San Diego, CA, USA

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Who is Monger Mold&milk?

My name is Jessica and I’m a cheese lover for life. Ever since I was a kid I have always loved cheese but it wasn’t until I became a (“legal”) adult that I discovered how deep that love could be and mean. After graduating from San Diego State University with a degree in Social Science I started working at the SDSU center for alcohol and drug studies. I spent my days doing data entry 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, listening to my favorite podcasts like “Sarah and Vinnie morning show” and “Wait, wait…Don’t tell me!”

Around this time in 2007 I had discovered that there was a CHEESE shop in San Diego. WHAT? A shop that is dedicated to selling cheese? I have never been to or heard of such a place growing up in Vallejo, California. I was used to buying my “fancy” brie at the supermarket prior to this moment. I remember the first time I walked into Venissimo Cheese I immediately noticed the strength of the aromas. The store was tiny but filled with cheeses that I could not pronounce. I was feeling excited and slightly intimidated all at the same time. This was my new favorite place! I bought three cheeses that day. It quickly became a tradition to buy 3 different quarter pounds of cheese each pay day. I remember immediately falling in love with Cypress Groves Midnight Moon.  I had never had a firm goat cheese before then. I thought this cheese was the bee’s knees, so different from the fresh chèvre I was uses to. I also purchased a lot of Roaring Forties blue. I was still hesitant of blue cheese back then (hard to think about now). However, I put a bit of honey on top and I remember thinking “this is Amazing!”. That fudgy texture with salty, fruity notes, topped with sweet honey hit the spot. From there on out I was no longer weary of blue cheese or any other cheese! I was becoming a bona fide turophile (a connoisseur of cheese; a cheese fancier. from Greek tyros "cheese" + philos "loving.") Now when people ask me my what my favorite cheese is the answer is not so simple. There is truly something about every cheese I've tired that I love . 

Eventually the project I was working on at SDSU was starting to come to an end. My hours got cut and I had to find part time work to pay my bills. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would WANT to work except Venissimo. I landed an interview. I didn’t know too much about cheese at the time except that I loved it, I shopped there, and that the reason cheese was so fascinating to me is because cheeses were like people, they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and some are a little smellier than others! Yes, I really said that on my application.

This is where my official cheese mongering adventure began. I became a cheese monger for Venissimo Cheese in Mission Hills in 2008. A couple years later I was promoted to store manager. My job at the research center became my part time job and the cheese shop became my full time job! After about 6 years of mongering and managing, my appetite for even more cheese knowledge was growing. I was looking for new challenges. I wanted to dive deeper into this fascination with cheese.  Not only did I want to elevate my knowledge of cheese and dairy but I wanted to put myself out there, to connect with a larger cheese community. I was reading every book I could get my hands on. I applied for Cheese camp at Jasper hill and attended their Winter Cheese Camp in 2016 (shout out to my cheese camp peeps!). I started to take travel opportunities to visit cheese makers, dairy farmers, and mongers across the united states on both work and personal trips. I love sharing the history and science behind the  cheese making process. Mongering is my passion because I get to have an experience with our customers not just sell them a piece of cheese.

 

In 2016 I had aspirations of finally attending the Cheese Monger Invitational in San Francisco. I was hoping to volunteer and witness the magic that is CMI. After some persuasion from colleagues and friends I ended up applying as a competitor ( instead of a volunteer) for the 2017 Winter CMI. I humbly came home with the trophy. I'm proud to be the first monger from California to win! I still have plenty to learn, winning CMI serves as a symbol of encouragement to continue on my journey.

 

My goal is to connect with other cheese lovers, support our cheese tribe, provide a warm & inviting space to LEARN and SHARE with you all. I thought I was excited about cheese before but as time goes by my love grows deeper for this crazy industry. Sometime I can’t believe this is my profession but I wouldn’t have it any other "WHEY"!

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