GP: Why do you love cheese so much?
Beth: I always loved cheese when I was growing up, but when I was in my 20s I discovered *real* cheese. I fell in love with the infinite flavor variations that can come from a few simple ingredients, and became fascinated with the science, history and culture that accounts for all the different styles of cheese across the world.
GP: What does it mean to be a cheesemonger?
Beth: It means you know and love cheese and want to share it with the world!
GP: How did you come to become a cheesemonger?
Beth: For years my husband Chris and I had an idea – it was more like a joke between us – that we would quit our jobs and open a cheese and beer shop in Greenpoint. I was laid off from a corporate job in late 2008, and realized it was a good time to take something I loved and turn it into a living. So I parlayed my amateur cheese knowledge, plus a post-college gig at a deli, into a cheesemonger job at Artisanal Bistro (and its short-lived offshoot, Bar Artisanal). I learned a ton about cheese there, and realized that I seriously wanted to do this for a living. Picking just the right cheese for a customer, and seeing them smile when they taste it, is what makes my day, every day.
GP: What does this competition mean to you?
Beth: I’m really looking forward to spending the day with a bunch of other enthusiastic, professional cheese nerds. Having a competition like this helps motivate us all to keep our knowledge and skills sharp. On shows like “Top Chef” the contestants always keep saying, “This is a competition! I’m not here to make friends!” I actually *will* be there to make friends. And to kick their asses.
GP: What does it mean for Greenpoint?
I’m proud to represent Greenpoint in a competition against lots of fancy pants cheese shops from all around the country and the world. I feel like Greenpoint has a real scrappy, underdog, independent vibe, and that’s what inspires me about this place. I’ll feel extra proud if our tiny Greenpoint market can kick Whole Foods’ butt in this event.
GP: Are you nervous about the event?
Beth: Most of the challenges are just amped-up versions of what I do every day – taste cheese, talk about cheese, handle and present cheese – so no, I’m not nervous! I’m ready to go!
GP: Who are your biggest competitors?
Beth: I’m gunning for Poul Price of Consider Bardwell Farm. You may know him from the farmers’ market at McCarren Park. He placed last year and won a nice big double-handled cheese knife. I want me one o’ those.
GP: What area do you excel in?
Beth: I think I’ll do well in the taste test, and last year I got some nice compliments on my wrapping style. I’m working on ideas for the pairing portion of the competition, the most fun part, so hopefully I’ll rock that too.
GP: What can we look forward to in the competition?
Beth: You will learn a ton about cheese in a surprisingly raucous, giddy environment. You will discover a subculture you never thought existed. You will get full and tipsy from the buffet. I guarantee you will also taste some cheeses you’ve never had before, and love them.
GP: What if you had to chose just one cheese, what would it be?
Beth: I love Uplands Rush Creek and Jasper Hill Winnimere, which are both funky, gooey, washed-rind cheeses that are aged in a wrapper of bark for a woodsy, wild flavor. But Vacherin Mont D’Or is the grandparent of this style, and nothing beats a raw milk Vacherin lovingly smuggled back from Europe in some cheese-lover’s suitcase.
GP: Anything other cheesy events coming up?
Beth: There’s another awesome cheese event happening this weekend! The New Amsterdam Market, which takes place every Sunday, is hosting a special Cheese Market and Dairy Fair this week. There will be fabulous cheesemakers from all across the region, plus a few select local cheese shops, including Eastern District. Everyone will be offering samples and cheese to sell, and we’ll have a couple special sandwiches too. It’s a nice, quick ferry ride from Greenpoint to Wall Street.