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Like an artist, the title of ‘cheesemonger’ is not always granted by some authority, it is rather a subjective, earned title. Anyone can call themselves an artist and be granted some degree of benefit of the doubt, but a cheesemonger ‘faking it til they make it’ will betray themselves quickly, for cheesemongering truly is an art – and one that takes many moons to hone. A cheesemonger is an expert who specializes in the selection, storage, and presentation of artisanal cheeses, and with constant progress & change across the cheese industry, a cheesemonger's education is never complete!
Sometimes creatively described as a “cheese steward” or “cheese sommelier,” cheesemongers must not only maintain an extensive knowledge of cheese styles and producers, but must also have a fundamental understanding of the intricate inner-workings of dairy production methods, retail management – and how seasonality affects it all. Indeed, according to the New York Times, “A cheesemonger is to cheese roughly as a sommelier is to wine: not a producer, but a knowledgeable interpreter, adviser and seller. The job includes elements of connoisseurship, salesmanship, sensory training and a firm grasp of geography, history, and microbiology.”
Tracing back from the Latin-based, early English word ‘mangere,’ the suffix ‘monger’ simply indicates a merchant that specializes in a certain type of product. The only other “monger" that comes to mind might be a fishmonger, but a quick Wiki-check reveals that most any profession can add the term ‘monger’ to succinctly express a certain mystique – for a monger is one that is deeply dedicated to their work! For many of us, it’s more of an actual lifestyle than simply a job.
A Brief History of Cheesemongering
Cheesemongering heritage finds its basis in ancient times, when cheese was made locally and sold in nearby communal markets. The identity of a cheesemonger was in its infancy however, as the role would invariably take second place to a more primary one: the cheesemaker.
By the Middle Ages, shops and market spaces dedicated to showcasing cheese were growing in prominence, as cheese became more prevalent in everyday diets. Cheeses from different regions also began to become available, and as the reach of cheeses and their production methods expanded, the role of the cheese merchant evolved, taking a form more akin to the modern day cheesemonger!
Even though the Industrial Revolution heralded an era often obsessed with the bottom line (rather than quality), the rise of mass-produced cheeses also reignited interest in more traditional, artisanal cheese-making techniques. This is the love-language of the modern day cheesemonger, as they fulfill increasingly fundamental elements in the world of cheese with their knowledge of products artisanal and beyond, insistence on quality control – and limitless sense of fun when it comes to what cheese can bring to your life!
What Your Cheesemonger Does for You!
With knowledge and sensibility, cheesemongers weave impassioned stories of the cheeses they sell with the producers who spend their days perfecting them. With a singular role in the cheese world, cheesemongers bring the realm of cheese producers to the consumer with vivid imagery and handy explanations of flavors & qualities. Contributing their knowledge and passion for cheese, cheesemongers foster a true connection to the product that can lead to new, more succinctly merriment-inducing ‘soul cheeses’ – as well as guidance in instilling layers of depth to favorite recipes.
Here are some of the primary contributions cheesemongers can bring to your table:
- Product Knowledge: Not only do cheesemongers develop and share intimate knowledge of products & producers, they take most every opportunity to broaden their knowledge-base by tasting and learning about everything involved. Whether attending industry events, visiting farms, creameries & production facilities, or discovering something far-flung at a farmer’s market, cheesemongers strive to build relationships and a deeper understanding of the products. This helps you make expert choices – and inspires more visceral connections to your selections!
- Showcasing Artisan & Local: A cheesemonger at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop is welcomed into a built-in network of local producers of local cheeses, meats – and all manner of accentuations for your dreamiest cheese boards. By getting to know these folks and their stories personally, we are beaming with pride to enlighten customers with the finest world-class goods that central Texas has to offer!
- Certifying Product Quality: This is the serious and un-sexy, behind-the-scrim, part – but it’s the piece we place the most importance on. A cheesemonger's journey includes rigid, specified training that ensures safety protocols are always the foremost priority. At the tip of the cheesemonger iceberg is a deep understanding of sanitization practices, temperature controls and proper handling procedures – all to best guarantee overall consumer safety.
Epicurean Adventures: Perhaps the most amusing and enjoyable element cheesemongers provide comes with their intuition for providing serendipitous pairing suggestions, proper serving directives, and understanding & interpreting your favorite recipes to help perfect them. Your friendly cheesemonger helps you reach higher heights of yumminess!
Your Very Own Cheesemonger(s)!
So, if Wikipedia sums up the cheesemonger as “a merchant who specializes in cheese,” let it be known that that is of course the simple definition of what we do. Nearly all of us under the Antonelli’s umbrella are – in some form or another – cheesemongers! And it is sincerely the joy in our day to share our love of cheese with all y’all! So come on down to the shop for a tasting-tour of what’s ‘in the zone’ today; take the guesswork out of it all with our catered-style cheese trays and at-home Raclette service; and – do NOT miss – our thriving Events program, which brings dynamic public & private functions to our customers (on-site at our charming turn-of-the-century Cheese House, and all across central Texas).
And if you’re out-of-state, we can bring our cheesemongers to your home with our Cheese Club! Each month, we hand-pick 4-5 artisan cheeses to send to your doorstep along with educational tasting guides and an accompanying video featuring our cheesemongers! We can’t wait to share our “Do Good, Eat Good” philosophy with you!