The Cheese Grotto
For ten years, I’ve been a cheese nomad. I’ve traveled in France and in the States to learn from the best in the specialty cheese industry. It’s only within the last year I started calling myself a cheesepreneur. The invented phrase, as you might expect, means “an entrepreneur who works with cheese.” I find when I introduce myself this way other people get a good laugh out of it, and I can get to the heart of what I do.
I’ve never found that I fit the mold for any one job description in the cheese industry. This is most likely why I worked for numerous companies. I was hungry to learn the ins and outs of artisan cheese. I was fascinated by the craft and the international sense of community it invokes. But I was a wild card, brimming to the top with ideas, and I knew it was inevitable that I would interpret the medium in my own way.
The Cheese Grotto is my shrine to cheese. It is a physical representation of my ten years of traveling and learning about the nature of the curd from pasture to animal to milk to wheel to aged style. It is the embodiment of my experiences in rural and urban cheese settings, and it is my offering to cheese enthusiasts everywhere. The Cheese Grotto is a humidor for the home that is designed to store all styles of aged cheese well and with intention. I really wanted to share the inspiring elements of the industry with consumers. I also found that despite many people’s deep love for specialty cheeses, they did not end up storing them properly at home, and they would go to waste.
The idea came to me back in 2014 in the form of a late-night drawing. It had been a year since I moved to Brooklyn, and I was pining for my days making cheese in south-eastern Washington. I was thinking, how do I make a tool that can be used for cheese aging and storage that speaks to rustic, farmhouse cheese experience? My initial drawing is more basic than the final product, but the concept is there. When I showed it to a couple of business consultants, they both told me, “You have to do this now.”
Making the transition from inventor to entrepreneur was challenging for me. I had always thought of myself as a creative type: doing business seemed intimidating and somewhat scary. To open my ideas to the world and to commercialize them, I would have to compromise my perfectionism with supply chain logistics and consumer feedback. Over the next couple of years, I prototyped three different versions of the product with designers and developers. I tested it extensively with Cheese Specialist Max McCalman. I filed a patent for the unique technology. After a year and a half of searching, I found my manufacturers in Richmond, Virginia.
What makes me the proudest about the Cheese Grotto is that it turned out to be everything I wanted my first product to be. It is made in the USA with sustainable materials. It is a beautiful, handcrafted item that can become a family heirloom. It outperforms other home cheese storage methods by a landslide. In that way, I can wake up every day and be excited to sell and promote my product. I have stayed true to my values.
Photography was taken by Jess Hitt