Jeff is a Fromagination cheesemonger as well as purchasing and inventory manager. He has extensive background in farming, food and cheesemaking. He has deep knowledge and passion about all things cheese, meats and companions.
After working for a cheese making company in Milwaukee, Jeff started working at Fromagination cutting cheese in the back of the house during the holidays. Before long Jeff was working the front of house sharing his passion and knowledge with Fromagination customers as well as helping educate his fellow cheesemongers wherever he could.
We sat down with Jeff to discuss his experiences and to tell us a little bit about himself.
How long have you been working for Fromagination?
I’ve been working for Fromagination for about four years, in various capacities. I started out working in the back of the house cutting cheese for the holidays, and now I am purchasing and inventory manager.
I work several days a week as a cheesemonger and I’m really interested in picking out new thing for the store and enhancing our staff’s knowledge on what they are and how we can offer them to our customers.
You’ve been teaching classes recently, how was that experience?
The classes have been a lot of fun. We just got done with the first series of classes that we’ve done for several years now. We’ve just rolled out a second set of classes that will begin late this spring and run through the summer.
What made you want to work for Fromagination?
Before I worked here, I actually worked for a cheese factory in Milwaukee. I really like that. When I was in college actually I studied food. I did a program that was about ethnobiology, which is essentially the study of how people relate to food. And I found that to be really fascinating. That’s was inspired me to go for for the cheese factory.
What I liked about Fromagination was the big variety of cheeses that we were able to carry. The cheese factory was interesting but we only carried cheeses that we made, which meant we were limited in scope. And so my favorite part about working at this store is the sheer plethora of different thing we’re able to offer our customers.
How much of what you studied have you been able to apply here?
A lot. Cheesemaking is a strange thing to most people. It involves topics that are typically unsavory conversation such as bacteria, mold, rotten milk and things like that. I do take some pleasure in learning about all that because it is widely misunderstood by most people. I like to educate people on what it actually really is, how it got that way and why people started doing this in the first place.
What would you say is the cheese that changed everything for you?
When I was working for the Clock Shadow Creamery in Milwaukee, one thing the company did was rent out cheese making space to other cheesemakers, aspiring entrepreneurs that want to gain access to cheese making facilities so that could create cheese without making a big investment of buying or building a cheese factory. So there was one company in particular, who’s products we carry here, called Landmark creamery. That specializes sheep’s milk cheeses. Seeing their take on it from a very small perspective working towards building a company that’s specializes in a product like sheep’s milk cheeses which is a product that is relatively new to Wisconsin. So some of their sheep’s milk cheeses were some of the most inspiring to me early on in my career. Such as the Anabasque, which is a washed rind Basque style cheese.
How have you seen Cheesemaking evolve in Wisconsin?
Our store is certainly focused on small batch artisan cheeses, and we’ve certainly seen a lot of growth in that by market data from the DFW. 23% of cheese made in Wisconsin is considered artisanal cheese. We’ve seen a big growth in that, which is wonderful for us because our options continue to multiply for what sorts of locally produced products can fit our esthetic in our store. That section has grown immensely in the last few years and continues to provide us with new options of interesting cheeses, which is important to our model of showing the next best thing.
What would say is your latest favorite cheese pairing?
One of my favorite new pairings is cheese with tea. We’ve begun to sell a line of cheese from Brooklyn from Bellocq. They do a whole variety of different true pure tea blends as well as herbal tea blends. One of my favorites is their Jasmine Silver Needle, which pairs really well with the Fresh Chevre from LaClare Farms.
What is it about tea that makes it such a great cheese pairing?
The pairing in mentioned for example has really complementing floral notes with the goat milk cheese and the white tea and the jasmine give it a very flowery appeal. And the creamy goats milk cheese is a really great complement to those flavors.
What are your top five picks?
Anabasque by Landmark Creamery, Marieke Overjarige 2 year Gouda, Treat Bake Shop’s Spiced Pecans, Underground Meats Goat Salami and B&E’s Trees Bourbon-barrel-aged Maple Syrup