Jordan Edwards, Summer 2017 champion, hails from Chicago, Illinois, and has spent the last 13 years in kitchens or behind a cheese counter. He Is excited to show that just as you can’t judge a wash-rind cheese by its aroma, you can’t sum up a monger by his ability to disappoint grandmothers with tattoo placement.
To prepare for CMI Masters, Jordan has watched D2: The Mighty Ducks, continued his studies of classic and modern garde manger preparations, learned how to iron, and bought his first pair of chinos. He looks forward to sharing his take on cheesemongering though the lenses of mondial.
Currently Jordan helps run the Chicago outpost of Regalis Foods.
My name is Jessica Lawrenz and I’m a turophile for life. Since 2008 I have been slinging cheese, first as monger and now as manager at Venissimo Cheese in sunny San Diego, CA.
In winter 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in CMI in San Francisco. As a native and long time resident of the state (born and raised in Vallejo but now a longtime resident of San Diego). I was thrilled to be the first Californian to win the competition. Since then, I’ve continued spreading the good word of curd to customers at Venissimo, and my time behind the counter has sparked a passion project: “Monger, Mold & Milk.” It is a social media platform inspired by food, travel, and most importantly, CHEESE. Being able to combine my love and curiosity for cheese while channeling my creative side allows me to connect with other curd nerds beyond the shop's door, and I love that. My goal is to keep developing content for “Monger, Mold & Milk,” and watch the online space grow. In the coming months, we have plans to launch cheese inspired merchandise!
Most recently I've taken an interest promting accessible monger education (or as I like to say "CURD-ucation". For example, California is one of the biggest cheese producers in America but most of the production is concentrated in the northern half of the state. As a resident of San Diego I know the time and expense involved in traveling between Southern to Northern California can be prohibitive for those in the industry. My own experience with this has inspired me to advocate the cultivation of a cheese network that bridges the gap between Northern and Southern California. Recognizing this “gap,” the CA Cheese Guild hosted a California Cheese Camp which I was selected to attend. It was an incredible and intimate experience that include tastings, industry conversations, and creamery tours of all sizes. This inaugural camp hosted cheese professionals from all over the state and the experience only made me more passionate about coming up with ways to contribute and improve cheese monger support and education that is both accessible and better circulated across the state for future cheesemongers.
My love for cheese has taken me on an incredible journey that I never thought could be possible. Along the “whey,” I’ve collected some pretty unique (don’t you mean “ewe"-nique) experiences and knowledge. I have had the pleasure of attending cheese tours and participating in farm stays throughout Wisconsin, Vermont, California, the Netherlands, and England. Each opportunity provided me with better insight into the cheese industry, and that has made me a more knowledgeable cheesemonger. I love uncovering new ways to feed my hunger for cheese knowledge and experiences, both literally and figuratively. I look forward to CMI masters and I am honored to compete side by side with such talented representatives of our industry.
Matthew Rubiner is the owner of Rubiner's Cheesemongers & Grocers and rubi's café in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He became a cheesemonger in 1994 after a career in military policy analysis at Science Applications International Corporation in Virginia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the service of defense contractors and government agencies, including [redacted] the [redacted] Agency and the Department of [redacted]. He was the cheese buyer and importer at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1994 to 2000. In 2001 he opened his first cheese shop, the Richmond Store, in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, before opening his current shop in 2004. His writings on cheese have appeared in Culture Magazine, GQ, Allure, the Berkshire Eagle and the Oxford Companion to Cheese. In 2010 he won the inaugural Cheesemonger Invitational tournament, came in 5th the following year, and in 2013 he finished a disappointing 6th in the Meilleur Fromager du Monde Competition in Tours, France, due largely to his inability to sculpt cheese and his failure to grasp the metric system.
Eric owns forty seven copies of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a book about obsession, which is a good way to characterize his relationship with cheese.
Born in Detroit Michigan in the early eighties, Eric was a precocious and curious child. Spending a great deal of his youth experimenting in the kitchen, his father having frequently encouraged Eric’s interest in fine food. Eric’s father had previously studied to be a chef himself, yet the economic needs of raising a family ultimately pushed him to pursue a business degree. Time and again, Eric’s father would say that Eric should one day open a restaurant of his own, but Eric proved too obstinate a child for such pursuits. With the common false conviction that his hometown somehow limited him, Eric decided to pursue a degree in fine arts in Chicago Illinois. Having shown a talent for portraiture and the performing arts, Eric attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Taking to painting, art history, theory, performance art, and even sculpture as pursuits of rigorous study, it was clear that Eric was as undecided as he was already overeducated.
After graduating with a degree in art history and fine art, Eric began to understand the folly of his youthful pursuits of staring at Francis Bacon triptychs, fussing about with paint, and being overly pretentious about Japanese contemporary dance movements. In the summer of 2007, Eric found himself standing before a cheese counter at one of Chicago’s premiere grocers. Taken aback by the shear verity, all the shapes and colors, each cheese looked as if it were plucked from a Wayne Thiebaud painting. Eric was transfixed by the display, but more importantly, Eric needed a job, something that could engage his mind and pay the bills while he fretted over his focus for graduate school. Within a week’s time, Eric was standing on the other side of that very counter, in over his head, but loving every moment of it. Cheese as a topic of study began to fascinate Eric. Pouring over every cheese book he could find while he worked the counter, Eric enthusiastically sought to learn more about something he first thought would serve as a mere aside in the story of his life. Cheese had so many facets, living edible sculptures, cultural objects which told the stories of their makers, it was so pure and so untouched by academia. Eric had found his calling, or perhaps his obsession; cheese.
Taking positions at several cheese counters throughout Chicago, teaching classes, hosting private events, Eric began to see every job as a new learning opportunity. Wishing to become further and further specialized, to an end which he himself could never tell you, Eric sought out opportunities to work with luminaries in the industry. Eventually working under Greg Blaise, opening Eataly’s new Chicago location, Eric started to understand that he was not only learning but helping shape the landscape as well. Working for Eataly, Eric moved to New York to open another store location, where he found himself speaking directly to many who’s books he’d read and cheeses he’d relished. Eric continues to run the Salumi e Formaggi department at Eataly’s downtown New York location, where his pretentiousness has begun to melt away with the humbleness only earned through experience.
Spending time in the industry he loves, Eric became the 2018 Cheesemonger Invitational Summer champion, a fact he attempts to downplay but seemed relevant here. Eric lives in Brooklyn, with his fiancée, Colleen and their plastic cow, Carol.
Adam Smith has spent more than a decade working with food systems and production management, his primary focus on artisan cheese and their producers.
Graduating with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Missouri, Smith focused on natural systems and social sciences. Post-graduation Smith co-owned Green Stone Designs, a landscaping company offering sustainable solutions for lawn and garden care. A passion for food, however, eventually led him down another professional path – Smith attained culinary skills through on the job work in several restaurants, followed by a management position in specialty retail as the cheese counter manager at the Wine Merchant of St. Louis. This, it turned out, marked a professional calling.
Smith was hired to the management team at the prestigious Cowgirl Creamery retail shop at the historic Ferry Building market in San Francisco. He was eventually transferred to their East Coast division in Washington, D.C. to lead their team as General Manager.
In 2012, Smith represented Cowgirl Creamery in the Cheesemonger Invitational and placed 1st among an impressive roster of cheese professionals from around the world. With a firm footing in cheese, Smith’s desire to expand his repertoire to include charcuterie led him to France for an immersion study of traditional methods.
Returning to Vermont in 2012, Smith joined the team at Jasper Hill Farm and spent the next 5 years underground as the resident Chef du Cave at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Overseeing all operations related to affinage, Smith dedicated his time to ensuring that the cheese, the team and the facility were all well cared for. In the spring of 2017, determined to continue his exploration of regional scale food systems, Smith packed his belongings in to the back of his truck and headed West on a self-enforced ‘cheese sabbatical’. Landing in Calistoga, California, Smith joined Honest Heirlooms Farm, a small scale organic farm specializing in heirloom vegetable and fruit production, as assistant farm manager. With a season of production farming under his belt and the winter rains approaching, Smith continued west towards Point Reyes Station.
Now only a stone’s throw from the home of his alma mater, Cowgirl Creamery, Smith currently works with Heidrun Meadery - producer of champagne style single varietal honey wines - and manages their 16-acre farm, specializing in cut flower production, diversified perennial bee forage and the preservation of pollinator habitat.
My career began working behind the cheese counter of my hometown shop Arrowine in Arlington, VA as a high school student in 2001.
Over the years I helped grow the cheese and meat selection a Arrowine to one of the best in the Washington DC metro area. And we became mutually respected and praised with well known nationally recognized cheese shops. I won first Place at the inaugural Cheese monger invitational in San Francisco (Jan. 2014) This moment turned me into a “cheese for life” kind of guy. I had competed twice before including the 2nd ever CMI.
I won in 2014 by scoring the highest point total from a combination of timed challenges besting America’s most talented cheese professionals. The testing rounds included lengthy multiple choice tests, a blind taste test, cutting, pairing with foods, wrapping, selling, showmanship and sign making beating America’s most talented cheese professionals.
June 2015 and June 2017, I represented team USA at Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager which is the International Cheese professional contest. It is held in Tours, France. I am the only American to compete twice and placed 8th place overall both times. Imagine a grandiose Food network show where the best people in cheese compete in very challenging events all while being filmed and in front of a crowd of hundreds.
I stepped away from working behind the counter and now am a sales representative for Euro USA, a specialty food distributor based in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is great because I get the opportunity to work with mongers all over and many not so familiar folks, I get such a kick out of introducing people to their next favorite cheese.
For Lilith Spencer, cheese has been a lifelong passion. From early childhood memories of her dad telling her, “you know, I think you must be part mouse,” to starting a Cheese Club in ninth grade and then going on to study cheesemaking and music composition at Hampshire College, cheese has always been her absolute favorite thing.
Her first official cheese job was behind the counter at her local college town co-op, and once she caught the mongering bug, it was hard to shake. After graduation, she moved on to BKLYN Larder in Brooklyn, NY to really hone her skills as a true cut-to-order monger in the “big city.” She spent a majority of her nearly five years in Brooklyn working at the Larder, competing in CMI NYC three times and eventually making it into the finals.
She then moved to New Mexico, where she continued to monger and represented Cheesemongers of Santa Fe at CMI San Francisco in 2016, finally winning on her fourth attempt. This win helped her join the team of American cheesemongers who competed at the Mondial du Fromage in 2017, where she placed sixth overall.
After three years in Santa Fe, Lilith moved back to the East Coast to pursue her original goal of eventually becoming a cheesemaker. She now works at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT, (i.e. Paradise), where she spends most of her time in the creamery helping the team make Bayley Hazen Blue, Moses Sleeper, and Little Hosmer.
When she isn’t working, she enjoys writing cheese parodies of her favorite pop songs, making weird casseroles, re-watching Buffy, and discovering the best potato chip flavors to dip into Harbison and Winnimere (top three so far: ketchup, roasted chicken, sour cream and onion pringles).
American Cheese Society CCP and winner of the 2018 Winter Cheesemonger Invitational, Rory Stamp has worked in New England’s artisan cheese industry for more than six years.
A native Vermonter, Rory began his career in cheese as a farmhand on Martha’s Vineyard, later training at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, apprenticing at Consider Bardwell Farm, working as a monger and educator at Formaggio Kitchen, and managing sales and distribution for Shelburne Farms.
After building the Artisan Food Program at Dedalus Wine in Burlington, VT, Rory is now the Accounts Manager for MidwestRoots and the founder of COD Consulting, providing sales and marketing strategy to the specialty food and beverage industry.
Rory serves on the board of the Vermont Cheese Council, Slowfood VT, and is accredited by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.