The 2024 Hot List: Molly Browne | culture: the word on cheese
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The 2024 Hot List: Molly Browne

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.

Molly Browne hot list

Molly Browne

Education Director, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

As the education director for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Molly Browne led the team that created Cheese State University, the industry’s newest training and education program for cheese professionals. A Wisconsin native, Browne was pursuing a Master of Arts in Food Rhetoric from the University of Colorado when she first crossed paths with cheese in a professional capacity. Casting rhetoric aside (temporarily), she began her career by accepting the position of lead cheesemonger at a small cheese shop in Boulder. Since then, Browne has worked in various roles for cheese companies large and small. She is a Certified Cheese Professional and Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator through the American Cheese Society, where she also serves as vice chair of the Certification Committee.

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

At some point early in my career, I understood that you could spend a lifetime learning about cheese and never be done. That was the thing that really hooked me, along with the realization that cheese is inextricably linked to culture, tradition, and storytelling, as well as land, animals, and people—all things that I find deeply meaningful.

What’s your number one goal for your career in the cheese industry?

My goals in the cheese industry are to create connections and be a mentor. You could chalk
my career successes up to hard work and opportune timing, but within that story is socioeconomic and racial privilege that helped me advance. In acknowledgement of that, it’s important that I use the resources at my disposal to bring greater transparency to the professional cheese world, by creating access to education and information, and helping people connect to work opportunities that can build their careers. I want to see our industry become more professional, more equitable, and more welcoming for everyone in it.

Pair a celebrity with a cheese.

I would pair Ilana Glazer with parmesan. I think both are excellent gateways—they appeal to the masses while maintaining authenticity and delivering a dose of underlying complexity that pushes the envelope in digestible ways.

You’re on a desert island and can only eat one cheese for the rest of your life. What is it?

Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve—it’s sturdy, functional, and always delicious. I think it would develop some lovely tropical notes in the warmer aging environment of a desert island. And given its status as the most-awarded cheese in American history, I could potentially use its value to barter with other island inhabitants for different products.

What is an underrated cheese that everyone should know about?

In my house, we consume an inordinate amount of Cesar’s Queso Oaxaca, which comes packaged as string cheese at the local co-op. It’s milky and mild but somehow still complex, and I’m just as happy eating it for lunch as my 6-year-old is.

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