Throughout history, a cheesemonger has been a merchant with a specialty in selling cheese and some people also call them cheese stewards. The term “mangere” is Old English for a person who works with a particular commodity. That means that the term cheesemonger literally means “someone who sells cheese.” Some people will mistakenly call a cheesemonger a fromager. In reality, however, this French term refers to cheesemakers, something which most cheesemongers are not.
In most cases, a cheesemonger will own a small cheese store. They may also be in charge of purchasing the cheese for a specialty restaurant or food store. As mentioned earlier, cheesemongers do not usually make the cheese themselves. Instead, they know larger cheese suppliers and perhaps local farmers, something which lets them buy and sell cheese of the highest quality available. If you visit a shop with a cheesemonger, they should be able to offer recommendations for pairings of cheese with other items, both beverages and food.
You won’t find any formal training program for becoming a cheesemonger. Instead, a person can do as much or as little training as they need to gain the necessary knowledge and experience concerning cheese. Some people may find a specialty cheese company or a cheesemonger to serve an apprenticeship with. Others will attend the American Cheese Society’s seminars or become certified by this society.
There are also many cheesemongers who are affineurs as well. This term applies to anyone who knows how to properly ripen cheese. This is crucial as there are many cheese varieties that need to be further matured after buying them initially from the manufacturer. One example would be Parmesan, as it needs between 10 and 18 months to ripen. Becoming an affineur can take years as the knowledge and processes are difficult to master.
You are most likely to meet a cheesemonger if you visit a specialty cheese shop as the best ones should have one of these professionals on hand. Even some online cheese retailers will have a cheesemonger on staff that is willing to communicate with you online or on the phone to help you select the right cheese and pairings.