The Cheese Iron is a well-loved specialty gourmet food store and lunch spot in Scarborough, Maine. A popular stop for the US Sanita distribution team, we soon bonded with proprietors Jill and Vince and staff member Libby over all things cheese and clogs. As hospitality and retail professionals, the Cheese Iron crew has long been a fan of Sanita clogs for their all-day comfort and have been wearing them at work for years.
We recently stopped by the Cheese Iron for a lunch-time visit and spoke with Jill to learn more about the cheese biz and to find out why good, safe footwear is important when you're running a small, bustling store and on your feet all day.
What is your favorite part about running/working at the Cheese Iron?
Talking with people and sharing delicious new products with them. Talking cheese. Eating and sampling all the new cheeses and products and wines!
What do you wear to work? Jeans and a t-shirt with an apron. Closed-toe shoes that can handle a large cheese knife landing on them. We work like a kitchen and need to be very safe.
"We work like a kitchen and need to be very safe."
How did you learn about Sanita clogs? I learned about them from my coworkers. I used to wear sneakers and shoes that didn’t really support long term standing and active movement. Sanita clogs are good helping with my lower back issues. I've noticed a difference since I've been wearing them.
I like the original black, matte and shiny. In the Summer I have a pair of close toe Sanita sandals that are awesome too!
"Sanita clogs are good helping with my lower back issues. I've noticed a difference since I've been wearing them."
How the store has grown over time? We’ve added in so many things since we first opened. Not only with the cheese and charcuterie but with pantry provisions and our prepared foods section. Our sandwiches are very popular! Our cheese and charcuterie platters are very popular at any party or holiday setting.
Did you ever think you would work in cheese? No, Vince and I both trained and went to school for fine art. But, I guess if you look at it, cheese is art. It is edible sculpture made by amazing people.
"Cheese is art. It is edible sculpture made by amazing people."
How did you learn so much about cheese? By eating it. Tasting, tasting, tasting. It is the best way to learn about food. How did you train? Vince had several apprenticeships and lots of training with various cheesemakers, cheesemongers and store owners. He had been working in cheese for 13 years prior to our store opening. Now he has 29 years working with cheese. I learned from him. He trains all our staff and has trained people his whole career.
Is cheesemongering a lost art? Is it similar to being a sommelier? It is hugely growing in this country. When we first opened there were only a handful of cheese stores in this country. Now they seem to be in every town. It’s great for the artisan cheesemakers. The more cheesemongers out there, the more their cheese is handled well and sold. Cheesemongers sell the cheese so the cheesemakers can focus on their craft. Yes, very similar to a sommelier.
What are your favorite cheeses? It depends on the time of year. I crave fuller richer cheeses during the winter months, think fondue and raclette. Full fat and full flavor. Perfect for melting think gooey grilled cheese, or mac and cheese. In the summer I love Burrata or lighter goat’s milk cheeses in salads.
What's the best way to get started learning about cheese? I love to read Culture Magazine. Its very informative and they also have a great social media presence too. Books, Youtube and Instagram are also great to learn about cheese. Or come talk to your local monger to learn about cheese!
Visit the Cheese Iron at 200 US-1 #300 in Scarborough, Maine. Not in Maine? Follow them on Instagram for delicious and inspiring cheese expertise.
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