Honor the Cheesemakers (& Importers, & Distributors & Mongers…), Save Your Cheese with Formaticum

Every cheesemonger will at some point encounter a customer who is frustrated with the price of cheese. This rite of monger passage is all too common these days, with the price of cheese (and quite frankly, everything else) having increased significantly over the past few years. But how can we connect with our customers to help them understand that with cheese, as with most other things, you do indeed get what you pay for? As we know all too well, good cheese usually isn't cheap, but the sticker shock is also directly connected to consumers' removal from the food system as a result of big box grocery stores and industrialization. In order to reconnect our customers with our cheese, and foster an appreciation for these products, we must first help our customers understand just how much work, passion, and knowledge is required to produce a wheel of real cheese and get it into their hands. 

It would take days to describe every detail of how a wheel of cheese gets from the maker to the counter, but what's important to focus on is the number of hands that (literally and metaphorically) touch the cheese on it's journey to the shop. It's also important to remember that energy and utilities, higher quality ingredients, equipment, packaging, and feed for the animals, for example, are expensive. There is no substitute for human skill and intuition when it comes to making and aging cheese, and employing humans instead of robots is expensive. We rightfully celebrate the farmer and the cheesemaker and the affineur, but we should also consider the people who clean the vats, and mop the floors, and wrap the cheeses, just to name a few. Additionally, the longer the cheese is aged, the fewer wheels of cheese can be produced, meaning each wheel will be more expensive but taste better than a cheese that was aged at an accelerated rate to make room for more cheese in the caves for faster cash. Longer, more deliberate aging also represents a significant cash flow issue for cheesemakers and affineurs, since they do not get paid until the cheese is sold - and this labor of love is often a skill handed down through generations in family businesses! So the price tag does not only represent the cheese itself, but the sometimes hundreds of years of technique and tradition that is present within that wheel. 

Once the cheese is ready for sale, it needs to be packed up and moved from the aging facility to its next destination, which might be a port where the cheese will loaded onto a container by hand to be shipped overseas. Aside from the cost of transport to the port and ocean freight, importing cheese has costs associated with customs paperwork and FDA involvement, among other things. Additionally, transport costs, which are already high, can often change with little or no notice. The cheese then spends 6 or more weeks in a temperature-controlled shipping container traveling to its next destination, where it will be unloaded by more human beings and cleared by the FDA. Since cheese is a living product, it must be meticulously packed up and maintained during transit so that it will arrive in good condition. Soft cheeses are often more expensive to transport because they're more fragile and therefore require more complicated storage and transportation, and have a higher loss that needs to be built into the cost.

It's then picked up by distributors, who need to make a profit off of it, and who will transport that cheese to the stores that will cut and sell it by hand, also for a profit so that employees and bills can be paid and more cheese can be purchased. This is just the tip of the iceberg and does not even begin to cover the amount of labor and skill that is involved in every step of importing cheese. Helping your customers understand at least a small part of the process will help them start to appreciate how much work goes into getting them their quarter pound of aged Gouda or perfectly ripe Camembert. Getting cheese from the farmer to the consumer is an incredibly nuanced process that requires an incredible amount of skill and knowledge from many different people! 

But if waxing poetic about cheesemaking traditions and shipping logistics isn't enough to convince them, the most effective way to create meaningful connections between your customers and their cheese is just to make sure it tastes as good as possible. And the best way to do that is to uphold the same standard of care that everyone else along the way has shown the cheese - using Formaticum knives and tools to properly cut the cheese is important, as well as storing and wrapping your cheese in Formaticum professional cheese paper. This will ensure that your cheese can breathe, maintains the perfect humidity levels, and most importantly, tastes great for your customers. Continuing a high standard of care at the counter is a great way to show respect for everyone else in the supply chain who worked so hard to get the cheese to your counter - and it gives you the chance to pass that passion along to your customer. 

All About Blue Cheese - Selling, Serving, & Storage

Blue cheese is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing cheeses on the counter - while some customers can't get enough Stichelton, other customers can't stand the scent of Roquefort. Blue cheese can also be more difficult to care for than some other cheeses in your case. But because all cheeses deserve the same level of care to keep them looking and tasting as fresh as possible, we've put together some tips for cutting and caring for these "parsleyed" wheels, as the French say (just in case you wanted to know the translation of "persillé"!)

  • Most blue cheese is unpressed - because the blue mold is oxygen-activated, pressing the cheese would prevent the mold from growing in between the curds. If you open a wheel and it isn't full of that beautiful blue veining, don't worry! Give it a few minutes to breathe and you should start to see them appear. 
  • Do not remove the foil from a wheel of blue cheese when you put it in the cheese case. The foil is important because it protects the rind against drying out and from unwanted molds and bacteria. 
  • When opening and cutting wheels of blue cheese, score the foil/leaves/etc. before cutting or putting it on the wire to avoid dragging it through the paste. This will keep the the pieces looking clean and aesthetically pleasing. We recommend using our Professional Blue Cheese Knife or Wire Cutter for the cleanest cuts!
  • Blue cheeses should be displayed in their own area of the cheese case to avoid cross-contaminating other cheeses with blue mold. 
  • Using our sturdier wrapping materials like Reusable Sheets or Brown Alios will prevent the cheese from leaking through the paper in transit or in your customer’s fridge.

Interested in testing out a new wrapping material for your blue cheeses? Reach out to wholesale@formaticum.com to request samples! 

Meet Your Monger: Caroline Hesse of C.Hesse Cheese

Meet Your Monger: Caroline Hesse of C.Hesse Cheese

October's edition of Meet Your Monger features a frightfully impressive cheese professional: Caroline Hesse, founder and owner of C.Hesse Cheese. Caroline is no stranger to the cheese industry, having worked as a cheesemaking apprentice, cheesemonger, and head of sales for Crown Finish Caves until their recent closure. Now, Caroline is making a name for herself (a name that is ironically similar to the word "cheese") in New York's distribution scene. C.Hesse Cheese is a Brooklyn-based cheese distributor that serves NYC's best cheese counters and restaurants, but Caroline also sells direct to consumer via her website, and ships wholesale product nationally. Caroline works directly with local importers and producers all over the US and the world to bring a unique variety of artisan cheeses and other products to her customers. She's also become known in the industry for consistently providing cheese that arrives in truly impeccable shape, and for keeping special projects like King's Ransom and Bufarolo alive after Crown Finish Caves' closure. Keep reading below to find out why Caroline loves using Formaticum products! 

What inspired you to pursue a career in cheese?
I grew up in the food and hospitality industry and knew I always wanted to pursue a career in it, but it wasn’t until after college that I discovered my love for all things cheese. I did a brief stint as a cheesemaking apprenticeship at Cricket Creek Farm in Massachusetts and it was there that I realized I wanted a career in cheese somehow. 

How do you use Formaticum products in your business?
I am constantly breaking down large wheels of cheese, and I always go the One-Ply Cheese Paper Roll. It’s a workhorse for any monger.  For smaller format things like direct-to-consumer and samples, I love the Brown Alios greaseproof paper - it’s so nice and elegant and it keeps the cheese so fresh. I also love the Cheese Storage Bags. I sell them at my pop-ups and it’s also what I use in my house!
What is your favorite Formaticum product and why?
The One-Ply paper for its versatility!


If you were a cheese, which one would you be and why?
Impossible question! But I think it’d be a washed rind of some sort, like a Taleggio or Bufarolo from Quattro Portoni. I will not elaborate. 


What is one thing you wish consumers knew about artisan cheese?
I feel like my customers are pretty well versed in cheese, but I do wish more people saw it as the an approachable, everyday luxury and not just something for special occasions. 
What is your favorite cheese storage fact?
The best place to store cheese is in your stomach. 

Follow Caroline on Instagram @chesse_cheese to stay in the know about new product drops, special events, and pop-up dates. 

To nominate your favorite cheesemonger or shop for an upcoming feature, email emilia@formaticum.com. 

Meet Your Monger: The Curd Nerd's Sarah Simiele

Meet Your Monger: The Curd Nerd's Sarah Simiele

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?
S: How don't we use Formaticum products? We use the Formaticum Professional Cheese Knives for cutting and prepping cheese, then we wrap our cheese in the 13.75" One-Ply Roll for counter sale. We use the 20" One-Ply Roll to wrap our wholesale or bulk orders. We use the Cheese Signs on catering trays to help customers identify what's on their board. We sell the new Reusable Cheese Storage Bags & Paper for our customers to better care for their cheese at home. Plus, we sell the Cheese Log Books so they can better keep track of their purchases. 
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?
S: 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?
S: 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).
Follow The Curd Nerd & Formaticum on Instagram and TikTok and be sure to stop by the shop for some cheese or to attend an event if you're in the Syracuse area!
To nominate your favorite cheesemonger or shop for an upcoming feature, email emilia@formaticum.com. 

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Welcome to the formaticum Blog

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