Chris, Oryana West’s cheese monger, knows a thing or two about cheese. Before Chris landed at West’s cheese island, he worked at the Wheatsville Co-op in Austin, Texas for 11 years. He wore many hats while he was there including as category manager, but he learned about ordering cheese and even made big batches of fresh mozzarella, 70 lbs of it at a time. He visited Texas dairy farms and also received some cheese training from Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor.
Questions for Chris:
What is your favorite hard and soft cheese?
My favorite hard cheese is Prima Donna, an Italian-style gouda, and my favorite soft cheese (there are so many good ones) is Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog.
What is something new and interesting you recently learned about cheese?
I was surprised to learn that a lot of cheeses we order come directly from their country of origin, like Italy, Spain, and France. They don’t spend hardly any time in a warehouse. When we are out of some cheeses, I tell customers that we are waiting for them to be shipped from Europe.
What cheeses sell really well?
We sell 45 lbs of Leelanau Cheese raclette every week. That’s a lot for a single cheese. It’s made right here in Leelanau County and people come in just for that.
I cut 90 lbs of Parmesan cheese every 2 weeks. The Parmesan wheels weigh between 88 and 92 lbs. Parmesan gets softer as you cut toward the center of the wheel. The rind is naturally hard from the maturation process and it’s stamped with the generation of the family that made it. This one had the number 20 stamped on it, so 20 generations of Italian families have been making this cheese at the same creamery.
Are you doing tastings every week?
Yes, every Saturday and Sunday we’ll do tastings. We’ll do whatever we have in stock and we’ll keep it fresh and interesting.