When did you start working for Heinen’s?
I started working for Heinen’s in February of 2001, and within a year I felt like part of the team. The funny thing is I went into the store to pick up an application for my son. He was fifteen at the time, and it turned out Heinen’s didn’t hire that age. So instead they gave me the application and I got the job.
How did you start working in the Cheese Department?
I began as a deli clerk. Eventually an opportunity came up to work with the cheese lead and that became my passion.
Did you have a “whoa cheese!” moment or have you always loved it?
For me, it took time, and the passion grew. I feel so knowledgeable now, believe me! Like lots of people, I grew up knowing cheese as being ”orange” so I wasn’t familiar with the entire process that begins with the milk itself.
Now I’ve learned so much, for example, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Wisconsin and visit some of our vendors, including the master cheesemaker Syd Carr from Carr Valley. We made our own cheddar there, which was quite an experience! We’ve also visited local vendors, including Mayfield Road Creamery in Orwell. We made a ricotta there and went out into the pasture– I even had a cow named after me! I consider myself fortunate and appreciate Heinen’s investing in me that way.
What trends have you noticed in the Cheese Department?
Clients definitely want to know the process of making cheese. I am frequently asked questions in regards to cheeses that are lactose-free and the difference between it being pasteurized and non-pasteurized.
Tell us about what we would find in your kitchen.
Well, I do like to have fun in my kitchen, I have a collection of cookbooks, but I don’t always follow the recipe. It’s an everyday thing with me, if I look through a book and it inspires me, I’ll try it.
Ingredients? I always have lemons, and I do grow my own herbs rosemary and basil, I just love basil. Extra virgin olive oil, different seasonings and lemon pepper.
And do you have a favorite cheese that you’d serve to guests?
I usually like to do something with blue cheese; it’s my favorite. I use gorgonzola with crushed walnuts a pinch of mint rolled into bite size pieces. I serve it with a rhubarb jam and crusty bread. I pair this with Casetio Del Merlo Reioto, a desert wine from Valpolocella region. My personal pick.