035 – Nadjeeb Chouaf, Flora Artisanal Cheese
Nadjeeb Chouaf of Flora Artisanal Cheese knew he’d found his vocation within two weeks of working behind the cheese counter at Whole Foods. Why? He fell in love with the product, as well as the fact there was so much “exclusive information” (to coin his phrase) around it. Information not many people know and he was eager to share. Welcome to Episode 35.
Yes, Nadjeeb became enamored by watching an expert cheesemonger at Whole Foods work his magic. Making folks feel comfortable in an arena that can be intimidating, not just for the dozens of choices but sometimes from the snooty attitude of the seller. He fell down that rabbit hole, learning all there was to know about fermented milk, and thank goodness doesn’t seem to be climbing out of it anytime soon.
He started with a few wares in a small space inside Milli Joe but now has a dedicated cheese counter inside Timbercreek Market on Preston Avenue, one of only 3 cheese counters I can think of in Charlottesville. Only three when there are over 60 wineries? We talk about that as well as why beer is often a better and easier pairing.
How did he set up his business initially? How does he decide what to sell and import? What is his favorite cheese? What if you’ve got four or five people coming over? What’s a simple cheeseboard to create? Why is Parmigiano Reggiano some of the best eating cheese around to pair with wine? And why does it reach its peak within 10 minutes of being cut from a wheel? Something they experienced at the recent Parmigiano Reggiano Dinner at Lampo. Which sadly, sold out before I could get tickets. #bucketlist
We talk about the differences between fancy artisanal cheese and grocery store Velveeta. Both have their place on your plate. But in the right instances. After all, an American slice melts better than cheddar which dissolves into an oilslick. We also discuss his work with Apprenticeship Connections, a great program pairing young people who want to learn a skill rather than taking a college path.
Nadjeeb has been a silver medalist TWICE in a national competition for cheese where he was judged in a blind tasting, in cutting exact weights with both speed and good presentation, and was required to create an amuse bouche with a given cheese. For 100 people. In an hour.
I’m obsessed with cheese but know so little about it. Nadjeeb is now an expert in this exclusive information so I was glad to listen and learn. He has a great teacherly way of explaining your way around the cheese shop so you don’t have to be intimidated the next time you visit. Nadjeeb only sells cheese he enjoys eating. Visiting and buying from him is always awesome and an incredible adventure for your tastebuds. Because of course he gives you a sample of whatever you’d like to think about purchasing.
We end this great discussion with maybe the best junk food vice I’ve heard in a year of podcasting. Please join us! Mmmmmmmmm………….CHEESE!
This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.
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