of Dedalus Wine Shop, Market, and Wine Bar