Marc Freshman is the official cheesemonger for our 2016 Cheese Give-A-Whey which starts March 1st. Every time you place an order with us, you will be entered in a drawing for a pound of cave-aged cheese from Murray’s. Marc will be choosing the cheeses we give away and telling us why he chose them.
Marc is right in the middle of the action at Murray’s. He is the manager of sales and services for the e-commerce team, and the in-house cheesemonger. He works out of the main office which is connected to their warehouse, cheese caves and distribution center.
His day includes tasting the finest cheeses in the world and sharing his findings (by phone and live chat) with lucky customers who depend on his judgement to make their purchases. If that sounds like a dream job to you, it is to Marc as well. He loves his job and he was happy to tell us why:
How did you become a cheese monger?
When you grow up in New York, you don’t really have supermarkets, you have shops. You have your bread shop, your fish shop, your butcher shop and your bake shop, and you go to the shop that has whatever you need for that given day. I grew up in Greenwich Village, about two blocks from Murray’s Cheese, so that was my cheese shop. My dad used to take me to the counter at least once a week and we’d buy the strangest and wildest cheeses we could find. When I think back on my time as a kid growing up in New York, these memories at Murray’s are some of the ones I cherish most.
Now, how I came to be a cheesemonger … excellent question! Well, we all have moments in life where, for one reason or another, we feel an impulse for change – change of pace, change of environment, change of job. For me, this happened in 2013. I walked into Murray’s and asked if they were hiring. I didn’t have a great deal of cheese experience, but they liked the fact that I was a neighborhood kid, I think they knew I’d respect the store because Greenwich Village was my turf, they knew I’d take ownership of my role and show pride and accountability in my work.
So I started behind the counter, slowly learning about all the cheese in the case. The sheer volume was intense, but the full spectrum of knowledge eventually came. I tried everything in the case – not just once, but all the time. Constant sampling is important because real cheese varies from wheel to wheel, even if it’s the same cheese from the same creamery. Real cheese is about personality, not uniformity. My favorite question was always, “What’s good today?” That’s the question you should always be asking your local cheesemonger!
Do the flavors of the cheeses change from day to day?
The flavor of a particular cheese can sometimes vary from wheel to wheel. For instance, with Greensward, a gooey spreadable masterpiece which I consider one of the best cheeses I’ve ever tasted, flavors can subtly fluctuate based on the batch. Sometimes it has a smooth finish with notes of mustard seed and roasted vegetables, while other times it’s more aggressive and tastes like a smoky cheeseburger. Of course, as a cheesemonger, I’m probably more sensitive to those fluctuations, more so than someone who’s trying the cheese for the first or second time. But that’s ok, that’s how it supposed to be! When customers ask “what’s good today?” they’re asking for the cheesemonger’s insight, they’re aware of the monger’s sensitivity to flavor and that’s part of the allure of the consultation!
That’s why we have a customer service team in our e-commerce department, so customers can call us to talk about cheese, to find out what we’re recommending. We’re always trying cheeses, constantly sampling and talking about flavor profiles, because we want to know what our cheese is tasting like. We’ll have customers call up and say, “My mom lives in Florida and I want to send her some cheese, she loves goat cheese and cheddar, what’s tasting amazing right now?” Or, “I’d like to send some cheese to an important client, he loves French cheeses, what’s unique and impressive right now?” We get those calls all the time! And because we have so much hands-on experience with our cheeses and meats and condiments, we can really guide a customer through the options and flavors. This is all part of the detail-oriented customer service we offer. We offer more than just cheese, we offer our knowledge as well.
Do you have any advice for aspiring cheesemongers?
Jump right in! Sharpen your tastebuds. Start by embracing the classics – Montgomery’s Cheddar, Comte, Selles sur Cher, Ossau Iraty Vielle. These cheeses have been around for so long and they’re still blowing people’s minds, so you know they’re doing something right. Once you develop a taste for the classics, spread out to some modern gems and some more experimental stuff. For whatever stage you’re at, we’ve got the right cheeses for you, so give us a ring. Ask us what’s good! And if you’re really passionate about cheese, apply to your local cheese shop!