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Things you only know if you're a cheesemonger

Nicola Dowse
Written by
Nicola Dowse

... according to Effie Ross, cheesemonger at Spring Street Grocer

There’s no one way to become a cheesemonger

“Cheesemongers come from a really big array of backgrounds. I actually studied philosophy at university and worked around the hospitality industry and then ended up finding myself working in cheese. I’ve always loved cheese as a child I used to be pretty renowned for my ability to take down a wheel of camembert.”

Arachnid-infested cheese is actually very tasty

“One of the least-bought cheeses is Mimolette. It’s a hard cheese from Lille in northern France. The rind is deliberately infested with cheese mites, which are tiny little arachnids that love to feast on the rind of cheese and get through to the nutrient-rich paste. It’s actually very caramel-like, nutty and almost sweet. People should give it a go because the flavour is surprisingly accessible.”

It’s chilly business but there are no actual fridges

“When we get to work we put on a set of thermals because it can be pretty cold in the cave. All of our cheeses have never seen a fridge before. They’re stored in caves and brought out when mature and ready to be served. We have these little sensors that keep track of the temperature and humidity in the room that we actually access from our smartphones. I can be sitting at dinner with friends then suddenly get a little notification on my phone to let me know the hard cave has dropped a couple of percent in humidity.”

Cheesemongers don’t need to go to the gym

“The wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano can weigh up to 55 kilos. The Comté and Beaufort wheels can also be around 40 kilos, so it’s pretty burly work. I’m quite small and I had an interesting experience where a customer walked in and saw the big wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano. He said, ‘I wouldn’t want to be the guy who flips those wheels of Reggiano’ and I said ‘Hi, I’m that guy.’”

Want more cheese? Our list of Melbourne's best cheese shops will sort you out. Or try out one of Melbourne's best bars for wine and cheese

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