Meet Cheesemonger Apprentice: Joe Ulrich

Cheesemonger Joe Ulrich

What inspired you to pursue becoming a cheese monger?

I’ve always loved cheese! I grew up in South Philadelphia, and I remember occasionally going to our 9th St. store as a kid. I ate everything I could! Unfortunately, I liked it all! As I got older, I started to appreciate good food; cheeses were on the top of the list. I continued to be fascinated with different cheeses, and I tried to learn everything about the cheeses I ate. I reached a time in my life when I was looking for another career, and I thought being a cheese monger would be interesting, awesome, and delicious!

What has been your favorite part of the job so far?

My favorite part of the job has been experiencing new cheeses with our customers and my co-workers.  Also, sharing my knowledge with customers about our cheeses is great!

Name your top 3-5 cheeses? What are your favorite pairings?

It’s really hard for me to pick 3-5 favorites, but I’ll try:

  • Irish Blue with chocolate (dark or milk) and fig jam;
  • Humboldt Fog with strawberry tarragon jam or crumbled over a beet salad with arugula and balsamic vinegar;
  • Pecorino Marzolino with olive oil and crusty bread; also, a Rosé, Sangiovese, or Zinfandel as the perfect beverage;
  • Testun al Barolo with a goblet of Barolo wine and Rotondo Dolce prosciutto;
  • Ardrahan with a mushroom pâté and an Irish porter or stout beer.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not cheesemongering?

I’m a huge Philly sports fan. I try to go to as many games as possible, or I watch every game I can on tv. I enjoy going to bars and restaurants in the city. There are many good and great ones to pick from. I have definite faves. The food, beer, wine, and yes–cheese scene in Philly is amazing!  Additionally, I am a social media junkie. I Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, Urbanspoon, and Tweet the way through my days at work, at any restaurant or bar, and at home. I text my friends, I enjoy playing Words with Friends, and I perform a public service by reporting our local weather every few hours on all social media networks. I enjoy listening to jazz music–one of my true loves. I am a gardening fanatic. I became hooked while I was living in California. Lastly, I read atlases and maps for fun and knowledge about this great big world!

What are your favorite foods/cuisines?

Since I am an Italian-American from South Philly, pasta and meats have been a large part of my culinary life!!  However, I enjoy trying anything from any cuisine that I can. I love Asian food especially sushi, many Vietnamese dishes, Thai, and Indian as well. I think Latino cuisine is amazing especially traditional Mexican seafood dishes, burritos, and hand-made tacos as well. Also, one of my favorite food experiences was on a trip to Portugal and the Azores Islands. Lots of seafood, meats, and lots and lots of cheese!

What do you like best about Philly/Philly’s food scene?

The Philly food scene is great because of its diversity of cuisines and choices. Your experiences can be inexpensive or expensive as you want with great tasting cuisines and of course, great beverages as well! I also appreciate all of the new places that are opening with an aggressive focus on local foods-vegetables, meats, cheeses, etc. Additionally, it’s nice to see bars, cafes, and restaurants trying new and interesting takes on craft beer and non-traditional wines from many different countries!

 What advice would you give to someone who may be considering becoming a cheese monger?

If you are considering becoming a cheese monger, be ready to taste, try, sample, and experiment cheeses and pairings every day–FUN! Also, read about every cheese you can including studying photos of each cheese. Taking notes helps too. Lastly, you definitely should be comfortable talking with people and sharing your passion/knowledge every day.

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years down the road?

5-10 years I may be living in another country-Spain or Italy perhaps tending a large garden–olive and citrus groves, vineyards, and maybe raising sheep and goats for cheese!!

Last meal on Earth.

The Last Meal–hmm.  Ok, well, I’ll start with mushroom crostini and champagne, then, oysters and Sauvignon Blanc. My mom’s home-made cheese raviolis in her marinara sauce, her beef, veal, and pork meatballs–fried first, then added to the “gravy” (South Philly). Lots of tomato and meat-friendly red wines! Dessert would be fresh fruits like oranges, figs, strawberries, melon, and cherries. Also, lots of chocolates! Last but not least, there will be cheeses–fresh, luscious, stinky, hard, semi-soft–lots of cheeses! Yes, my last meal!

Thanks Joe! You can find him working at the Comcast Store. You can follow him on Twitter @zinfiend.