13 November 2012
Masters of Cheese Highlight: Chris Edson
Oryana Natural Food Co-Op
Rumiano Cheese Company is excited to announce the launch of our latest interview series, Masters of Cheese. In this series, we interviewed cheese buyers from a variety of markets across the country. Who better to ask for advice about cheese than the experts themselves. We hope you enjoy this series and invite you to let us know what you've learned about cheese that you might not have known before.
In this interview we talk to Chris Edson of the Oryana Natural Food Co-op in Traverse City, Michigan.
RCC: What is your background? How long have you been in the cheese business?
CE: I started working in the refrigerated department of our food co-op three years ago, which included a growing cheese section. I then moved on to slicing cheese in the department, which then led to ordering from many of our local vendors, which included various cheeses. I now help oversee our stores entire cheese department (as well as meat), buying and making sure daily operations within the department are completed.
RCC: When buying cheese, what are the most important aspects that you look for?
CE: First and foremost, when evaluating a possible new cheese to go in our section, it must pass our co-op's buying guidelines. For cheese, some of these guidelines include being completely hormone free (rBGH free), no artificial flavors, no animal enzymes and Non-GMO. Secondly, I look for a cheese that will add to the variety of our section. I look for the taste to be unique and enjoyable, with the look of the cheese being as presentable as possible. If a certain cheese happens to come from a local vendor of our area, it makes it even more enticing to buy as we try and promote local foods.
RCC: What are some of the trends you see happening in today's cheese market?
CE: One of the trends I am noticing is the rise in popularity of goat milk and sheep milk cheeses. They offer a different flavor and consistency and I have been getting some feedback that cheese produced from the milk of goat and sheep can be easier to digest for some. I also notice that many of our customers are in the market for raw cheese, noting that the health benefits far outweigh that of a cheese that has been pasteurized.
RCC: Rumiano Cheese Co. is the first cheese company to receive Non-GMO verification by the Non-GMO Project. Do you think we will start to see more company's getting verified? How important do you think this is for the future of cheese and food in general?
CE: As we are learning more and more about GMO's in our food, and as cheese shoppers are gaining much needed information on it as well, I think it will be necessary for more companies to get verified. Non-GMO has become its own market, and serves as one of the first aspects of a product that many shoppers look for. I think this is very important for the future of cheese and food in general as I feel like we have an obligation to produce, market and sell the highest quality of food possible.
RCC: What advice do you have for people when selecting cheese?
CE: Advice that I give to shoppers who are trying to select a cheese definitely varies with how they plan on using a certain cheese. For instance, if they are looking for a rich, spreadable cheese to go with a dinner party I usually direct them to a triple cream brie. I also try and persuade people to be adventurous and maybe try something new and exciting. I definitely advise finding cheese that is certified organic and Non-GMO if possible.
As far as advice for cheese buyers, I advise looking carefully at ingredients and trying to set a high standard for the products you are bringing into your store. Try and get a wide variety of cheeses, as there are a wide variety of tastes. Buy local as much as possible to keep small farms thriving.
RCC: What's your favorite cheese? Any particular reason why?
CE: My favorite cheese has always been swiss. Sliced or in a block, I have always loved the mild yet unique flavor and the versatility of the cheese that makes it a great compliment to any dish or sandwich. A close second place cheese for me has always been an aged gouda, typically aged around three years. It is a crumbly cheese that is filled with flavor and goes great melting in a soup.
RCC: Is there anything else you would like us to know about cheese or what it takes to become a Master of Cheese?
CE: Be adventurous! Sample new cheeses all the time and look for quality in a cheese. Make sure you know where the cheese comes from, not only the region of the world but the farming practices used on that particular dairy farm.