For our first Meet Your Monger feature, we spoke with Sarah Simiele, who has been having a pretty good year - as the owner of The Curd Nerd cheese shop in Syracuse NY, she is also the newest Cheesemonger Invitational champion after taking home the trophy at this year's New York City competition. Sarah was the recipient of the Comte Association scholarship to attend this year American Cheese Society Conference to sit for the Certified Cheese Professional exam, and recently the Mayor of Syracuse declared August 28th, 2023 as The Curd Nerd Day in celebration of her continued accomplishments. She also creates some of our favorite cheese education content on her popular TikTok account!
Sarah and her husband provide an exceptional experience for all of their customers, and Sarah works hard to curate one of the most impressive artisan cheese counters we've ever seen. Her commitment to collaborating with local distributors to source the highest quality products, both local and imported, is a testament to her passion for her work and her desire to honor the hard work of the producers and serve her community. As an experienced cheesemonger and a respected member of the cheese community, it's no surprise that she chose Formaticum products for her shop. Read our interview with Sarah below!
Formaticum: What inspired you to become a cheesemonger and eventually open your own shop?
Sarah: Oh, this is a BIG question. My story into cheese is not that dissimilar than most - I was planning a very different career, stumbled upon cheese and never looked back.
I was in college on a pre-med track with my major being in Cellular & Molecular Biology. There was a group of students who were trying to start a cheese club, mostly as a fun way to learn about food & get our university to pay for snacks. I immediately reached out and offered to help get the club chartered on our campus. To me, cheese club was supposed to be a break from the constant science & burn out I was feeling. Through getting the cheese club started, I started researching everything I could about cheese, which led me to finding the multitude of potential careers in cheese. Something about being a cheesemonger was really calling to me, so when I went home from school I applied to every cheese shop within about an hour plus radius of my parents house. I started working at a shop in Brooklyn and by the end of my first week in cheese I knew it was what I was going to do with my life.
I opened The Curd Nerd
sort of out of desperation. My now-husband, Matt, and I moved to Syracuse in 2020 because he received a job offer up here. When we were planning our move I was hoping to potentially work with a cheesemaker for a few years, but with the pandemic starting right as we moved, hiring was extremely limited. I tried working at some local grocery stores, hoping to stay connected to cheese in some way. While I was still working in cheese, it didn't feel quite right & I just wasn't satisfied. I wanted the bustle of counter service, the excitement of learning about new cheese, the joy of educating consumers. Matt and I decided to open The Curd Nerd mostly to give me those feelings back, but also to give Syracuse and Central New York better access to artisan cheese. Since we've opened, I have had nothing but love for the job, and the joy of helping my customers find the perfect cheese for them!
F: What is one thing you wish consumers knew about artisan cheese?
S: That it's for everyone. We truly believe artisan cheese should be enjoyed by everyone. At The Curd Nerd we try our best to offer something for every budget, we will cut as much or as little cheese as you want. We know artisan products come with a higher price tag (and they should!), but we know not everyone has the extra budget to spend on cheese. So whether you have have $5 or $500 for cheese, we've got you covered.
Cheese is a common man's food and should not be reserved for only the most well-off individuals.
I also wish more consumers knew that cheesemongers don't expect you to know everything about cheese when you come up to our counter. We're here to help!
F: How do you use Formaticum products at your counter?
We are currently expanding to add the plant-based Cellophane
to our Formaticum toolkit to better wrap our grab and go cheese options! And on a personal level, I use the Formaticum Mini 4-Knife
set at home for when I serve cheese for friends & family.
F: What is your favorite Formaticum product and why?
I think I have to say my favorite product is the One-Ply Roll
. I have used a lot of different papers throughout my career and I really find the Formaticum paper to be the easiest to work with. Not only is it easy to work with, but it looks great for customers as well.
F: What is your favorite cheese storage fact?
S: Hmm, maybe that regular plastics & plastic wraps are essentially suffocating your cheese, because cheese is alive! Always store your cheese in cheese paper or ask your monger how best to store what you purchased!
F: If you were a cheese, which one would you be and why?
This is so hard, because I think I'd be a lot of different cheeses. Cheesemonger Sarah is like Old Chatham Creamery Nancy’s Camembert
, always a great option, crowd pleasing, and a good combo of sweet & salty. Outside of work Sarah is more like Ameribella
from Jacobs&Brichford: funky but plays well with others (flavors for cheese, people for me) haha. Also, definitely influenced by Italian classics (my entire NYC Italian family).
To nominate your favorite cheesemonger or shop for an upcoming feature, email email@example.com.