The September edition of our Meet Your Monger series focuses on Michelle Vieira, a cheesemonger, educator, and artist. Michelle has worked in cheese for 9 years, and is currently the Cheese & Deli Director at Carfagna's Market in Columbus, Ohio. They are an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional and a Cheesemonger Invitational finalist, as well as a well-respected content creator who focuses on monger education and unique pairings! Michelle has spent the past 2 years building an impressive Italian-focused specialty cheese program at Carfagna's and has spearheaded iconic cheese events such as their annual Parmageddon, a huge celebration of all things Parmigiano Reggiano. Michelle is well known in the industry for their cheese-themed art as well as her honest and educational reviews of cheese and other products. Michelle is an enthusiastic supporter of Formaticum - read our interview below to find out why!
Formaticum: What inspired you to become a cheesemonger?
Michelle: I fell into cheese on accident. I have an art degree and needed a summer job between my junior and senior year in art school and my favorite deli happened to be hiring behind their cheese counter. When I started, I didn't know anything about cheese and deli sliced provolone was my favorite. Trying a bunch of cheeses and learning, I found that you'll never know everything about cheese and that it's just about one of the most fascinating topics out there. You've simultaneously got a piece of edible history and a snapshot of the present all in one. You're tasting a respect for tradition while also tasting human ingenuity and creativity.
F: What is one thing you wish consumers knew about artisan cheese?
M: I often talk about cheese through personification because each one has its own personality and has a birthday. It also is alive and has a life cycle! You see that life cycle in real time with soft ripened cheeses especially, where you might get a shipment that the texture is uniform when you first cut into it and a week later, those fats break down and you've got a cream line going on under that rind. Hard cheeses, on the other hand, have birthdays that are months or years ago. They're not going to go bad in your fridge in two weeks. They may get a little mold on the surface, but that comes right off.
F: How do you use Formaticum products at your counter?
Being a production-based counter, I use Formaticum for my most fragile cheeses - my soft-ripened cheeses and my blues. I use the plant-based Cellophane
because it's a clear product so folks can see the cheese they're buying, and it's better for the cheese than traditional plastic wrap. I also sell the retail Cheese Storage Bags
and have been talking it up to folks of how to store at home for best results!
F: What is your favorite Formaticum product and why?
From a consumer standpoint, I've been using Formaticum's original cheese paper
pretty exclusively for the past 4 or 5 years now at home. For me, it keeps my cheeses the best at home. I either have way too much cheese for two people to consume or no cheese at all at home, so it's the best way for me to keep it in my stash.
F: What is your favorite cheese storage fact?
M: Kind of on a similar note to what I was saying about cheese having birthdays, cheese does best with some airflow and the ability to breathe. I keep mine in one of the vegetable drawers in my fridge for this reason! As I'm sure many cheese lovers will relate to, that drawer is just cheese.
F: If you were a cheese, which one would you be and why?
There are quite a few directions we could go here, but I think I'd be Meadow Creek's Grayson
. I really only come out of my home out into the cheese world once a year. I'm a little funky, a little pudgy, a little meaty, but also really lovable once acquainted. Sidebar, Grayson was one of my first love cheeses behind my first counter. It was my "aha" cheese, which seems fitting.
To nominate your favorite cheesemonger or shop for an upcoming feature, email firstname.lastname@example.org.