Cheesemonger turned digital marketer Rory Stamp has spent his profession working all through the cheese provide chain, from milking cows to sourcing for cheese retailers to profitable monger competitions. His first guide, Cheese Illustrated, is a meticulously researched introduction to 50 varieties from world wide, accompanied by lush watercolor illustrations of every iconic wheel.


What’s the primary cheese that basically made an impression on you?

I grew up in Vermont at a time when a whole lot of Vermont producers had been beginning to actually hit their stride. I keep in mind having Fixed Bliss from Jasper Hill Farm alongside Lake’s Edge from Blue Ledge Farm on a cheese board from this little small-town grocery store. Fixed Bliss was a type of preliminary moonshot concepts from Jasper Hill that was such an ideal, unimaginable cheese. It was uncooked milk, and it was prepared for consumption at simply across the authorized 60-day mark. It was sort of a goo bomb, this extremely fragile, indulgent factor. It was simply so cool. Dairying was this custom that had been round for thus lengthy in Vermont, however these of us confirmed up and took it to the subsequent stage when it comes to distilling that panorama down into one thing scrumptious. Lake’s Edge I nonetheless love. I seize some each time I am in Vermont or in a market the place you will get it.


How did you begin working in cheese?

My first job after faculty was an agricultural apprenticeship on Martha’s Winery, engaged on an natural dairy farm that was beginning to make cheese, Gray Barn and Farm in Chilmark. I used to be a farmhand, milking cows, and I used to be actually concerned about dairy and farming. However I’d talked to folks within the trade and knew the one method you would actually make it’s to show milk into cheese or different dairy merchandise. That began this journey the place I grew to become form of obsessive about cheese manufacturing and dipped my toe in each a part of the trade.


Proper after that, I bought a cheesemaking gig at Think about Bardwell. I beloved that work, however I needed extra cheese, extra range. Working at Formaggio Kitchen remains to be probably the most impactful expertise in my profession in cheese when it comes to having publicity to this super range of types. But it surely wasn’t simply the vary—it was the curation and the dedication to sourcing. Numerous these cheeses had been unique to Formaggio in the USA. Ihsan [Gurdal, the founder] would chase a producer down after the farmers market, reduce a deal, and convey the cheese to the States. It taught me about working with producers, understanding that these of us are like artists. They’re able to producing this unbelievable product, however they don’t seem to be essentially geared up to distribute and promote and promote it. The function of the cheesemonger was to be that go-between and inform that story successfully to the patron. A giant a part of my function there was instructing lessons and constructing out their cheese and wine membership choices. That allow me have a whole lot of direct contact with shoppers and cheese fanatics and actually study why they had been keen about cheese and meals.


Cantal Reprinted from Cheese, Illustrated_ Notes, Pairings, and Boards by Rory Stamp with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Illustrations © Holly Exley

Inform us about Cheese, Illustrated. How did the idea come about?

The writer, Chronicle Books, needed to place out an illustrated cheese guide. They needed to do 50 cheeses, which at first felt like a horrible disservice—to explain the world of cheese in simply 50 cheeses was unimaginable. I took the reins from that time and structured the guide into areas. I needed to hone in on descriptions that had been centered on factual accuracy. They’re principally PDO and appellated cheeses, so I spent an amazing period of time studying supply paperwork for the European Union. However I additionally needed to make it enjoyable and accessible for the form of shoppers that I would labored with prior to now by making a context and an utility for every. The method was distilling pages and pages of textual content about these cheeses that I used to be so keen about into one thing tiny and digestible.


It was nice to see some North American originals like Brick and Cotija in there among the many European all-stars.

It’s obnoxiously Eurocentric, proper? That is the case with so many of those books, as a result of that is the entry level for lots of shoppers. My problem was to search out cheeses that aren’t solely accessible on the highest-end specialty retailers, however accessible at regional grocery retailer with an amazing cheese program. I snuck in just a few cheeses that I assumed had been culturally necessary and had a whole lot of significance to me that may be all however unimaginable to search out within the States as a result of I needed to have just a few treasures in there for the nerds and the cheesemongers. However I needed to depend on PDO cheeses and appellated cheeses so a client may go right into a retailer, search for that emblem, and style the cheese with some assurance that the knowledge they’re studying was correct. As a result of after I began studying within the trade, there have been so few texts on the market that I may depend on. That accuracy was so necessary for me coming from the producer facet and listening to folks discuss our cheese and taking some important liberties. I needed to supply a useful resource to cheesemongers in addition to shoppers.


Parm Reprinted from Cheese, Illustrated_ Notes, Pairings, and Boards by Rory Stamp with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Illustrations © Holly Exley

Your phrases accompany these stunning watercolors of every selection. What was it wish to collaborate with an illustrator?

It was tremendous enjoyable. I submitted the listing of cheeses, and so they bought the illustrator, Holly Exley, engaged on it. She began submitting photos, and a few of them had been simply house runs. Like Stilton and Parmigiano Reggiano, two of the primary entries I wrote for the guide. The Stilton picture is simply visceral, actually evocative. The medium of watercolor describes the nooks and crannies of cheese so properly. Cantal is one other one among my favourite cheeses, and infrequently with extra-aged Cantal, you get all these hues of yellow-brown, and that gradation is so properly achieved with the watercolor.


Stilton Reprinted from Cheese, Illustrated_ Notes, Pairings, and Boards by Rory Stamp with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Illustrations © Holly Exley

Different occasions, I used to be nitpicky concerning the particulars, so there was a extremely enjoyable backwards and forwards. “This blue cheese would by no means have this colour foil as a result of that is not one of many seven Roquefort producers,” or “Truly, the veining seems to be like this.” I am positive they had been sort of stunned by how particular a few of my suggestions had been, however I am so thrilled with the photographs, and the illustrator was nice. Actually, I feel the photographs are rather more fascinating than the textual content.


What do you assume are probably the most urgent points on the earth of artisan cheese proper now?

With reference to my guide, one thing that was unhappy for me is that there aren’t extra designated origin American and North American cheeses. Once I look by means of this guide, I see a whole lot of American cheeses in that we’ve got so many producers within the States who’re adapting European recipes to their constraints and distinctive set of inputs. That is a pure start line. However I’d like to have written a complete guide about American cheeses which can be outlined by their origin. Interested by the longevity of the trade of American cheese, we’ve got to be creating unique recipes that areas can rally round. I am really sort of envious of these conventional Wisconsin cheeses. Rising up in Vermont, it was cheddar, cheddar, cheddar on a regular basis. After all, that cheddar has a singular profile, and it’s totally distinctive of that place. However to have a regional sandwich with Brick cheese with liverwurst and onions on rye bread like they do in Wisconsin is so quirky and unique.


You latterly shifted to work within the craft beverage trade. Why the change from cheese?

I work for a corporation known as Mommenpop. We’re primarily based within the Napa Valley, and we make natural citrus aperitifs from peak season California citrus and natural wine that we make in Napa as properly. I’ve all the time had this deep affection for Mediterranean tradition and foodways, and the aperitif and the spritz reign supreme. I took a possibility to have a task in constructing a model from the bottom up. It was a tough transfer to get out of the cheese trade after being right here for thus lengthy. However I actually look ahead to the chance to be a client of cheese slightly than to work within the trade. That sort of distance permits me to understand it with a renewed vigor and keenness. I really like cheese—it isn’t going anyplace in my life. I nonetheless all the time have an excessive amount of cheese readily available. I am nonetheless at Cowgirl Creamery each couple weeks selecting up cheese right here and there. I am additionally actually excited to be a little bit bit nearer to the wine trade, which has all the time been a part of my trajectory, however by no means as salient as it’s now.


This interview has been edited and condensed.



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