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In Praise of Passionate People - Dayna Sternberg

Dayna Sternberg, Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) and Cheese Monger, shares her musings on this delicious subject: Mmmmmm... CHEESE!


PRiMO: So, how long have you dabbled in the world of cheese ?
DS: I began working in the Specialty cheese department in Whole Foods 9 years ago. I found it to be a very emotional food for people, it invokes strong responses in a lot of people. I am constantly learning new things about the complexities of cheese and pairings.

PRiMO: Was cheese part of your diet growing up?  
DS: I grew up in Wyoming- not exactly a foodie state. Cheese was more of an afterthought or an ingredient. I do have memories of eating Colby Longhorn with my grandfather.

PRiMO: You've recently become a CCP.  That's quite an achievement given that there's only 254 in the U.S. Tell us quickly about this certification process.
DS: For Whole Foods Market, the process begins with applying to the program and writing an essay about why you want to become a Certified Cheese Professional(CCP). After being accepted to the program- you get a reading list and start having weekly educational conference calls. I was reading everything I could get my hands on, cheese books, blogs, websites for dairies and cheese makers- you name it, I was reading it. After 6+ months of studying- you head to the American Cheese Society (ACS) Conference and take the test- 150 questions in three hours. Then you wait close to a month for your test results. Nerve wracking to say the least.

PRiMO: What's a little known fact about cheese you didn't know before your certification? 
DS: I think that most people don't realize that most cheese is indeed lactose free, as it ages the lactose is "eaten" up in the aging process.

PRiMO: Describe your perfect cheese course or plate
DS: Depending on the number of people I am serving, I usually choose 3-5 cheeses and various accoutrements. I like to play with flavors, cheese styles and textures. Right now, I'd create a plate with Delice de Bourgogne paired with amazing local honey, Pt Reyes Blue with Primo Spiced Cherry Preserves and Jasper Hills Alpha Tomen. Add some simple bread and crackers and possibly some nuts.

PRiMO: What's your most OMG cheesy moment?  
DS: There have been many but I will always remember the first time I "cracked" a 90lb wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. To this day, I still get excited like a kid at Christmas when we get new items in at work.

PRiMO: Do you ever cook with cheese? 
DS: I do! I always have Gruyere around the house and goat cheese. One of my favorite things I make are cheese wontons- I have made Hatch Chile goat cheese wontons that pair with Primo Raspberry Habanero. Another fun one is Blue cheese and fig spread wontons.

PRiMO: Do you have a favorite cheese right now?
DS: We just got our order of Persille du Beaujolais blue from Herve Mons and it is fantastic. Of course- no Autumn is complete without Rogue River Blue.

PRiMO: We also know you appreciate a good glass of wine. 
DS: I'm a fan of wines from Orin Swift, right now it's Palermo paired with Stilton.

PRiMO: What's a day in the life of Dayna like?
DS: I spend a lot of time working the cheese coffin- I like that it is a fluid living case- it expands and contracts depending on the season and what we have on-hand. I cut and wrap cheese 5 days a week as well as assisting our customers with their needs. Everyday is different and with the holidays coming up- we are gearing up our daily cheese production and stock levels. It's a crazy time of year to be a cheese monger!

PRiMO: What's next for Dayna?
DS: I would like to travel to France- specifically the Poitou-Charentes region and spend time with the locals who create some of my favorite goat cheeses.

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