Anna Juhl is on her feet a lot. In a series of #pivots, life has taken her from walking the long hallways of hospitals as a nurse, to raising two daughters while owning a cheese shop, to leading groups of tourists all over Europe with her organization, Cheese Journeys. Thanks to Anna and her family, the Juhl name has now achieved an almost dynastic quality in the cheese world—her daughters Leah and Rachel went on to work with Essex Street Cheese, Neal’s Yard Dairy, and the Daphne Zepos Teaching Endowment. Anna herself teamed up with heavyweights such as Emilio Mignucci of Di Bruno Bros., Tenaya Darlington (a.k.a. Madame Fromage), and cheese portrait painter Mike Geno to create turophilic travel experiences worthy of write-ups in Condé Nast Traveler, the Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe. She took a break from planning a robust 2023-24 trip calendar to chat with us.
culture: Tell us how you got into this wild world of cheese.
ANNA JUHL (AJ): Like many people, on a whim. I had a love for food and cooking and happened to walk into a shop a woman was selling. I was looking for a business that my daughters could be involved with—they were young at the time, early teens. And I said, “Okay, sure. Let’s buy the cheese shop.”
What were you doing before that?
AJ: Would you believe I was a nurse? I was pretty burnt out with a lot of healthcare issues going on and always working with grant money. So finally, I said, “I’m done.” I knew nothing about cheese, except that, you know, my husband grew up on a farm in Iowa and his milk used to be delivered to make cheese.
Would you say when you were a nurse, you were also, like, a foodie? I hate that word.
AJ: Oh, totally. I had that passion. Of course, it was in the 90’s, where suddenly, the food channel was everywhere and we’re all learning about, you know, “gourmet food,” right? And this was a long-established shop that needed a facelift. It was a great opportunity, but then life changes and the economy changes, so we finally, years later, decided that wasn’t long term—to be in retail.
You’ve since made it your job to regularly visit the best cheese regions and makers in the world. I think our readers are going to want to know how!
AJ: I had built up relationships and knew of a lot of these cheesemakers. But it’s one thing to know of them [and] another to have a relationship where you can build trust and convince [them] that you wanna bring a bunch of enthusiasts to come see them. So, at the time, the project I was working on with the hospital lost all federal funding. They gave me a severance, I took it, and I said, “I’m gonna work for 6, 8 months exploring this.”
What was your first journey?
AJ: The UK. I was working with Chris George at the time. He’d built an educational program for Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. And I knew Jason Hinds and many of those people, and I said, “OK, they speak English, that’s good, that’s easy, let’s pilot our first trip to England.”
Do you speak any other languages?
AJ: Not fluently!
Do you have any memorable anecdotes or stories that stand out from your travels over the years?
AJ: Just to see people who know nothing about cheese, maybe they got [dragged] along by their spouse who’s a foodie, to be able to see the light come on within them and see them understand it. And they go back home and they’re cheese customers at the best cheese shops for life. That’s rewarding, you know?
Yeah, definitely. So, you’ve organized trips to France, Italy, the UK, the Alps, Belgium, Amsterdam. What burgeoning cheese regions are on your radar for the future?
AJ: Spain is long overdue, but it’s pretty daunting. My approach is never 10 cities in 10 days; I want to deep dive into some really great areas. So that’ll take a bit of research.
2023–2024 Cheese Journeys
Anna’s upcoming itineraries showcase all that sets Cheese Journeys apart: Guests stay in historic villas, chateaus, and manor houses; get behind-the-scenes access to private aging caves and farmsteads; and even travel with their own private chef!
Northern Italy: Piedmont & Lake Country: Anna and Emilio Mignucci of Di Bruno Bros. lead a tour of the Langhe region.
Chateau de Courances & Paris: Anna and Tenaya Darlington, a.k.a. Madame Fromage, serve up brie and Champagne in the City of Love.
Alpine Regions of France & Switzerland: Cheese Journeys’ most popular tour features caves, chalets, and Comté.
Northern Italy & Bra Cheese Festival: A deep dive into the cheese industry, for cheese professionals and entrepreneurs.
A British Cheese Odyssey: London, Somerset, Bath, a stay in an English manor, and even some plein-air painting!
Belgium & the Netherlands: A spring tulip-season getaway that takes folks to the region’s best brewers, chocolatiers, and affineurs.
New York City to Vermont Road Trip: Vermont food expert Jeff Roberts leads a six-day tour of all the Green Mountain State has to offer.