Bob Aschebrock, Retired
Bob Aschebrock was born and raised in a small cheese factory in Wisconsin. He worked from 1959 to May of 1967 as a licensed cheese maker, worked for the USDA for 30 years (1967 to 1997) as a cheese and butter expert, and personnel training supervisor in 39 states. Since his retirement, he has done the Wisconsin and WCMA contests every year. He will be chief judge at the 2018 world contest.
Mike Comotto, Dairy Concepts
Mike Comotto has been associated with the Cheese Industry for 40 years. He received his BS in Food Science in 1977 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He began his career as a Technical Cheese Manager and has held several other positions with Nordica International, Rhone-Poulenc, Rhodia, Danisco, and DairiConcepts in Sales, Technical Service, and Research. He received 2 Cheese Making Patents in 1988. Mike has served as Board Member on several Dairy Organizations. He has maintained his Wisconsin Cheese Makers and Cheese Graders License since 1988. He continues to serve as an official Collegiate Cheddar Cheese Judge.
MaryAnne Drake, Ph.D., NC State University
MaryAnne Drake is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences and the Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center within North Carolina State University where she conducts research on the flavor and flavor chemistry of dairy products. Her research is focused on integrating sensory science with flavor chemistry to understand flavors and flavor sources in dairy products. MaryAnne is the Past President of the American Dairy Science Association, the Director of the National Dairy Research Institute Sensory Applications Lab and the Director of the Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center.
Mucio Furtado, Ph.D., Dupont
Mucio Furtado was born in Brazil and has a BS degree in Biochemistry from the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil and a Master’s and PhD degrees in Food Science, at MSU, East Lansing, MI, USA. He has been working with cheesemakers all over Latin America since 1990. He has worked for 12 years with Chr. Hansen in Brazil and 15 years with Danisco DuPont, also in Brazil, always providing technical support to the cheese industry all over Latin America. He has published 11 books on cheese technology, in Portuguese and Spanish. Presently, Mucio works for Dupont in São Paulo, Brazil.
Mauro Furtado, Ph.D., Centro de Ciências Exatas e Tecnológicas
Graduated in Engineering and Food Technology, Federal University of Viçosa (1978), Master of Science and Food Technology, Federal University of Viçosa (1988) and Ph.D in Food Science – Michigan State University (1994). He is currently Titular Professor at the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil, being responsible for the courses of Cheese Processing, since 1982. He has experience in the Science and Food Technology, with emphasis on dairy technology, working mainly in dairy products, with emphasis on cheese processing and projects and installation of dairy industries. He worked for 4 years as Director of International Affairs for Federal University of Viçosa, prioritizing the establishment of agreements and partnerships with several foreign universities. International experience includes participation in the Graduate Program at the University of Cordoba, in Monteria, Colombia, lecturing in a cheese technology course. He has participated in the last 30 years as a judge in the National Contest of Dairy Products, in Instituto de Laticínios Cândido Tostes (ILCT), Juiz de Fora – MG, Brazil, judging several types of cheeses marketed in the country and has promoted events such as Commented Tasting of Cheeses. Technical consultant in the area of cheeses for the national dairy industries, working in the development of new technologies and quality control of cheeses.
Eric Goan, MS, Mississippi State
Eric Goan grew up on a dairy farm where they processed their own milk for resale. After graduating high school, he pursued a college degree at the University of Tennessee, where he gained a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science Technology and Business, then a Master of Science in Food Science with a chemistry concentration. After college, he began working at the University of Tennessee as Plant Manager and Extension Specialist, with his area of expertise being dairy processing. While at University of Tennessee, he consulted with many dairy processing plants in the United States and Europe. His duties included performing quality analysis on dairy products, helping on plant design and layout, process budgeting, product logistics, also assisted coaching the collegiate dairy products judging team. He became the executive director of Tennessee Dairy Products Association, which includes 13 dairy manufacturing plants some of which are among the largest production facilities in the world. He is now at Mississippi State University where he is the General Manager of the Custer Dairy Processing Plant. The plant produces over 4,000,000 pounds of milk a year with products that include fluid milk (Chocolate, 2%, and Buttermilk), 11 different flavors of Ice Cream, Cheese (Cheddar, Edam, Vallegret, processed cheese, and cheese spreads), and butter.
Luis Jimenez-Maroto, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research
Luis is a Food Engineer from the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico, where his work as an intern in the Dairy Processing Lab seeded his fascination for cheese. He followed this fascination to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he obtained a Master degree in Food Science working on the functionality and sensory profiles of Latin American cheeses. After that, he worked as a Sensory Scientist for PepsiCo International in Mexico, while at the same time being an Adjunct Lecturer at the Monterrey Institute of Technology, Queretaro Campus (Mexico) teaching the laboratories for the courses of Dairy Processing, and Unit Operations in the Food Industry. But, the allure of cheese is hard to ignore, and Luis eventually found his way back to Wisconsin, where he worked for several years as the Sensory Coordinator for the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research and the Food Science Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, managing both academic and industry-based research related to the organoleptic properties of cheese and other dairy products. In January 2015, Luis’ hunger for knowledge got the better of him, and he is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Food Science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison under the tutelage of Dr. John Lucey. Luis has previously judged at both the WCMA World Championship Cheese Contest and the American Cheese Society Judging and Competition.
Kerry Kaylegian, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Kerry E. Kaylegian is the Dairy Foods Research & Extension Associate at the Pennsylvania State University, Department of Food Science. Kerry provides technical support to the dairy industry and delivers outreach programs focused on improving the safety and quality of dairy products. Kerry directs and lectures in short courses on dairy preventive controls and food safety, cheese making, dairy basics for artisan processors, pasteurizer operations, cultured products, and fundamentals of food science, and assists with the ice cream short courses. Her research focuses on improving quality and safety of artisanal cheeses, and on the functional and nutritional properties of milk fat as an ingredient. Kerry judges dairy products at several national competitions, chairs the Pennsylvania Farm Show Cheese Competition, and coaches the Penn State Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Team. She is the faculty advisor for the Pennsylvania Association of Milk Food and Environmental Sanitarians (PAMFES), the Pennsylvania Cheese Guild, and the Penn State Cheese Club. Kerry received the 2015 American Dairy Science Association Foundation Scholar Award for research and teaching in Dairy Foods. Her degrees are in Food Science with an emphasis on dairy products, she has a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Wisconsin, and a Ph.D. and post-doctoral fellowship from Cornell University.
Max McCalman, MAXVOL
Max McCalman is the Director of Cheese Studies for New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education and is the author of: Mastering Cheese, Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager – winner of Gourmand Cookbook Awards’ Best Book on Cheese in Twenty Years; The Cheese Plate; Cheese, a Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best – James Beard Award Winner; Max McCalman’s Swatchbook of Wine & Cheese Pairings; and of Max McCalman’s Cheese & Wine Pairing app available on iTunes. McCalman is a Maître Fromager in the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers Saint-Uguzon and he sits on the American Cheese Society’s Board of Directors, an organization in which he was a founding member of the Certified Cheese Professional endeavor.
Gina Mode, MBA, CDR
Gina’s love of the dairy industry began when she was raised on a fifth-generation family dairy farm. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Food Science and a Master of Business Administration Degree in addition to Wisconsin Buttermaker and Cheesemaker Licenses. Gina became interested in cheese while completing an internship with the Center for Dairy Research. She worked in Quality Assurance at the Swiss Colony and the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before returning to the CDR. As a member of the Cheese Industry and Applications Group at CDR, Gina works closely with cheese brokers, ingredient suppliers, and manufacturers — from farmstead to commercial. She is involved with everything from cheese trials and troubleshooting to short courses and outreach efforts. Gina particularly enjoys working with cheesemakers to develop new specialty cheeses. She has served as a technical judge for a variety of national and international cheese contests.
Steve Murphy, MPS, Dairy Practices Council
Steve Murphy recently retired from Cornell University as a Sr. Extension Associate with the Department of Food Science, where he had been employed for over 36 years. Steve began his career as a laboratory technician, eventually joining the Dairy Foods Extension program in 1991 where he coordinated, developed and participated in extension based programs covering milk and dairy product testing, quality and safety. As of January 1, 2017, Steve took on the job as the Executive Director of the Dairy Practices Council (DPC) overseeing the workings of the organization under the guidance of the DPC Executive Board. DPC is a non-profit organization of education, industry and regulatory members concerned with milk quality, sanitation and regulatory uniformity. Steve is also an active member of the New York State Association for Food Protection (NYSAFP), the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments’ (NCIMS) HACCP Implementation Committee. Steve has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Microbiology (1979) and a Master Degree in Food Science (1997), both from Cornell University.
John Partridge, Ph.D., Michigan State University
John A. Partridge is jointly appointed as Associate Professor in the Departments of FSHN and Animal Science at Michigan State University. He served as the Advisor to the MSU Dairy Foods Complex, which includes a modern dairy plant, the “Dairy Store” and teaching, research and extension laboratories. The MSU Dairy Plant manufactures ice cream and a variety of natural cheeses, including Cheddar, Dagano, Colby, and Gouda. John taught Unit Operations and Dairy Foods and was the Academic Advisor for 160 undergraduate students. As Extension Specialist, John worked with industry and regulatory leaders to provide training through the Michigan Dairy Education Partnership and direct consultation on many issues regarding milk and milk products including sensory evaluation. He has coached the MSU Dairy Products Evaluation team for 36 years and has been the Superintendent of the Michigan FFA Milk Quality Contest for 33 years. He is a co-instructor for the Annual MSU Artisanal Cheese Makers Short course and was the chief judge in the cheese and butter contest at the Michigan State Fair for 15 years. John officially retired from MSU on June 30, 2016, but continues to do some contract work in extension and teaching.
George Patocka, University of Alberta
Dr. George Patocka is a Dairy Specialist in Alberta Dairy Research Unit at the Dept. of Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Canada. He attended the Czech Technical University for his undergraduate work in Food Engineering, then earned his doctorate in Food Science at the University of Alberta. He is highly skilled in all aspects of industrial dairy processing. His research, focusing on processing and technological or physiological functionality of whey and the main whey components lactose and whey protein, has resulted in numerous publications, book chapters and conference presentations. As a professional member of the American Dairy Science Association, he served as a Chair of the Committee on Sensory Evaluation of Dairy Products. His direct involvement in cheese evaluation includes his 15 years of coaching of the University of Alberta Dairy Judging Team.
Robert Ralyea, MS, Cornell University
Rob Ralyea, MS, RS is a Senior Extension Associate and the Food Processing and Development Laboratory Manager in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University. He studied at Kansas State University (B.S., Animal Science & Industry) and Cornell University (M.S., Food Science in 1998). He is retired from the United States Army where his primary role was the safety and security of food and war reserve supplies and overall Department of Defense force health protection. He joined the Cornell faculty in 2004 and on the Dairy Foods Extension team and the Milk Quality Improvement Program. He is the resident cheese extension lead and provides innovative and practical information for the industry to wisely manage and improve the safety and quality of cheese and other dairy products in NYS. In this role, he works closely with New York State dairy industries and regulatory agencies to ensure production of wholesome, high quality dairy food products. He is also a judge for the New York State cheese competition. He is a member of the National Environmental Health Association, the New York State Association for Food Protection, the Finger Lakes Milk & Food Sanitarians and the American Cheese Society.
Russell Smith, Dairy Australia
For the past 20 years Russell has been involved at the consumer end of the cheese industry.
As a retailer and distributor in Canberra he forged a reputation as an advocate for the Australian cheese industry. He is passionate about cheese and the industry. He has been judging dairy products in the major competitions in Australia since 1998, and serves as Chief Judge for the Australian Grand Dairy Awards, the Royal Queensland Show, and the Royal Perth Dairy Awards. He is also the master judge for the New Zealand Cheese Awards. Russel has served as judge at the World Cheese Championships in Wisconsin, ACS, and the Global Cheese Awards in Frome, Somerset in the UK. He continues his sensory education programs for cheese judges, cheese makers and retailers in Australia and internationally.
Marianne Smukowski, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research
Marianne sits on the ACS Board of Directors and serves as chair of the ACS Regulatory and Academic committee, Marianne’s current position is Dairy Safety/Quality Applications Coordinator for the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. In this position she assists dairy manufacturers in the following areas: safety/quality audits, third party audits, recall issues, GMP reviews, and developing HACCP plans. She coordinates the WI Master Cheesemaker program and provides technical support in regulatory matters. She has judged dairy products for numerous contests (ACS, WI Cheesemakers Association, and World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest) throughout her career.*
Steve Zeng, Ph.D., Langston University
Dr. Steve Zeng is Professor, Dairy Product Specialist and Chairperson of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Langston University, Oklahoma. His expertise is in dairy product processing, particularly in goat milk and cheese. He worked for the cheese industry as QC/R&D Scientist/Manager for two years. His research interest has focused on sub-clinical mastitis and its effect on composition of goat milk, sensory quality and yield of cheese, quality, safety and shelf-life of goat milk products. With his industrial, academic and extension experiences, he has conducted more than sixty cheesemaking workshops/schools in AR, DE, KS, GA, KY, MO, NE, OK, TX, and VT in the U.S. as well as overseas in Argentina, Armenia, China, Kenya, and the Republic of Georgia. He has judged the ACS Cheese Contest, the United States Cheese Championship, the World Cheese Championship, and the American Dairy Goat Association Cheese Contest in the last ten years.
Gianaclis Caldwell, WellMont Farms’ Cheesorizo
Gianaclis Caldwell is the author of several books on cheesemaking and dairy topics, including Holistic Goat Care, Mastering Basic Cheesemaking, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, The Small-Scale Dairy, and The Small-Scale Cheese Business. She also contributed to The Oxford Companion to Cheese and will have a book on yogurt making published in 2018. Gianaclis speaks and consults on a variety of animal husbandry, dairy design and sanitation, and cheesemaking science topics in the United States and occasionally abroad. For a decade she was the cheesemaker at Pholia Farm Creamery and specialized in aged, raw, goat milk cheeses. She serves as Culture magazine’s “cheese expert” and writes a column for the magazine as well as occasional feature issues.
Helder dos Santos, Zuercher & Co.
Helder dos Santos has been in the food business his entire life. As a child and teenager he ate many exotic foods and cheeses, first in Portugal and then in America. In his early twenties he worked at Ambria (a four star restaurant that has since closed) in Chicago, witnessed some great culinary creations and many satisfied customers enjoying them. He then worked for a small distributor, providing some of the great restaurants and caterers with many of the key ingredients, including cheese. In 1990, he went to work for Zuercher & Co., then in Chicago and now located in Skokie, IL. As Sales Manager, he oversees distribution of great domestic and imported cheeses to many specialty food stores, upscale chains and foodservice distributors throughout the Midwest. In 2012, he was inducted into the Guilde des Fromagers. He is hopefully selling more cheese than he eats as he basically eats cheese every chance that he gets. He is always available and willing to talk cheese.
Brie Hurd, The Cheese Shop of Salem
Brie Hurd is the cheese buyer at The Cheese Shop of Salem in Salem, Massachusetts. She began her career in 2007 at The Concord Cheese Shop, where she fell in love with cheese and became an accomplished cheesemonger and buyer. In 2012, Brie was awarded the John Crompton Memorial Scholarship and attended her first ACS Conference in Raleigh. For two years she worked as the Maître Fromager at local restaurant AKA Bistro in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where she developed a cheese program and presented a weekly selection to restaurant guests. Her cheese cart has been featured in Cheese Connoisseur Magazine. In 2015, Brie helped found The Cheese Shop of Salem – a cut-to-order cheese shop just north of Boston, specializing in artisan cheese, natural wine, charcuterie, and gourmet grocery. Most recently, she traveled to Italy for the Slow Food Cheese festival in Bra, and to visit cheesemakers throughout the Piedmont region. Brie is a three-time competitor in the Cheesemonger Invitational, a member of the Massachusetts Cheese Guild Advisory Board, and Vice Chair of the ACS Education Committee.
Brian Keyser, Casellula
Brian Keyser is the founder and proprietor of New York City’s Casellula Cheese & Wine Café. He has been a cheese evangelist and educator for over a decade and has been a pioneer in the evolution of the cheese plate in American restaurants, pushing the boundaries of what is paired with cheeses and how cheese plates are presented. Previous to Casellula, he worked as a server, manager and fromager at some of the best restaurants in New York, including Union Square Café, Blue Hill Stone Barns, Gotham Bar and Grill and Al Di La. He developed his passion for hand-made cheese at Chanterelle (James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in the Country) and went on to be the opening Fromager at The Modern (James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in the Country). He is an active member of the American Cheese Society (ACS) where he was actively involved in the six-year-long process of creating the Certified Cheese Professional Exam, working on the committee that created the Body of Knowledge upon which the test was based and writing questions for the exam. He is chairman of the ACS scholarship committee, co-chair of the 2018 ACS conference, on the board of the American Cheese Education Foundation, on the advisory board of Cheeseletes, and has been a moderator and panelist for multiple educational sessions at ACS conferences. His book, “Composing the Cheese Plate: Recipes, Pairing and Platings For the Inventive Cheese Course,” co-authored by Casellula’s pastry chef, Leigh Friend, was published by Running Press in 2016.
Lance Lynn, Scardello
Lance Lynn knew he’d found his calling when he discovered an industry that combined art, science and history, in a package you could eat. Since 2008, Lance Lynn has led the team as manager and lead cheesemonger at Scardello Artisan Cheese in Dallas, Texas. Lance has played an instrumental role in making Scardello a mainstay of the Dallas food scene, and has committed himself to bringing the best cheeses in the world to his community.
Lance has attended ACS yearly since 2010, received the John Crompton Memorial Scholarship in 2011, and obtained his CCP in 2013. He is an active volunteer with the Judging and Competition committee, serving as both steward and cooler captain. His favorite part of ACS is meeting the new faces that show up every year and welcoming more people into the cheese family.
Emilio Mignucci, Di Bruno Bros.
Emilio is a third-generation owner at Di Bruno Bros. and serves as the Vice President of Culinary Pioneering. Together with his brother, Bill Mignucci, and their cousin, William Mignucci Jr., Emilio has helped to grow the family business from one small store to what it is today: a company with five retail stores, a successful e-commerce business, a busy import and distribution business, a growing catering operation and an independent commissary kitchen that serves the retail stores and catering division.
He is always on the quest for the latest and greatest eats and loves telling the stories behind them. His expertise and passion for food has helped him to grow the cheese offerings here at Di Bruno Bros. from the 50 varieties it offered in its earlier days to well over 600 cheeses from all over the world — each with their own unique story. He’s helped write the esteemed Certified Cheese Professional Exam — the highest standard for cheese professionals. He has also been recognized for his work in the food industry: In 2010, the Italian Trade Commission acclaimed Emilio for “Distinguished Service” in importing, representing, and educating on Italian Food and Culture. The James Beard Foundation also honored him for his help in making Philadelphia a world-class food city. Emilio still works Saturdays in the Italian Market store, where it all began.
Jonathan Milks, Honest Weight Co-Op
Jonathan’s love for cheese traces back to farm visits made with his father who sold dairy equipment in the Northeast. After years working in culinary and corporate roles that early passion brought him back to doing what he loves best, buying and selling cheese. As the Retail Program Manager for Adventure in Food Trading, Jonathan has focused on partnering with the region’s cheese mongers, farms and natural food retailers to source local artisanal and farmstead cheese produced using sustainable farming methods.
Greg O’Neill, Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine
Greg O’Neill is the Co-Owner/Co-Founder of Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, with four small shops and two cheese and wine bistros in Chicago. He is a past president and board member of ACS and served as co-chair of the 2008 conference in Chicago. He currently serves on the board of the Specialty Food Association, its Retailer Council and the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award board.
Everett Presley, Forever Cheese
Everett oversees and inspects cheese and other foods from Italy, Spain, Portugal and Croatia as Quality Control Manager for Forever Cheese. Born in Mississippi, raised in Brazil, he came back to the U.S. after high school, graduating from Mississippi University for Women with a B.S. in Culinary Arts. After working in restaurants in Nantucket, Everett enrolled at NYU in their graduate program for Food Studies. While in New York, he started behind the counter at Murray’s Cheese, worked his way up into management and was affineur in the days before the formal aging caves. Also while in NYC, he taught at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. Everett worked for Whole Foods Market before moving south, working for The Fresh Market and Bittersweet Plantation Dairy in Louisiana. Returning north to take a job working for Wine Library, he developed, managed and grew their gourmet department for several years before joining Forever Cheese in 2013. He has served as an Aesthetic Judge twice before, in Montreal and Raleigh.
Gurth Pretty, Loblaw’s
Gurth M. Pretty is the Sr. Specialist, Deli Cheese for the 400 stores of the Market Division of Loblaw Companies Limited (Canada). He is always on the look-out, sniffing and searching for delicious cheese to offer his customers. Training and increasing the cheese knowledge of the stores’ deli managers and their staff is one of his many responsibilities. Customers experience his special promotional events, to discover new cheese and meet the cheesemakers. SIAL Canada asked Gurth to be their on-site Cheese Ambassador at their Toronto (2015 and 2017) and Montreal (2018) trade shows. His book, The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal & Fine Cheese (Whitecap Books 2006), was named best cheese book at the 2006 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. With the internationally known wine writer and judge Tony Aspler, they co-authored The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook (Whitecap Books 2007). Gurth was invited to be the Canadian contributor to The World Book of Cheese (DK Books 2009). His industry involvement includes being past president of the Ontario Cheese Society and the Canadian Cheese Society. He is a member of the Toronto Cheese Guild and their past treasurer.
Mary Quicke, Quicke’s Cheese
Mary Quicke runs Quicke’s a £4.0m turnover farmstead cheesemaking business. She is the 14th generation on the farm. The aim of the business is to produce world class cheese, sold world class around the world with excellence in farming. She has run the business since 1987.
Quicke’s Cheese is the largest British naturally matured traditional cheddar maker. Cheese has been made on the farm during the family’s 470 year history. The cheese is multi award winning, for instance winning Best Cheddar at the British Cheese Awards 3 years out of 7, winning Best English Cheese in 2015 and consistently win trophies at major cheese competitions in the UK. The hallmark flavour is complex, balanced and with a long finish, and some characteristic horseradishy notes under the rind. The cheese sells to key outlets in the UK, and over one third to export, mainly US and Australia.
The 1500 acre farm has 600 cows grazing outside for 10-11 months, grows crops to feed the cows, to sell and to support wildlife in extensive environmental schemes. It has a farm shop selling cheese and superb foods locally foraged. The business employs 34 people in Newton St Cyres, Exeter, Devon, England.
Mary is developing the Academy of Cheese with cheese industry colleagues in the UK. This is a 4 level certification system including tasting inspired by the American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional and the Sommelier programme. She is a Dairy Sector Board Member of AHDB, the levy body that supports farming from levies collected from farm products. She is a Board Member of the Food Standards Agency, the UK food regulator.
Brian Ralph, Bona Furtuna
Brian Ralph is an olive oil aficionado, world explorer, and former affineur currently based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Brian supervised the Murray’s Cheese Caves from 2011 to 2015. During this time, he oversaw the design and development of the Cave Master Reserve cheese line while connecting with cheesemakers from France to Oregon. His history with Murray’s established him as a leader in the field of Affinage in the United States. After leaving Murray’s, Brian spent two years discovering different regions, cultures, and foods across the globe. Inspired by his travels and former career as an affineur, he now works as the Head of Operations for Bona Furtuna. As a part of his personal mission to create social and economical sustainability to farmers, Brian works to promote quality Sicilian heirloom foods worldwide. When not sipping olive oil or spooning out rounds of Epoisses, Brian skis in the Tetons and photographs wildlife.
Louis Risoli, Maitre d’ and Fromager
Louis Risoli, an ACS CCP, has been the Maitre d’ and Fromager at L’Espalier, a fine dining restaurant in Boston, for over 30 years. His cheese program, featuring a trolley with up to thirty selections, is international in scope but focuses on Northeastern small production cheesemakers, and has been featured in countless local and national publications. He is the host of Cheese Tuesday, a popular monthly themed dinner that focuses on cheese and wine pairings and culminates with a grand cheese tasting and a sing-along: one of Risoli’s hobbies is writing satirical and funny cheese songs. An educator at heart, Louis has trained hundreds of team members in the intricacies of composing and serving cheese plates. He has been a yearly seminar leader at the Nantucket Wine Festival and was a presenter at the ACS Burlington conference, as well as an inaugural member of the Body of Knowledge Committee and a CCP question writer, and was a judge at the 2016 World Cheese Competition. Louis is also an accomplished painter who exhibits his abstractions at Boston’s Gallery NAGA and is represented in many museums as well as private and corporate collections. A native New Englander, he is a nature enthusiast, gardener, and birder. He lives outside Boston with his husband, a retired Wellesley College professor and classical pianist.
Lassa Skinner, Culture Magazine
Tha(Lassa) Skinner transferred her passion for archaeology to cheese, starting first in Boston then moving to northern CA and Australia. She opened and ran the Oxbow Cheese Merchant (Napa, CA) and co-founded Culture magazine, in 2008. Writing, educating and building long term relationships and businesses that center around the world of cheese, she continues to strive to build a stronger global cheese community — makers, mongers, affineurs, distributors, importers/exporters, educators, etc. — that shares information, continues to learn and grow, and is completely smitten with their livelihood.*
Brian Wasik, Wasik’s – The Cheese Shop
Born and raised in the back room of his family’s cheese shop, second generation cheesemonger Brian Wasik, has spent very few days of his life without a wedge of cheese in his hand. As proprietor of Wasik’s Cheese Shop in Wellesley, MA, he and his family have dutifully set the standard for sourcing and serving the highest caliber of cheeses in the industry for nearly 40 years. Brian’s family’s roots in the cheese run deep. Brian’s father, Stephen Wasik, embarked on his cheese career, as an early teen in 1964, when he secured his first job sweeping floors in the local cheese shop. From there he went on to become Vice President of the franchise, The Cheese Shop, Int., which help to pave the way for the landscape we know today in the America cheese industry. Birthed from The Cheese Shop Int. franchise, Wasik’s opened its doors in 1979 and Brian has developed his family’s business in every step. With tremendous hours spent behind his cheese counter, traveling both abroad, and spending time with the many cheese makers state side, Brian has dedicated his life to the knowledge of procuring, handling and serving the finest cheese the world has to offer.
Sally Witham, Classic Provisions
Sally Witham has been in the food business for almost 40 years. She grew up on a Hereford ranch in North Dakota. During college in Boulder, Co. she started cooking. She went on to The Culinary Institute of America and was an Executive Chef in Denver, Santa Fe and Minneapolis. She was the manager of a cut to order cheese shop in Minneapolis for 6 years, and for the last 16 years she has been President/Partner of Classic Provisions Specialty Distribution in Minneapolis.
When she’s not busy with the new store (which incidentally is almost never), you can find her listening to her favorite business podcasts, tasting lineups of natural wine, or cooking paella for family and friends.