Love cheese? Course you do. Meet Dan, the Cheesemonger and mastermind of all things cheese at Épicerie Cafe & Grocery, one of my favorite brunch spots in Austin. I had the pleasure of meeting Dan at Epicerie for a behind-the-scenes peek into his life!
Meet Dan Largess
Location: Austin, Texas
Job/Title: Cheesemonger, Épicerie Cafe & Grocery
Years Working: Cheesemonger since August 2012
How did you know you wanted to be a cheesemonger?
I knew I wanted to be a cheesemonger because it is the meeting of art, science, history, and culture. Each cheese has a story to tell, and it is my job to learn these stories and share with other people. I like that it has these many facets which I can learn about. Plus, I am also very passionate about pairing food with beverages, so it just opens up more possibilities for the inquisitive mind.
How did you get into the world of cheese?
I entered the world of cheese through Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. It was here that the shop manager and wholesale manager, Kelly Sheehan and Paul Kiry, imparted their combined nearly 20 years of cheese experience to me.
My favorite cheese is a nearly impossible question. Can someone name their favorite kid? It really depends all on my mood or what kind of cheese phase I am in. If people really push me though, Alpine-styles like Gruyere are usually my favorite. My absolute favorite is called Challerhocker which is a cows milk cheese from Switzerland that is very similar to Appenzeller or Gruyere.
What makes Epicerie unique/special with the cheese selection?
Epicerie is special because we have a wide variety of cheeses, but they are also cheeses that people like. Some cheese establishments pride themselves on getting in the most obscure or hardest to find cheeses. We like to have a wide variety of options of all types of cheese. We build a following for our cheeses, and this keeps our customers coming back for more.
SEE ALSO: A Day In The Life Of A Food Blogger
A Day In The Life Of A Cheesemonger
8:30am: Wake up. My wife, Lindsey, works at Kome Sushi Kitchen, so we have roughly the same schedule. Typically when we wake up, I give her a head start. She usually has to go in just a little earlier, so I let her begin to shower and eat breakfast while I spend some extra time lying in bed and catching up on the news.
9:30am: I like to shower before I start getting things done. The sound of the water running has a zen aspect for me, so I get centered and meditate on my day coming up.
10:30am: After getting dressed, I do a little bit of light cleaning around the apartment. I like to come home to a clean spot at the end of the day!
11:00am: Breakfast time! I usually try to keep this my simplest and/or healthiest meal of the day. Usually, I will have some eggs or Greek yogurt with nuts. My wife has been trying her hand at making frittata recently, so I have been eating a little fancier. I almost never drink caffeine in the morning, so I usually have a drink made of half juice and half seltzer water.
11:30am: Time to head to Epicerie! I bike from my apartment to the cafe which is a pretty easy 20 minute ride down North Loop.
12:00pm: My shift starts. I like to hit the ground running, so at this point, I make sure everything is ready to go for the rest of the day. I will get my workspace set up (cutting boards, cheese knives, sanitizer, etc.) so I am ready to rock if anyone needs cheese or charcuterie. I will check the temps in all the fridges to make sure that all our products are in top condition. The cheese case will get some attention to make sure all the signs are looking good and the cheeses are neatly wrapped. If we are running low on any charcuterie meats or pickles, I will alert the kitchen so they can get more started for me. If it is a Tuesday, I will get ready for our special which is a selection of three cheeses paired with a wine for $10!
12:30pm: Usually during this stretch of time, I will plate some cheeses or charcuterie for our guests or assist a guest at the cheese case. We have a lot of cheeses and charcuterie, so I will offer any assistance to those who are curious.
2:30pm: Once the lunch rush is winding down, I will take some time to check emails. I am the cheese, beer, and wine guy, so I keep on top of the cheese ordering. I’ll email any beer or wine folks to get things in or if they have some new items, I will set up an appointment to do some tastings. If there are any new cheeses that I think would be interesting, I will get those in too.
3:00pm: Usually during this time, we get in orders or tasting appointments. I will either be restocking cheese, beer, or wine or meeting with a sales representative showing me some new products.
4:00pm: Lunchtime! I don’t stray very far for lunch. Our sandwiches are amazing, so I will usually get a pastrami or porchetta with some iced tea.
5:00pm: The dinner rush usually keeps me very busy. I spend almost all of this time making cheese plates and charcuterie boards, helping folks if they want to take cheeses home, and offering any kinds of pairing advice folks may want.
8:00pm: This is my time to begin wrapping things up to go home. The meat slicer and cheese boards will all get cleaned, and everything will get put away for the evening.
8:30pm: I ride my bike back home. I will pick up any food or beverages I will need for dinner along the way.
9:00pm: I will get my dinner ready. Usually with such a late lunch, I don’t eat anything to heavy duty. Last night, I had spaghetti squash with chili and cheese. If I am feeling very tired/lazy, I will thaw out something from the freezer. If I’m feeling like splurging a little, I might get pizza or burgers from down the street. Sometimes Lindsey will have an opportunity to put something together on her lunch break, or I will be feeling inspired and whip something up. Usually, I will wash it down with a beer or glass of wine while watching some Netflix.
12:00am: I spend this time winding down and clearing my mind. I might check the news again as I am a little bit addicted to the news cycle! Then it’s time for bed!