The 2024 Hot List: John Braga | culture: the word on cheese
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The 2024 Hot List: John Braga

This story is part of culture’s 2024 Hot List. Click here to learn more about the selection process and to see the entire list of recipients.

Photo courtesy John Braga

John Braga

Wholesale Cheesemonger, Food Matters Again
New York City, New York

Despite growing up watching his grandparents make cheese in northern Minas Gerais, Brazil a state known for traditional foods and cheese production (including raw cow’s milk Minas cheese), it wasn’t until John Braga moved to New York that he began his love affair with the cheese industry. After sampling a single bite of Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze from a friendly Murray’s cheesemonger, Braga joined the Murray’s team and climbed the ranks over a six year tenure. After a stint at the French Cheese Board, he eventually left the shop to become a wholesale cheesemonger at Food Matters Again, all while documenting his adventures on Instagram @oqueijonista. Bragahas also judged Brazil’s biggest cheese competition, Mundial do Queijo.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the cheese world?

BIPOC cheese professionals who passionately work on and behind the scenes, to help keep the industry alive while also creating more inclusive spaces for other BIPOC cheese professionals to join and thrive in. Also, cheesemakers such as Mariano Gonzalez and mongers such as Cielo Peralta who have paved the way for other Latin-American cheese professionals to explore new avenues in the industry. And mongers who support small creameries while also understanding that there is a place and time for every cheese, including commodity ones.

What was your big “aha moment” when you entered this industry?

Visiting creameries and cheese shops in Europe, the US, and South America, and realizing that cheese goes beyond traditional recipes. Cheesemaking and sales are often influenced by logistics and packaging choices. Not to mention that sometimes the way cheese is made, aged, and sold can change based on social, political, and economic factors imposed on those making decisions. Realizing that it’s not always about raising “happy” animals, putting four ingredients together, or finding a catchy name for each cheese was eye-opening.

Pair a celebrity with a cheese.

Beyoncé with Parish Hill Creamery Cornerstone. For every version that comes out, old school meets contemporary. Both layered, complex, raw, yet technically precise. Some of the greatest this country has seen. Unique. Both audacious in their own way. A cultural coalition of impactful magnitude. A like-with-like pairing as these are both icons.

What is an underrated cheese that everyone should know about?

Requeijão is a Brazilian classic that more people should know about. It’s a cooked curd cheese made with butter or cream that sometimes looks similar to Gjetost (there’s both a white and a brown version) but tastes savory and buttery with notes of umami. Traditionally consumed in the countryside of Brazil, Requeijão has slowly regained popularity in big cities, thanks to the beautiful work of Brazilian cheesemongers.

What is a pairing you’re ashamed to love?

Cubed-up Minas cheese mixed with corn flour and sweetened coffee is something I grew up on. To this day, I have a cup or two for breakfast every time I go back to my home state in Brazil. My grandmother says that this was something the farmers would eat when they traveled long distances on horses a few decades ago.

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