In this blog series intern Kate E. interviews the staff here at culture: the word on cheese to give you an inside look at a day in the life of this goofy group of cheese-lovers and their work on the magazine you’ve come to love. Have specific questions for or about our staff? Be sure to send them to staff@culturecheesemag with the subject line, “Meet the Staff”.
The pages of culture feature stunning examples of cheeses from all over the world. Of course, this means we need someone to go find these cheeses, make sure they’re delicious, and take pictures of everything. Last November, this responsibility fell to Kate Arding and Elaine Khosrova, one of our founders and our editor-in-chief, respectively. The assignment was to visit an ancient Spanish mansion and sample the traditional sheep’s milk cheese of the area. What a tough job. The two women traveled to hidden Estremadura, Spain and immersed themselves in the rolling hills of the area. Kate took pictures of the beautiful estate and its inhabitants, including the wandering sheep. Meanwhile, Elaine met with the cheesemakers and learned the process for making their unique Torta de Trujillo, a small sheep’s-milk cheese with a creamy, satiny middle and golden rustic rind.
When they aren’t traveling around Europe in search of new cheeses, the two women often find themselves working together in Kate’s well-lit kitchen, organizing product shoots. The layout is discussed beforehand, Kate giving Elaine most of the creative credit; “Elaine often has a very good vision for styling and so I usually defer to her.” Kate takes the pictures and the two review them together as they go.
Kate utilizes a Land Rover for the Centerfold shot
While today they often share projects, Kate and Elaine came to the world of cheese and culture through very different channels.
Kate’s story starts in London. She was introduced to cheese by Neal’s Yard Dairy, the legendary cheese-shop in London: “I thought I was coming home. They were very inclusive and very welcoming. There was this great atmosphere.” While working at the wholesale counter one afternoon, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith wandered through the doors. (In the next few years, Sue and Peggy would start the incredibly influential Cowgirl Creamery). Wanting to get to know the area’s cheesemakers, Sue and Peggy found themselves in Kate’s Morris Minor car, touring the local farms. The three women bonded over the course of three days, and two years later, Kate arrived in California, visa in hand, ready to help kick-start the American cheese revolution. As Cowgirl Creamery formed its own traditions, Kate manned the retail counter, bringing cheese to the locals and watching the business grow.
A few years later, Kate was sipping beers with her friend Lassa and Lassa’s sister, Stephanie. As the night progressed, the idea for culture was born. Since it’s beginning, the magazine has benefited from Kate’s experience as a cheesemonger (she has answered questions for “Ask the Cheesemonger” and oversees our cheese library).
Around the time Kate was living in the world of cheese, Elaine had started to find her way in the food publishing industry. After graduating with a degree in food and nutrition and attending pastry school at the CIA, Elaine worked as an assistant editor at Country Living. During her eight years working for this magazine, she learned every aspect of food editorial you can imagine. She developed and wrote recipes, created content for articles, stylized food for photo shoots, and took ideas from the drawing board to a stage where they could have, “a publishing life with art and text.”
Two children later and Elaine was ready to move out of Manhattan and into the Hudson Valley. From her upstate home, she freelanced as a food writer, stylist, and recipe developer for many different national magazines. (She also put her pastry experience to use, creating a wedding cake business on the side.) She also worked as the senior editor at Sante, covering the world of chefs. The three co-founders of culture found her just as they were getting ready to launch. She had editorial experience, the others had cheese experience: it was a match made in heaven.
Five years later, I feel as if I’ve gotten a master’s degree in cheese/cheesemaking, thanks to this incredible job. Covering the science, craft, politics, people, and history of the cheesemaking world has been, by far, the most interesting and captivating food editorial work I’ve ever done. I had no idea, when I took this job, that I’d become such a cheese geek as well as passionate advocate for dairy folk.
Elaine aligns the cheese before a kitchen photo shoot
Now that Kate and Elaine have joined forces in our upstate New York location, their tandem projects help capture the more relaxed and unguarded side of the cheese world. During location shoots, Elaine will conduct interviews and tour the facilities, giving Kate an opportunity to catch everyone at a moment of ease; “I can then walk about and get some of the more eye-catching shots with less pressure.” Thanks in large part to the teamwork of these women, culture features incredibly engaging stories with pictures that make the story come alive.