Hello, my friends! It has been a busy week. Phew, between finishing up Pagliacci and starting rehearsals for a new opera, my summer is full of singing! I cannot be happier, though! This week, I’m happy to share that I’ve become an affiliate for The Cheese Grotto [affiliate link], the brainchild of Jessica Sennett, so you will see affiliate links to the Cheese Grotto on the side and top menus of the blog from now on! This lovely, handcrafted box is to help you store your artisan cheese so that it is in peak condition for as long as it is in your refrigerator. We had a little chat so that I could learn more about her! Additionally, when I’m looking over a new piece of gear, I want to examine ALL THE ANGLES, so I took some photos for you to see examine the Cheese Grotto for yourself!
What is the importance of cheese in your life?
Jessica Sennett (JS): Specialty cheese has been a central part of my adult life. I initially worked at Cowgirl Creamery during a year break from college, and fell in love with the people in the industry and the mission of eating regionally. Specialty cheese making is a grounding craft that engages the senses and spikes the imagination. It makes chemistry more tangible, and is a reflection on how the exterior climate can positively affect our identity and the food we eat. It is also refreshing to connect with different cultures on a common medium: it makes the international community feel a little smaller, and more intimate.
What is the Cheese Grotto? How does it work?
JS: Consider the Cheese Grotto a preservation tool and gorgeous tabletop display piece. It is made with all natural materials and it supports the health, longevity, and quality of specialty cheeses. It is essentially a humidor, inspired by centuries of cheese storage traditions. It can be stored on the counter or in a cellar, so that your cheeses can be kept at room temperature, and it can also be stored in the refrigerator for very long-term preservation of styles. The benefit of the Cheese Grotto is that cheese no longer needs to be wrapped: they cultivate micro-climates on the shelves. Humidity and air flow can be adjusted with the clay brick and the ventilated back panel, respectively.
What led you to create the Cheese Grotto?
JS: The intention behind the Grotto is to give the home cheese lover a chance to become an expert at storing and eating specialty cheeses. After years of working in the cheese industry, I noticed that most people do not understand the nature of the specialty cheese they covet, and how to best store it. I am currently creating more intensive guides on the nature of different styles of cheese and how to best store them in the Grotto.
How does the Cheese Grotto allow you to express your values and thoughts surrounding specialty/artisan cheeses?
JS: I am so happy to be making a Virginia-based product sourced from natural, sustainable materials. Believe me, it is a challenge to manufacture something so unique in the United States. But since I value regionally made cheeses and their nuances, I wanted to also reflect the unique characteristics of handcrafted products for preserving cheese. The Cheese Grotto then becomes a story and an heirloom piece, and is no longer simply a commodity on the market.
You have talked a bit about values-based decision making when describing The Cheese Grotto. What is values-based decision making?
JS: Values-based decision making stems from a mission statement. What are you trying to achieve? How do you make decisions that have good business margins as well as build community and industry? It is a challenge, and most businesses compromise their values along the way. That’s why it is important to keep reminding oneself of the reason for the craft. In the end, I believe people and businesses benefit from values-based decision making, as it fosters a strong sense of community and brand advocates. That has been my experience thus far.
What cheeses is one most likely to find in your Cheese Grotto?
JS: Gruyere AOP, Robiola, Blue D’Auvergne, and Fresh Chevre buttons or logs
Have you any words of wisdom for budding cheese entrepreneurs?
JS: Build community and focus within the specialty cheese industry: no one will understand your plight more than fellow cheese experts. But also, test the market, and take some risks, because you’d be surprised what new customers you may get by thinking outside the box. Also, identify your market niche, and continue to focus in and develop that. You know why your product is unique: and that’s why it will sell.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
JS: I would encourage people to continue to be adventurous and support new food products that diversify the marketplace. Cheese is fun, cheese is nourishing, cheese is sophisticated, and cheese is worth the investment.
Thank you, Jessica, for creating the Cheese Grotto, and for sharing your vision! If you would like to purchase a Cheese Grotto or learn more about it, please visit The Cheese Grotto website [affiliate link]. You’re helping many small artisans in the process, and encouraging regional eating!
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BUY through my affiliate account links at The Cheese Grotto (where you can find a beautiful cheese humidor), Amazon.com (where you can get nearly anything under the sun), and the French Farm (where you can find delicious and beautiful French products for the kitchen, and get free shipping for orders over $75). Bookmark these links for later! You can purchase anything through them, not just what I recommend to you, and I will receive a small percentage of those sales at no extra cost to you! Everybody wins!