For this edition of Shop Talk, we asked owners and mongers from shops in Florida, New York, and California to answer the following:
1. How did you get your start working in cheese?
2. What is your favorite cheese memory/funny story?
3. What cheese-focused trip or experience is on your bucket list?
“Annie” Thorton and Kyle Thorton
Simply Cheese | Winter Park, FL
1. Growing up in the Midwest, it was very normal for cheese to make an appearance at every family gathering. If there wasn’t a cheeseball at grandma’s house, something wasn’t right. But while cheese was always a part of my life, I never really looked at it as an option for a way to make a living… until a couple of years ago. When the world was sort of turned upside down in 2020, it really hit me that life is short and we should do what makes us happy, do what we love, do what makes us our best selves. I thought about this a lot, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that “thing” was for me. While up in Michigan visiting family, we stopped into a local cheese shop and that’s when it hit me—this is what I want to do, what I need to do. And that was the beginning of Simply Cheese.
2. I absolutely love being around people as they’re trying new cheeses, especially when the cheese isn’t what they typically eat. The reactions tend to be where you either witnesses someone’s mind being blown, or you witness the face of “never again!” These experiences with many of my friends and family have a special place in my memory and heart. If I had to choose just one favorite “cheesy” story to share, it would have to be that of when my husband and I took our two little boys out to dinner, and about halfway through the meal my 2-year-old loudly yelled “I LOVE CHEESE!” Me too son, me too.
3. I would love to take a European cheese tour, visiting the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, and England. These countries have been practicing the art of cheesemaking for centuries and have perfected some of my favorite Goudas and Gruyères. Oh, and Manchego! One of these days, I will absolutely be in Spain, savoring Manchego and sipping on Cava.
Simply Cheese | 2258 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, FL 32792 | simplycheesefl.com
Abbey Woodcock and KC Baney
Calle1945 | Oneida, NY
1. My grandfather, Calvin Janes, started Callee Farm in 1945. I have really fond memories of spending time on the farm when I was a kid. The smell of raw milk or even raw-milk cheese brings me right back to my childhood. To me, that fresh raw-milk taste is what other people feel when they bite into a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. With all that said, I never had any grand vision of being involved in the dairy industry. For the last 10 years I’ve run a digital marketing and copywriting company. I’ve always loved dairy and cheese but didn’t think of working in the industry until a few years ago. My entire adult life I’ve been what some people call a “foodie.” I love being at restaurants, spending time with “food people.” Some of my best friends are chefs and/or restaurant owners. A few years back, I happened upon a YouTube video about artisan cheese and got hooked after that. I was really interested in the craft of cheese and the amazing things that people around the world were doing with really simple ingredients.
2. My dad loves telling the story of when I was around 3 years old… I asked him for some cheese, and he said we didn’t have any. I told him we did and directed him to my personal stockpile. I had created a cheese cave under my bed… mold and all!
3. I’ve traveled through California, New York, and Vermont. Next on my list is Europe! I’d love to spend time in Switzerland seeing Gruyère and Emmentaler production, as well as tasting all the amazing artisan food Switzerland has to offer. Plus, the guys from Jumi Raclette mentioned that near their headquarters, people often spend a day floating down the river in the summer, so that’s definitely on my list!
Callee1945 | 134 Main St., Oneida, NY 13421 | callee1945.com
Smallgoods American Cheese and Provisions | La Jolla, CA
1. My career started the evening I walked into Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker Street (NYC), ready to take a pairing class, when my gaze fell upon a handwritten note looking for cave interns. I said yes before I even knew what the job was! That time in the caves was invaluable, and later when I became a monger behind the counter, I was exposed to such an array of knowledge from my Murray’s coworkers. My love for cheese produced in the US began there, and now I am proud to represent only American-made cheeses and cured meats at my shop.
2. My favorite (and proudest) cheese memory has to be earning my Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) title. I’d been working with cheese for about five years when I decided to take the exam, and not knowing what would be asked, I started literally at the beginning: animals, milk chemistry, making cheese, etc. Each step was an intense educational experience and I’m a better monger for it.
3. It’s my mission to attend the biennial International Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy, organized by Slow Food. Surrounded by cheese for days on end sounds pretty good to me!
Smallgoods American Cheese & Provisions | 7524 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla, CA 92037 | smallgoodsusa.com