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The Joy Of Cheesemongering

Humboldt Fog Cheese with fresh pears and a salad

I am honored and thrilled to be selected as a finalist in the Cypress Grove Cheese Champion Competition! Cypress Grove is offering one all-expenses-paid trip to the Cheesemonger Invitational, taking place the weekend of January 10 in San Francisco. The competition is a fierce showcase of cheesemonger skills, from a rigorous written exam to demonstrations of practical skills such as cutting, wrapping and weighing, to the intricacies of tasting and cheese identification to Challenges Yet To Be Revealed. The best of the best participate in this! The level of skill and expertise is astonishing! The cheesemonger must perform at the very peak of their level in order to outshine the competition! Wait, deep breath, calm down, Liz… you’ll be fine…

Yes as intimidating as the Invitational is, I feel as though I have been in training for this my whole career in cheese, which is nearly 15 years at Lunds and Byerly’s in the Twin Cities. I take my responsibility as a cheesemonger seriously. I am the bridge between the cheese and the customer. The customer comes to me with expectations that they will walk away with the perfect cheese for their purpose in their hand. It is my pleasure and my privilege to have accumulated the knowledge, skills, and philosophy necessary to help them create the perfect Cheese Experience.

I shall use Cypress Grove itself as an example of how this plays out. Let’s examine Humboldt Fog. It has a backstory of how it came to be, from the hands of Mary Keehn. She began making this lovely American Original and other delightful goat cheeses in the 70s as an imaginative entrepreneur. The cheese science that makes the cheese itself is interesting, how the surface ripening behaves, and the purpose of the ever-so-pretty ash that accents the snowy white paste of the cheese is fascinating. That little layer of luscious goo just under the rind is a science lesson deliciously brought to life. Placing it on a cheese board with a tasty jam and a crisp cracker is the final chapter in the story of Humboldt Fog. It is for me to tell this story. I must know all these things, and share the story with my customers.

Specialty cheese is not meant for sustenance. It is meant for Experience. A customer can easily go to the dairy case and grab a chunk of commodity something and say they had cheese. But cheese should be an occasion. It marks a point in time when we pause and sigh and think of our good life. Think of a picnic with saltines and commodity something. Cheese and crackers, how nice. It works. Now imagine Midnight Moon, its sweet nutty depths charmed by marcona almonds and that perfectly ripe pear. The Experience is elevated indeed, a moment of pleasure meant to be savored.

From the curating of the case, to merchandising, handling and romancing, all these are the skills of the cheesemonger. We do this to honor the makers, the animals, the Cheese itself. We do this for the Customer. It is our pleasure. We are at your service.

I would be honored to have your vote to participate in the Cheesemonger Invitational. Should I be fortunate enough to attend, I pledge to represent with expertise, passion and charm. I thank you sincerely. Love from Liz.

Cheesemonger Liz Nerud is in the running to receive full sponsorship to the Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco this January, as the #CheeseChamp for Cypress Grove Chevre. To help her get there, vote for here using this link! Vote for Liz!

Photo Credit: Featured image courtesy of Cypress Grove Chevre

Liz Nerud

In 1988 Liz Nerud was began working in the catering department of Lunds, but was was very pleased to soon be promoted and start training in Specialty Cheese. It has been a marvelous journey! Learning Cheese is like learning a language. First you learn a few nouns, then some verbs, throw in a few adjectives and pretty soon you can speak a whole sentence, a paragraph, and even write a brilliant essay about Comte. (Which was a critic's darling, but rejected by the Academy.) With Cheese there is always more vocabulary to acquire, more tales to tell.

4 thoughts on “The Joy Of Cheesemongering”

  1. Andie Paysinger says:

    A few years ago I read Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (which I highly recommend to cheese lovers) and it certainly gave me a tremendous insight on how a cheesemonger develops and how the education progresses.

    Several months later I visited my daughter in Livermore, CA and we drove into the city and visited the market, with the amazing selection of cheeses, in which the author, Gordon Edgar worked.

    I have been a cheese fancier since the 1950s, when I lived (briefly, thank goodness) in a small village in Wisconsin where a Stella Cheese factory was located and where one could buy large chunks or whole wheels of cheeses that had wonderful flavors. Aged Fontina, smoked Provolone, Gorgonzola. Another cheese factory was located in a nearby town and we would get brick (why don’t they sell it outside of Wisconsin?), aged cheddar, Swiss and Liederkranz in big blocks.
    My mother owned a bakery and as we started the baking for Monday on Sunday evening, my supper was usually cheese and bread – with beer after I turned 18 and was extremely satisfying.

  2. Sergei From Navarre says:

    Good Job LIZ!!! We all proud of you!!!!

  3. Bonnie Brown says:

    Liz Nerud

  4. robin says:

    Cheese has never been so lovingly curated. Just reading this makes my mouth water!

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