Welcome to The Blogosphere Home of The Cheese Snob. If you would like to know more about who I am and what I do, I recommend you check out my Website, www.cheesesnob.com

Friday, July 06, 2007

I've Moved To Vermont

Moving to New York City was a good idea. I learned a lot and met all of my major goals.

Now it's time to go home. No, I don't mean to my ancestral home (New Jersey), I mean my chosen home: Vermont.

On July 2nd I moved back to Brattleboro.

It makes sense for me to live in the state with the greatest number of artisan-cheesemakers per capita in the entire United States. It's time for me to expand my business, and, sorry New York City, Vermont will give me more opportunities.

Isn't that funny? I moved to NYC for more opportunities, and now I'm moving back to VT - a state not necessarily known as
cutting-edge - to improve and expand my business. But Vermont is cutting-edge, especially when it comes to the appreciation of local, small-production, artisan-made and -grown foods. We may not have beaten Alice Waters to it (maybe we have, I wasn't alive then), but we certainly were doing this local thing here in VT before all the Big City chefs discovered the Union Square Greenmarket!

Viva Vermont!
Viva la Queso!

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Eat Cheese For a Living

One of the great things about my consulting gig with Zabar's is I get to try some incredible cheeses. Sometimes Olga and I sit there in her office - which is noisy and cold because it's barely a little annex located just off the receiving area - and try new cheeses. Every once in awhile one of us says, in-between mouthfuls of whatever just arrived, "Man, this job is SO HARD. I don't know how we stand it. Mmm, could you pass a little more of that [whatever delicious cheese we are eating]?"

And I have to try EVERY cheese that comes in to the store. I'm the only person who writes cheese descriptions, so if I don't try the cheese, I can't write about it. And if I can't write about it, the staff may know nothing about it, and the customers definitely won't know anything about it. And Olga keeps ordering some pretty rare and esoteric cheeses, many of which I've never even heard of and I've been working with cheese for over ten years. So if I don't know it, most customers won't, either.

Last month I was visiting some friends in Vermont and they were asking me about my work life. I admitted that essentially I eat cheese for a living. This impressed their teenage son and made him a little envious. (Maybe he'll grow up to be a cheesemonger! That would be cool.) During my whole visit, every time a friend of his or his parents came over, he'd say, "Did you know that Wendy eats cheese for a living?!"

I think I picked the right career path.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Freelance Cheese

In July of 2006 I stopped working for anyone as a regular employee and embarked upon a career as a freelance cheesemonger. Currently, my biggest client is Zabar's Cheese Department, and I am very happy about that. I started working for them as a regular, full-time employee last January.

In half-a-year, I accomplished a lot.
  • I created a database of all their cheeses; each cheese has such information as country of origin, cheesemaker, type of milk used, whether it's kosher or organic, and a full description of the cheese, for use on point-of-sale signs or on the Website. I also made a database and catalogued all of the olives for the department's olive bar.
  • I taught a series of cheese classes to the public, and constantly received excellent feedback.
  • I worked with the very talented manager, Olga Dominguez, to create useful marketing materials and some new cheese collections for the Website and catalog.
  • I started developing a training program for the department's supervisors.
  • When new cheeses (or cheeses brought by vendors for consideration) arrived, Olga would have me try them and give my opinion on whether we should carry them, or continue carrying them.
  • I redesigned and standardized the point-of-sale signs for the cheese counter, the (self-serve) cheese cases, and the olive bar.
I got hired at this job to only write descriptions of cheeses for the Website, and I think the hiring team thought it would take me a long enough time to do that to justify long-term full-time employment, but I finished that project in a matter of weeks! So I had to figure out ways to keep my job, and that involved taking a look at the department and seeing where I could make improvements, whether that meant redoing something or adding something new.

It was a challenge for me, but I was having a lot of fun with it. Olga was (and is) very receptive to my ideas. While she didn't go for every single one of them, she always listened and respectfully offered feedback. She's been running this department for the better part of thirty years, so her feedback means a lot to me.

Anyway, although I was having fun, I started getting a little, um... edgy. As much as I am enthusiastic, energetic and passionate about cheese, and I am always looking for more work to give myself (crazy, I know), I am not the best employee. I don't like regular schedules and I set standards for myself and others that usually really piss other people off, especially the standards I set for them. I'm not saying I'm right or I am proud of my pig-headedness, but I know myself well enough to know how much of a fascist I can be. And the schedule thing really bugs me. Really.

I wanted to see if I couldn't take my act on the road a bit. But I didn't want to lose my relationship with Olga and Zabar's. I'd already enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an esteemed and established place, and to stretch the boundaries of my professional experience and expertise, and I knew there was way more potential there.

But I fretted over the right way to introduce this topic to Olga.

Well, she did it for me. One day she sat me down and asked me what I thought about my future with Zabar's. Turns out she was not sure she could justify keeping me full-time, because even though I had contributed a lot to the department, my pay rate was pretty high to keep me full-time. She didn't want to let me go completely because she appreciates my knowledge and passion for cheese.


I told her what I had been thinking and we agreed I would continue working with her, but on a regular, yet freelance basis.

I will have my freedom but still enjoy the benefits of working with Zabar's.

So that was last July, and so far it's working out well.