And so, the much-anticipated first day of work is over! It was really only a half day. The owner only wanted to train me for four hours. No matter. I arrived a little bit early so I could roam around downtown, and take some pictures for future posts!
My trainer is a great guy. He carries around his own set of German cheese knives (no store knives for him!) and has a fabulous pastry-chef wife. He’s been in the business for two years, but obviously is passionate for cheese. He makes me want a set of my own knives. I’d be like a samurai. A cheese samurai! (and who says Asians don’t like cheese???)
After I learned the basics, like how to work the cash register, and how to make the store’s sandwiches, we could move on to more interesting topics. It turns out, for some reason or other, the cheese business is quite slow. I made a mental note that we are DEFINITELY going to have to work on this. This cheese needs to move much faster! Not that it’s going bad or anything like that right now, but these Orange County people need to pick up the cheese-eating pace!! My mind is already trying to think of marketing ideas. The Francophone group my husband meets with occasionally is a good start . . . . In any case, despite the slow moving cheese, there is a good amount of it, and it does move.
Here’s another thing I noticed–some people do not realize you are not supposed to wrap chèvre (goat cheese) in plastic wrap! My trainer knows this, but someone in the store obviously didn’t. There were a couple goat cheeses wrapped in plastic. We quickly fixed that, and the chèvre was allowed to breathe again! Dear me, it is so sad to see a cheese whose rind is being suffocated.
Moving on. The cheese store, and its wine counterpart, seem to come alive most in the evening, when clients order cheese plates and wine. Here’s where knowing your cheeses really comes in! There are no set cheese plates, I’ll get to use my cheese skills to pair the cheeses, wines, chutneys, and jams all together. My trainer showed me some gorgeous examples of cheese plates he has used. He showed me the chutneys all in a row. It was like an artist’s palette of color, and a foodie’s burst of memorable flavors. They looked so vibrant in their little containers, and stunning in my trainer’s photos. Tomorrow, when I work in the evening, I’m going to have a chance to play with them some more! For now, though, I contented myself with tasting them, which was not bad in itself. The accompaniments included:
1. Apricot and black currant chutney
2. Fig chutney
3. Apple and hazelnuts reduced in white wine (if only I can remember what it was . . .)
4. Sundried tomatoes
6. White onions reduced in port wine
7. Pepper jam
Although my trainer gave me some tips on what I could pair with what, he ended this little lesson with, “there are no rules.” No rules. No rules?? I have just come from a rule-based setting to this, and the application of the phrase of “no rules,” even though I have theoretically embraced it, is new to me. This means that I could pair anything! I can design my own plates! There are no rules! I can create new flavor combinations to my heart’s content!! (Doesn’t this remind you of “Ratatouille,” which, if you haven’t guessed by now, is one of my favorite movies?) Obviously, I have to think of the client, and strive to create those bursts of color and music and swirls of aroma dancing around her head in my cheese plates, but this freedom is a new luxury. I cannot wait to try it. I definitely cannot wait to learn how to make these chutneys next week.
In addition to cheese, the store has a small selection of charcuterie. I have to learn how to use that big slicer thing, like in meat stores! They’re big, and noisy! Very cool. We’ve got soppressata, smoked duck’s breast, prosciutto, mortadella, some pâté . . . actually, I need to take some more time to see exactly what we have. All in good time.
I didn’t have much time to study the cheeses in much depth; there was so much to go through in just a few short hours. I think I spent much of the time just longingly staring at everything in the case. I will have some cheese reviews up soon, though.
Tomorrow should be a little more interesting, since I get to work in the evening!