Sorry I’ve Been A-Whey…
Hi readers. As you may have noticed, there’s been a serious lack of action on this blog recently. 2 weeks back I went out of town for a week and, since my return, I’ve been catching up with work, friends, and cheese! I just haven’t had much time to actually write and, when I did find myself with some free time, I was too tired to do anything but turn on The Food Network or HGTV (both almost as addicted as L’Amuse Aged Gouda).
Now, I plan to turn that around from here on out, but I wanted to spend a little time getting everyone up to speed. So, some brief words (I toyed with the idea of calling this post ‘Curds of Wisdom’ but it didn’t feel quite right) on recent happenings, and then we can get back to normal blogging.
First: I am thrilled to report that, this summer, I will be an intern at The Cheese School of San Francisco. Not too familiar? Check out their awesome website, which features information about the school, the courses, and even the internship program. One big plus? It’s paid! Starting in July, I’ll be spending roughly 15 hours per week in the beautiful building at Powell and Francisco in Nob Hill, SF. I’ll be setting & cleaning up before and after classes, helping out during the classes and, I believe, doing some light administrative work. Last week I sat down for a drink with one of the school’s current interns, Devon Foster, who is also a cheesemonger at Cowgirl Creamery in The Ferry Building. Devon and I had a delightful conversation about all things cheese. She told me a little bit about the CA cheese community and did a lot to reassure me that it’s a really welcoming circle. Lately I’ve been nervous about jumping into the unknown and starting out as a newbie, so her stories of acceptance did a lot to lessen my fears. Devon also praised The Cheese School internship experience, which left me very excited. I’ll get to learn a ton about different cheeses, how to cut, plate, and serve, and I’ll be introduced to so many inspiring and experienced cheese professionals. I’m starting to sense that I may have a future in cheese-related catering and event-planning (we’ll see), so all of this really appeals to me. I can’t wait!
Speaking of The Cheese School and inspiring cheese professionals: On March 13th I took my first Master Class at the school, Identifying Cheese Flavors with Peggy Smith of Cowgirl Creamery. Yep, THE Peggy Smith of THE Cowgirl Creamery. For me, it was a big deal. It was such an incredible experience that I spent the next week gushing about it to anyone who would listen. As such, I want to write real blog entry about the class, the cheeses, and Peggy, so this is just a brief mention and placeholder until that time. The big take-away from the evening is that I left completely at peace with my decision to leave publishing for cheese. While I was a novice compared to almost all the attendees (mongers, farmers, cheesemakers, chefs, etc.), I felt able and understanding of almost all of the concepts covered and excited to embrace and conquer those that I didn’t. Every single person there was friendly and wonderfully weird (just like me!), and I had some great conversations with two mongers from Mission Cheese (my nextdoor neighbor/dream employer) and even with Peggy, herself. I felt like I was floating on my way home that night, filled with a relief that I can’t fully explain. So, keep a lookout for a full post on that class, it’s coming soon.
What else? Oh, well, it had to happen eventually: I had my first semi-embarrassing cheese celebrity awkward encounter. I thought for sure it would happen sometime with Gordon Edgar, but the world likes to keep us on our toes. A few weeks ago I went to the Winter Artisan Cheese Fair kick-off event at Cheese Plus in Nob Hill. It was a great little ‘party’, just some cheesemakers giving out samples around the store, and then a small ‘buffet’ of samples out front. I was just getting started in the buffet line, testing out a delightful Alpine fondue, and slightly eavesdropping on the girl in line in front of me. I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was tasting a Vermont Butter & Cheese Coupole for the first time, and I was happy to hear her exclaim the deliciousness of the cheese and to ask more about it. It was at that point that I heard the not-yet-seen person behind the counter explain that it was a cheese made at her creamery in Vermont. Without thinking, and with a mouth slightly full of bread and cheese, I blurted out “Oh my gosh are you Allison Hooper?” It was not a smooth, casual, cool moment for me. It was dorky and borderline creepy. “Yes” she responded, “Who are you?” At that point, I explained that I wasn’t really anybody (yet), just an aspiring cheese professional and a major fan of her cheeses. She was flattered and friendly but busy and those in line behind me were growing inpatient, so I simply thanked her and moved on. When I got home and told Mike what had happened, he made fun of me for being a spaz and not telling her just HOW much of a fan I was, and said that I should at least send a follow-up email with a link to my blog (which is, after all, named in honor of one of her cheeses). Soooo… I think I’ll probably do that, so that something more than embarrassment can come of that encounter. To be fair, I did share that story with Peggy Smith, and she got a little chuckle out of it, so…it’s not for nothing.
Okay, that seems like enough for now! I’m slowly making my way though Steven Jenkins’ classic Cheese Primer. After Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, it is quite a change in attitude and approach, but there’s a ton of information in there and I’m learning a lot. I’m even taking notes and doing some color-coded highlighting, so I feel like a student again! On the radar: Tomorrow evening I’m meeting with Anthea Stolz, the buyer for Bi-Rite who also taught the Desert Island Cheeses course that I took, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’d like to solidify the relationship and, of course, talk about future employment options, but I’m also thinking of doing small profiles/interviews of local cheese professionals and posting them on this blog. I have no journalism experience, so they wouldn’t be anything amazing, but I just like the idea of spotlighting those who inspire me. What do you think?