CMI Winner: Jessica Lawrenz

Allow us to introduce Jessica Lawrenz. She is a cheesemonger in San Diego and recently won the title of Best Cheesemonger at the Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco. 

"I love being a cheese monger because cheese is pretty much the perfect food, it can compliment a dish or be the star. It can be served anytime of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack time) and almost every country makes a cheese, so I get to experience the flavors of the world through cheese.

I love sharing the details and stories behind the final products. I'm not just selling a customer cheese but rather we are having an experience. I love seeing the people who keep coming back, our regulars. I love knowing their names and what cheeses they tend to like. I get excited when a cheese comes in and I think of a particular customer who might like it, I eagerly wait for their next visit.

Attending CMI for the first time ever was such an incredible and exhilarating experience. I challenged myself, I set off the fire alarm twice in my apartment experimenting for my Perfect Bite and had many late nights preparing. I learned so much, and met so many wonderful fellow curd nerds. It is exciting to be in a room full of people who are just as passionate about the profession as you are. The general public is still not familiar with the term "Cheese monger", walking through the airport with the trophy I was asked numerous times to explain what a cheese monger is and I happily obliged . But CMI is like tv show "Cheers" "you wanna go where everyone knows your name" or in this case, knows your profession. 

Winning was such a surprise, not because I didn't prepare or work hard, but because everyone had such wonderful preparations and I felt like everyone was killing it. I am kind of in my own little bubble in San Diego. I don't think many people knew of Venissimo or myself, I am very excited to legitimize the love and passion for cheese in San Diego. I still wake up every morning and tell my boyfriend "I can't believe it". I had set a goal to educate and push myself beyond working in the shop, I wanted to immerse myself more into the cheese culture. I visit creameries when I can, attended cheese camp at Jasper Hill, participated in any "Curducations" (cheese educational events)... signed up for CMI. But everything just happened a lot faster than I anticipated, but I'm so incredibly happy and GRATE-ful. 

For me winning wasn't the end of a chapter but the beginning, I'm more excited than ever to learn and share. I have an instagram handle that I dedicate to cheese and food. (@mongermoldandmilk) and I hope to expand that into a website that I had been working on last year. My dream is to travel the world visiting cheesemakers and such to share what I learn from them to team members, customers and cheese lovers."

Carlos Yescas - Oldways Cheese Coalition Program Director