If the name Adam Moskowitz doesn’t resonate with you, maybe a visualization will help. Picture a man decked out in a cow onesie, a gold chain, and a cowbell around his neck, with shades on and microphone in-hand. If you’re in the cheese world, you probably recognize him as his alter-ego, Mr. Moo.
Moskowitz owns the importing and distribution businesses Larkin Cold Storage and Columbia Cheese, but his passion for the cheese industry takes center stage during the Cheesemonger Invitational (CMI), a tri-annual, cheese-focused mashup of the Olympics, Shark Tank, and Top Chef. “It’s less a competition and more cheesemonger obstacle course,” says Moskowitz, who hosts the CMI as the encouraging, inspiring, and yes, ridiculous Mr. Moo.
The third generation of familial cheesefolk, Moskowitz worked at internet startups and even had a short-lived rap career before a Jamòn Serrano-related trip to Spain with his father proved to be pivotal. Back home in New York City, he got a job as a cheesemonger at Formaggio Essex and found his calling. “It was a revelation. I’ve never felt more connected to food. I’ve never felt more connected to myself, and I’ve never felt more connected to inspiring and educating others.”
Ever optimistic, Moskowitz believes that the changes imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic could actually have a positive impact on cheese mongering.“It’s often easy to just say ‘Try this. Do you like it? Okay, you’ll buy it.’ And now, [cheesemongers are] going to be forced to have more descriptive language, more poetic metaphors.”
So, what has Moskowitz been getting up to while holed up during stay-at-home? We asked him to share some of his essentials as well as advice for anyone interested in competing in future CMIs.
“The cheesemonger’s job is to promote cheesemakers—tell the story and take care of the cheese…My attitude is ‘Save the supply chain!’ The cheese maker is extremely important. But so is the importer, the distributor, the retailer, the cheesemonger…right? I strongly believe that every part of the supply chain is important.”
“I was in 26 years of active addiction and I completely lost my mind…If there’s one thing I want to really shine on it’s that it is possible to live and work in the cheese business sober, and I hope anybody struggling with addiction and mental health will reach out to me. I’m in service to anybody who wants to live life like I live mine, and the support I’ve received from the industry in terms of my sobriety is unlike anything else.”
“All of us are the respective ‘Big Cheeses’ in our circles, both at work and at home. What’s really cool [about CMI] is to be in a room with all these other Big Cheeses. Everybody checks their ego at the door.”
“I had Biltsharp knives made that I designed myself. Generally speaking, I like to collect small knives, and I have a collection of what I call cheese pocketknives. I like wooden handles.”
“I’m actually gluten free, lactose free, and allium free. I am very fortunate that my wife has become like my personal chef. She loves cookbooks and is a big fan of Ina Garten.”
“I think if you’re going to be nervous, enjoy being nervous, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Bring a community-minded mentality, because we don’t judge you, we score you. And I think that’s a really important difference. So, I would bring a positive attitude, your own tools, and a strong point of view. A strong point of view is really important.”